Labour is letting down people of colour in its response to the Forde report

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As people of colour, we know first-hand that structural racism is alive and well in the Labour Party. Although Keir Starmer has said a Labour government will “tackle structural racial inequality at source”, the party continues to ignore racism within its own structures.

The Forde report, published in July, found that there is an overt and underlying culture of racism among party staff. One respondent is recorded as saying that the party is “not a welcoming place for people of colour”. It also found that in prioritising cases of antisemitism, the party was “in effect operating a hierarchy of racism or of discrimination” where other forms of racism were being “ignored” – an untenable situation for a party that must live by its values of equality and justice.

Despite these damning findings, the leadership has failed to respond in any meaningful way. The Black, Asian Minority Ethnic Network Labour North would like to express significant concern that the Forde report is simply being overlooked. This is particularly alarming as the findings sadly reflect our own experience here in the northern region, and suggests that our experiences of racism within the party will continue to be brushed to one side. Our members say they have witnessed and been subjected to different forms of racism at an institutional and at an individual level. The worrying allegations include:

  • Sustained racist attitudes displayed by senior party members and office holders towards members of colour in meetings and more generally in interactions with them;
  • Resistance to action against institutional racism as exemplified in the party’s response to Islamophobia in the region and in the less favourable treatment of office holders of colour; and
  • Holding people of colour to much higher standards as shown in the outcomes for selections for public office where a disproportionate number of people of colour were rejected in comparison to their white counterparts.

These experiences suggest a pattern of behaviour across the party that is institutionally racist in the northern region. It should be noted that the Network’s repeated offers to all Labour groups in the region in the last two years – to run tailored education sessions on anti-racism – have been met with a deafening silence.

The Network therefore invites Labour’s national governing body, the national executive committee (NEC), and the Parliamentary Labour Party to demonstrate its anti-racist credentials by meeting the following six tests:

  1. Begin to implement a time-bound action plan by January 31st 2023 on all recommendations set out in the Forde report with regular quarterly reports on progress to members including to the party’s annual conference;
  2. Mandate all regional executive committees to devise a tailored plan for their region to tackle all forms of institutional and systemic racism not based on a hierarchy;
  3. Invite those with deep insights to devise and implement an anti-racist education programme that removes the hierarchy of the racism and at the same time addresses all forms of racism and their intersectionality;
  4. Mandate all role holders, including MPs, to participate in an ongoing anti-racist education programme led by the national party with effective sanctions for those who do not adhere to the code of conduct recommended for development in the Forde report;
  5. Take active measurable steps beyond a ‘diversity board’ to increase racial diversity in the staffing of the party nationally and in all regions; and
  6. Engage experts in anti-racist education programmes to monitor the culture of the organisation.

We look forward to the party that purports to lead on racial equality urgently responding to the Forde report with a serious commitment – demonstrated through urgent action. Anything less could reinforce a view that the Labour Party is comfortable with the institutional and systemic racism within both the administrative and political arms of the organisation.

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