Letter from BAME members and allies to the Labour leadership

The Clarion is republishing this statement. You can see the list of signatories and sign where it was originally posted here.

[Update: This article by NEC member Huda Elmi seems to contradict some of the assumptions made here in terms of the role of the existing BAME Labour group – as opposed to a new structure incorporating all BAME members – in the party going forward. It is worth a read. We will carry more soon.]

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner,

We are Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority members of the Labour Party, and non-BAME allies, writing to you as the Labour leadership. The alleged revelations found within the leaked Labour report are shocking but unsurprising. The document exposes a culture in which racist, Islamophobic and sexist bullying experienced by BAME, and in particular Black and Asian members, is not only dismissed but allegedly rewarded with senior positions at Labour HQ. The report must be viewed within a wider context of the Labour Party’s failures to effectively engage and represent BAME communities who, as the discourse showed after the loss of the 2019 election, are continuously taken for granted. Our communities are neither the Labour “traditional heartlands” nor swing voters that need to be won over. We are at best an easy safe seat or worse collateral damage when chasing voters with “concerns about immigration”.

Despite over 70pc of the BAME electorate voting Labour in the 2019 election, our communities are still taken for granted by the Labour Party and now, in the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting Black and Asian people, we have been let down again. If the Labour party wishes to develop a trusting relationship with BAME communities, rather than one where BAME members at present are increasingly becoming embarrassed to be associated with it, then immediate action must be taken. As the formal voice of BAME members in the Labour party, the first course of action must be the reform of BAME Labour. In its current form BAME Labour is an ineffective organisation and its processes are inaccessible to the majority of BAME party members. It is not acceptable that BAME members have to rely on word-of-mouth communications to find out about events or elections.

The most recent election for the BAME NEC representative was allegedly not communicated well to BAME members. Many BAME members did not receive the email inviting them to declare themselves as BAME, and therefore were disenfranchised from voting in this election. Consequently, it came as a surprise to many that there had been a BAME NEC representative election at all. Percentages of the vote share have been communicated online however there is no information on how many participated in the actual vote. For BAME members to have trust in being authentically represented in the Party these kinds of opaque practices must come to an end. Any future reform / reconstitution of BAME Labour must be as open and transparent as possible.

We call on the leadership to: Implement the recommendations made in the 2018 Labour Democracy Review report with a new set-up that involves all BAME members; Commit to a date for the next BAME Labour elections; clearly communicate their plans for reform to BAME Labour members.

Once these reforms have taken place the Labour party must then work constructively with BAME Labour and BAME members to address the crisis of racism and sexism within the party, in particular the abuse and bullying experienced by Black women. There must be appropriate safeguarding put in place when members report racist incidents. Consistent anti-racism training must take place across all levels of the party. Once we have been through the eye of the storm that is the coronavirus pandemic and it is clear to all that many of the key workers who have kept Britain on its feet are from BAME communities, it is the role of the Labour party to ensure that these voices are heard loud and clear. Never to be taken for granted again.

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