‘The party’s BAME Labour power grab would betray trust of BAME members’

Mish Rahman

We live in unprecedented times.

After six months of mass slaughter in Gaza, the conflict in the Middle East has spilled over into a direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran. At the same time, the ongoing standoff between Russia and Ukraine serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of peace in Europe.

Both conflicts are international by nature. Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s brutal occupation and Israel’s vicious occupation of the Palestinian Territories are both only possible because of the political, financial and military support of the United States and to a significant extent the United Kingdom, too.

As the world stands closer to a world wide conflict than at any point since the peak of the Cold War, it’s impossible not to recognise the inconsistencies in the UK government’s position. Why does the UK aim to protect Ukrainians, whilst aiding and abetting the massacre of Palestinians?

The double standards disturb an ever-growing number of people, of all races, nationalities and faiths. However, it is provoking particular hurt and anger amongst people of colour who understand all too well that some lives seem to count more than others. This is particularly acute amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Labour supporters, who are the bedrock of our voter base.

Government policies and rhetoric have left ethnic minorities further marginalised

Across the country, the effects of economic neglect by the UK government and its entanglement in a culture war have reverberated profoundly within BAME communities, exacerbating existing disparities and fracturing social cohesion. The government’s failure to adequately address systemic inequalities, from racial disparities in healthcare and education to discriminatory policing practices, has entrenched marginalisation and eroded trust in institutions.

Moreover, the proliferation of divisive rhetoric and policies under the guise of a culture war has fostered a climate of hostility and intolerance, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and emboldening far-right elements.

This toxic combination of not only undermines the principles of equality and inclusion but also threatens to deepen societal divisions and hinder progress towards a more just and equitable society.

Labour’s Gaza stance has lost it votes

The Labour Party has reached a pivotal crossroads in its own journey towards inclusivity and genuine representation. Recent events have underscored the urgent need for a reevaluation of its approach to Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation within the party.

The party has faced a significant decline in membership, a troubling trend exacerbated by controversies surrounding its stance on Gaza and green investment.

Despite holding a commanding lead in opinion polls, Labour’s refusal to call for a ceasefire and Keir Starmer’s awful LBC interview following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in retaliation to the terrorism conducted on October 7th by Hamas led to the resignation of numerous councillors and loss of control in several councils.

This loss of support underscores the critical importance of engaging with diverse communities and ensuring their voices are heard within the party.

BAME Labour plans would betray trust of BAME members

Labour’s rulebook explicitly grants BAME members the right to self-organisation within democratic structures, akin to those available to young members and women in the party.

The decision to reintroduce BAME Labour as an alternative to these structures is a disservice to BAME members and a disregard for the party’s commitment to democracy. It risks relegating BAME representation to a mere token gesture, devoid of meaningful influence or impact.

Moreover, the party already possesses the necessary data on BAME members and has conducted multiple NEC elections to ensure their representation. To backtrack on the establishment of democratic BAME structures would not only betray the trust of BAME members but also undermine the credibility of the party’s leadership.

BAME Labour, once envisioned as a platform for BAME representation, has regrettably fallen short of its intended purpose. For years, it has been marred by internal issues.

The proposal to resurrect BAME Labour risks reverting to these past failings, undermining the progress made towards genuine inclusivity.

This is a factional power grab

As Carol Sewell, the Labour NEC BAME members’ elected representative, aptly stated, meaningful engagement with BAME members and communities has long been promised, and it is imperative that Labour honours this commitment.

Upholding the democratic structures — “something that we have demanded, fought for, and won,” as Carol states — is essential to strengthening the voice and participation of BAME members throughout the party.

The BAME structures, which have already been incorporated into the rule book and accepted at conference by members and all trade unions, shouldn’t be simply discarded, especially without any consultation with BAME members whatsoever.

BAME Labour, being a socialist society, requires BAME members to pay money to be a part of it, which is not equivalent to the self-organising nature of Young Labour, Labour Students, or Labour Women’s structures. Moreover, socialist societies like BAME Labour don’t have any trade union representation, so why would trade unions relinquish hard-won rights gained in the original BAME structures?

The only solution is to stop this factional power grab and instead adhere to the existing conference, constitutional, and rulebook-backed BAME structures allowing BAME members to self-organise, instead of attempting to control them within the confines of a fee-paid socialist society, with a long history of management issues.

BAME members can’t be taken for granted

In conclusion, Labour stands at a crucial juncture in its journey towards inclusivity and diversity. BAME members must not be taken for granted.

We need a self-organised space to ensure that issues concerning BAME communities are addressed by the party.

To truly represent the interests of all its members, the party must reject the resurrection of BAME Labour and uphold the democratic structures already established. Anything less would be a betrayal of trust and a missed opportunity to reaffirm Labour’s commitment to equality and representation for all.

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