Labour can put race equality back on the political agenda
The reports in August 2016 by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which every five years reviews Britain’s record on race equality, and the major review of race equality by the EHRC highlighting growing racial inequality and rising hate crime since the EU referendum, is depressing reading. What is a clear and overriding conclusion is that structural racism and social mobility are major issues in Britain which the Coalition and the Conservative governments have not only failed to address over the last six years but has in many cases exacerbated problems with its austerity programme and failing to fully implement the Equality Act 2010. Too often the government and the media have spent excessive time debating migration of Eastern Europeans and the experiences of refugees caught in war and conflict. By doing this, we miss the debate about the increasing wealth, income and power of exclusivity and privilege, taking us back to Victorian Britain when today working class, women, disabled, LGBTI and BME communities are further disfranchised and marginalised economically and socially.
As a result of the EU referendum vote to leave Europe this has led to a fivefold increase in hate crime and uncertainty for millions of people from migrant and BAME backgrounds about their future status and aspirations in this country. Global campaigns and the launch in the UK of Black Lives Matter highlights racism faced by Black British people who are racially profiled and end dying in police custody or a secure environment. The PREVENT programme with the objective of tackling fundamentalism within the Muslim community increased Islamophobia in society where women and young people are often targeted. We have now reached a cross roads in Britain where there is growing racial, social and class division where we must call in to question how tolerant are we as a society in 2016.
Despite individual achievement and success in politics, medicine, science, public services, media, sports, the arts and business of BAME communities still face discrimination leading to a growing gap between survival and aspiration and which are now holding back BAME third and fourth generation young people despite their qualifications and abilities.
In many ways it feels that we are going backwards as a society to the time just after WW2 with the arrival of the SS Windrush ship in June 1948 where the colour bar and infamous slogan used by landlords and indirectly by employers of ‘No blacks, No Irish and No dogs’ was life regardless of the fact that many of the migrants from former colonies that formed part of the Commonwealth served in WW2 and their parents made a similar contribution in WW1.
Nearly 60 years on despite race equality legislation which successive Labour governments have introduced since 1965, structural and interpersonal racism along with inequality is getting worst. The 2012 Olympics in London, one of the most successful games built around the vision of diversity and inclusion, feels like a dream and illusion after the toxic campaign during the EU referendum.
That is why Angela Rayner MP and myself launched race equality consultation in August 2016 around the time of the EHRC and United Nations CERD reports demonstrating Labour’s commitment to race equality (http://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/news/race-equality-consultation). The Race Equality Advisory Group was established in February 2016 by the former Women and Equalities Shadow Minster Kate Green MP to lead consultation and make recommendations to the Jeremy Corbin and the Shadow Team on key issues and priorities for Labour to consider around future policy development.
We are still seeking the following responses to the key questions below as part of the consultation:
1. What would you identify as the key issues and themes around race equality that need to be addressed over the next five to ten years?
2. What are the top three policy measures/actions you would like to see to promote race equality?
3. What is the best way to ensure race equality is given full consideration in the policy development process and manifesto development of the Labour Party?
4. What action should be taken to help eliminate race discrimination in the United Kingdom?
5. What action should be taken to protect race equality legislation now that the UK has decided to leave the European Union?
There is even now a greater degree of urgency to respond to this consultation especially if there is an early election in the next 18 months. The responses will help shape the Diverse Communities Manifesto which is being led by Dawn Butler MP The Shadow Minster for Diverse Communities.
Please submit your response to email@example.com by 13 January 2017.
Patrick Vernon OBE
Chair of Labour Race Equality Advisory Group