Failure to Support Black Lives Matter Adds to Growing Concern Over Racist Direction of the Labour Party
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has appealed to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) members to not abandon the party after increasing numbers begin to leave in the wake of the party’s abject failures on racism. Many of those leaving feel that the shift back to the Blairite centre-right has abandoned BAME communities in favour of misguided attempts to appeal to the the “patriot class”. Starmer, who has criticised the aims of Black Lives Matter and the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, has begun moves for The Labour Party to embrace right-wing nationalism and backed the far-right regimes in India and Israel.
The outrage felt by members has only increased since “Spineless” Starmer sacked Rebecca Long Bailey for retweeting an article that contained legitimate criticism of the racist state of Israel. Starmer’s instantaneous reaction and kowtowing to the Board of Deputies stands in stark contrast to months-long inaction over the shocking claims made in the so-called Labour Leaks report, claims which include allegations of racism and Islamophobia made against some of his allies in the party.
Labour are completely out of step with the time and the place, failing entirely to back what may be the major political movement (not moment) of this era. Indeed, as the wave of calls for racial justice has swept the globe following the murder of George Floyd, Starmer’s Labour have shown their commitment to justice is only knee-deep.
Willing to “take a knee” for a photo opportunity, Starmer’s forked tongue platitudes are no more genuine than the likes of sweatshop peddlers Adidas boycotting Facebook over hate-speech. It is a cynical marketing ploy to which the public has become accustomed. Centrists have long understood that an image and a soundbite stay far longer in the memory than a speech or the way an individual actually voted, that appearance and not substance is the key to marketing. Yet, this is the social media age and what worked in 1997 no longer applies.
Starmer’s real stance on justice is betrayed by his support for the apartheid state and the far-right Narendra Modi.
Starmer wrote to the Hindu Forum Britain (HFB) in May to rebuild ties with the ‘Indian community’. Believing that the HFB, an organisation which is closely linked with Narendra Modi’s far-right BJP government, represents the entirety of the wide opinion in the varying communities is problematic enough, yet it also ignores entirely Sikh and Muslim Indian opinion and experience.
Starmer linking himself to representatives of far-right governments seems to be a developing theme, having already taken a very different kind of knee for the state of Israel. The commonality between the far-right regimes in India and Israel are plain – Islamophobia.
Stating an intention to open Labour again to the armed forces and commit to “patriotism”, key aspects of “blue Labour”, the party is seemingly intent on appealing to the Tories far-right racist and nationalist base. As Starmer states that he is “proud of [his] country and proud of those who serve it” it doesn’t seem to matter one iota that those same armed forces have destroyed the lives of many refugees and immigrants in the UK and that those same armed forces wielded a campaign of terror on our own shores during The Troubles. No justice has ever come for any of these actions.
Yet, giving Muslim communities a poke from time to time certainly goes down well almost the “All lives Matter” crowd and no doubt Starmer will be more than keen to let the public know his thoughts on integration, immigration, radicalisation and terrorism in due course. All the dog whistles of the Blairite years.
While at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Starmer became noted for his closeness to the police and security services and eagerness to promote increasingly harsh penalties against protesters.
It during this time that Starmer refused to prosecute the police officers accused of killing Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, two prime examples of police incompetence and brutality that typified the increasing state authoritarianism and culture of fear that surrounded Blairite Britain. Yet Starmer still dared to take the knee.
In 2012, Starmer announced that no MI5 or MI6 agent would be facing charges of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq War, stating that there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute. Yet Starmer still dared to take the knee.
Just this past week Starmer stated that “nobody should be saying anything about defunding the police. I was director of public prosecutions for five years. I’ve worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court, so my support for the police is very strong.”
Is it any wonder he condemned pulling down the statue of a slaver in Bristol and tried to pass off calling Black Lives Matter a mere “moment” as just a slip of the tongue.
Labour’s racism problem certainly doesn’t end at public policy, however, rather it’s a problem that has infested the party from top to bottom for many years with Starmer showing little inclination to deal with allies accused of anti-black racism and Islamophobia.
The Labour leaks report accused senior Labour staff of a range of vile behaviour which included racism against Diane Abbott and others, the obstruction of investigations into complaints against racism and undermining election campaigns. Instead of taking action against the accused, Starmer’s Labour spent a six-figure sum investigating staff who compiled and leaked the report.
In June, Skwawkbox reported that Starmer’s ‘diversity audit’ of the party’s representation of BAME staff was entirely made up of white members of staff from his own office.
Just yesterday, Labour GRT, which fights for equality and representation for Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities stated they were” dissatisfied with the lack of action on Anti-GRT racism, particularly in the case of Toby Perkins MP.”
The current situation within Labour is a radical shift for the party in just six months, with Jeremey Corbyn having been noted for his popularity amongst BAME communities. A life-long anti-racist and anti-apartheid campaigner, Corbyn’s Labour led the Conservatives by 25 points among BAME voters according to polling by Opinium in December.
While Sir Keir Starmer may consider Black Lives Matter “a moment”, Corbyn presented one of the most radically pro-BAME manifestos in history that same month, promising a new public body to oversee the legacy of colonialism, a race equality unit at the Treasury, a pledge to introduce more black teachers and reduced charges for Home Office documents and tests.
Frightened to their core by the Tories breaking “the red wall” and gaining considerable ground in traditional Labour working-class areas, it seems that Keir Starmer’s Labour has decided that the way to win back those voters is to appeal to the same base racial instincts of Boris Johnson.
There has always been an arrogant racist thought amongst liberals on both sides of the Atlantic that minorities “will vote for us anyway” as the “least worst choice” in comparison to the open racism of the right. In reality, this belief has disenfranchised millions of minority voters who simply have nowhere to go. The hope that Jeremy Corbyn offered is slowly beginning to flutter away and Labour finds themselves once more to be on the wrong side of history.