Race and Politics

Labour Leaks: 3 Reasons Why I, as a Black Woman, Can No Longer Support the Labour Party

WARNING: This is a very emotionally charged post. I am incensed about this particular topic and I am using this post as a form of catharsis. It is explicit. It is vitriolic. It is how I choose to express myself right now. If that’s not for you, look away. I won’t hold it against you, I promise.

There have been four General Elections since I’ve been old enough to vote. I’ve never been wedded to one political party; I’ve always looked at what each party was promising at the time and decided based on that. Apart from my rule that I will never, EVER, vote Conservative (I would rather fuck myself with a cactus), I have no political absolutes. In 2010 I didn’t get to vote because I was disorganised, booking an early train back to my university city of Exeter on the morning of the election while not actually being registered to vote down there. That turned out to be a piece of good fortune because I’d intended to vote Lib Dem then and, knowing now how that turned out, it would have been a vote I would have bitterly regretted. In 2015 I voted Green, even though I knew they stood no chance of winning in my constituency, let alone coming anywhere near government.

By 2017, like many other young people, I had been drawn to Labour. In fact, I was one of the thousands of people who joined the Labour Party in 2016 with the sole purpose of voting to keep Jeremy Corbyn in his job as leader, while he faced a fundamentally badmind challenge to his position. Thankfully, Corbyn wiped the floor with that wet blanket Owen Smith, winning an even bigger endorsement from the party membership. The fact that this leadership challenge even took place was a major red flag and a sign of trouble to come, but little did we know how much. In the run up to the June 2017 election, I did a bit of door knocking and canvassing for Labour in my constituency, as I wanted the party to take the seat from the Tory MP who had occupied it for the previous twelve years. While we were successful in that endeavour (yay!), Labour failed to win that election although it did destroy the Tory majority and win 40% of the popular vote.

So you can imagine how absolutely flabbergasted and furious I was, along with those who fully threw their weight behind a Corbyn government in 2017, to discover that the party’s election effort that year was deliberately sabotaged by a group of senior figures in the party who hated Corbyn and his supporters. In April an 860-page report – the result of an internal Labour investigation – was leaked to the media. This report included extensive evidence (including WhatsApp messages and emails) of senior figures actively working to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, from the 2017 election to misappropriating funds to delaying investigations of anti-Semitism claims. There is so much to be disgusted by in this report that I could spend all day writing about it, but I’m going to focus on the sections of it that have led to the title of this post.

Anti-Blackness in Labour

The report also brought to light the racism and misogynoir of those named in it. It was revealed that Diane Abbott was described as “repulsive,” among other things, and once when she was crying in the toilets of a Leon restaurant after receiving abuse these dickheads informed Channel 4 of her whereabouts. Think about that shit. Of all the female MPs in this country, Diane Abbott alone receives over half of the abuse sent to them. She is frequently called a nigger (no, I will not censor it), and frequently receives threats to her life and safety. I don’t even know how she keeps her sanity but on a day when it all clearly got to her and she started crying, instead of trying to help or comfort her, these ABSOLUTE PRICKS decided to contact the media. And what’s worse? The one who contacted Michael Crick sent a winking emoji at the end of his message confirming that he’d done so. The report also revealed disparaging remarks about Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis. You can read these for yourselves as I can’t bring myself to recount them all.

Now, after the 2019 General Election these people (if you can call them that) have gotten what they wanted. Corbyn has gone. He’s back on the backbenches. Keir Starmer is the new Labour leader and Angela Rayner is his deputy. Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler have been removed from the front bench. And I am done with the Labour Party.

3 Reasons Why I’m Done with Labour

 

  1. The party clearly has a problem with anti-Blackness

 As I wrote in my post about anti-Semitism and the 2019 General Election, I am not surprised that racism exists in the Labour Party. Of course it does. I am not naïve. But the party having a principled leader who has consistently stood up against oppression – a fact that was repeatedly weaponised against him – is what made me believe in it. I saw hope for people like me, I saw potential for better days. So did many other Black people, so did many other young people, by the looks of things. But the violence of the racism and misogynoir exposed by the leaked report shook me and reminded me that these evil forces do not and will not rest. These are people that Diane Abbott should have been able to trust, yet they actively contributed to her suffering. I cannot support a party that happily has this in its ranks. I cannot vote for a party that thinks so little of its Black members.

The endemic nature of this anti-Blackness was further revealed when a group of Labour staffers attempted to stop the party’s Unite branch from sending letters of solidarity to Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis. Again, let’s think about this shit. It was a simple motion to send a letter of solidarity – a LETTER, one of the most BASIC things the union could do – and it turned into a debate with people actively trying to stop it and voting against it. How sick, twisted and nasty do you have to be? People in your party have been victims of racism and misogynoir, and the most basic show of support is being opposed? Because it would serve as “an implication of guilt?” I think it’s because they know. They know what went down and they don’t want anyone to be held accountable. But they will be held accountable. In this life or the next, in this realm or the next, I have to believe that every single person involved in this will face a reckoning. May it be swift and may it be sure.

  1. Keir Starmer has not done enough

 Any party leader that was truly opposed to racism in all its forms would have strongly condemned what was in that report. But not good old Sir Keir, oh no. His response was to issue a joint statement with Angela Rayner launching an investigation into, largely it seems, how the report came into existence and how it was leaked. Now let me be clear: I am not against the launching of an investigation. An investigation is exactly what needs to happen. But the focus of that investigation should be into how the events detailed in the report came about and were allowed to continue, and the CLEAR RACISM AND MISOGYNOIR AGAINST COLLEAGUES ON DISPLAY. Not some vague look into the “wider culture and practices referred to.” Furthermore, the individuals named in the report who participated in all this should have all been suspended pending the investigation’s outcome. Instead, the likes of Iain McNicol have just been allowed to quietly step aside.

Pathetic. Toothless.

  1. The party is not serious about addressing racism

Last week, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy took part in an online conference call with Labour activists and others to discuss the leaked report and the anti-Semitism and anti-Blackness within the party. By all accounts, hundreds of people joined this call, including former members of the Labour Party who had apparently been suspended from the party during the anti-Semitism crisis. When the news broke about who was in attendance at this meeting and who spoke, outrage ensued. Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy were repeatedly lambasted for “sharing a platform” with these people and demands flooded in, most notably from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, for Keir Starmer to “take swift and decisive action.” The “decisive action” taken by the party was to reprimand the pair, and they were “reminded of their responsibilities.”

There are a couple of reasons this pisses me off: firstly, to accuse Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy of “sharing a platform” with people on a Zoom call is a stretch. Hundreds of people can dial into these calls, that does not mean they are sharing a platform with them. Secondly, even if you disagree with the foregoing, the inherent unfairness and hypocrisy of this is glaring. WHERE WAS THIS ENERGY FOR THE MEMBERS OF THE PARTY WHO HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO BE VIOLENTLY ANTI-BLACK?! Why haven’t they been suspended? Why haven’t they been chastised like schoolchildren and “reminded” of their “responsibilities?” WHAT ABOUT THE PARTY’S RESPONSIBILITIES TO ITS BLACK MEMBERS AND MPS???

Furthermore, the Jewish community has clearly been used as a political football for the last few years. If the party was serious about racism, it would acknowledge that members of the Labour Party deliberately took part this – using the community’s fears and concerns as a weapon – AND IT WOULD CONDEMN THEM FOR DOING IT. But no, it’s two Black women MPs that the party has time and energy for.

Conclusion

It is glaringly obvious that there is no political party in the UK that either understands or represents the Black community or its interests, in all its complexity. We are, and always have been, at the bottom of the totem pole in all aspects of society. Cool. That’s cool. We see you, “United” Kingdom, we see you.

One final point I’d like to make (I know this has been a long post – if you’re still here you’re a real one!):

I’m sick of left-wingers – mostly white that I’ve seen – telling people to “stay and fight” in the wake of this report. No. YOU stay. YOU fight them. I think Black people have done enough physical and emotional labour in this country, and we have nothing to gain from supporting the Labour Party under Keir Starmer. It’s about time some of you learned what it means to do the heavy lifting. It’s about time some of you started checking some of your white peers, amplifying the voices of Black people and DOING THE WORK to address racism instead of posting platitudes online and telling people to “fight.”

I can’t speak for the entire Black community across the country, but I for one am tired. And I am done. I will focus my energies on grassroots efforts to improve life for my community. Toxic, racist, violent party politics is not the only way to effect change. I will continue to extend my support and solidarity to Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Kate Osamor and all the other Black women MPs who are staying and serving their constituents.

But when the next General Election comes along, I will be at home.

One Comment

  • LRichatds

    As I read this, I wasn’t particularly moved by it, in that I’m not surprised at the oppressive and discriminate actions coming from the ‘top’. The anti oppressive and anti discriminatory policies are futile and comical in most establishments. I’ve seen it in action. It’s a joke.
    My Mum voted Tory back in the day and was able to buy her house under their policy, she voted Labour thereafter. I’ve always voted Labour and in some ways I benefited, so some people have achieved in one way or another from each of them. However, the ‘end goal’ of all parties are not designed for the minority groups.
    I commend you for highlighting governmental racism and sharing your views. It’s an ongoing fight for us and we have to stand firm, individually and as a mass.

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