DEMOCRACY REVIEW consultation meetings around the country have seen dispirited black Labour members express their deep concerns. High on the list of complaints is the invisibility of BAME Labour, the affiliate that is supposed to be the official organisation for black party members. In its ten years of existence, BAME Labour can claim having its representative Keith Vaz on the Party’s ruling NEC as its sole achievement.
Yet there has been plenty to campaign about. Black people have borne the brunt of the Conservative government’s austerity measures, including local authority cuts, the gross underfunding of the NHS, as well as the injustices against refugees, migrants, Muslims and people who are just plain poor - exposed by the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Add to that black unemployment, discrimination in the workplace, the national scandal of black deaths in custody and the youth-on-youth knife crime that has claimed so many, mainly young black male, lives.
Never before has there been such a crying need for an organisation that provides a strong black voice in the Labour Party. Newly formed Grassroots Black Left has been trying to fill the void. At a meeting we had with Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn’s political officer leading the Democracy Review, we have:
- Reaffirmed a commitment to promoting the unity of Africans, Caribbeans, Asians and other people of colour.
- Called on Labour, as the party of race equality, to immediately ethnically monitor its membership. We were amazed to learn it never has.
- Insisted any organisation for black members that emerges from the Democracy Review must be based on self-organisation and self-determination.
- Insisted that organisation should hold an annual policy-making conference, open to all party members who self-identify as African, Caribbean, Asian or as any other person of colour, which has the power, among other things, to elect a national committee and make rules changes.
- Insisted there should be two places for black members on Labour’s NEC, at least one of whom should be a woman - and one an African or Caribbean and the other an Asian. The NEC should table the necessary rule changes to this year’s party conference to put our proposal for an annual conference for Labour black members in the constitution. There should be black representation at all levels of the Labour Party chosen by black members achieved by, for instance, all-black shortlists.
Labour should immediately implement the recommendations of the 2016 Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitism and racism and withdraw the suspensions and exclusions of black members and prospective members who have been disproportionately affected by the anti-Jeremy Corbyn purge.
We hope the new left majority on Labour’s NEC will use its clout to at last make a difference on these too long neglected issues.
Camberwell and Peckham CLP and Grassroots Black Left (personal capacity)