Questions to Labour NEC CLP Rep Candidates
Black Lives Matter
What does Black Lives Matter mean to you and do you unequivocally support the movement?
I think it is a long time coming and very necessary to fight racism in this country. It is getting people to acknowledge that there is a problem and then encouraging discussion on how to address it.
Do you believe that the police in the UK is institutionally racist? If no, why? If yes, what do you believe the Labour Party should do to tackle this racism?
Yes, I do believe the police are institutionally racist. The Macpherson Report in 1999 found that the police were institutionally racist and made 70 recommendations. 67 of these have been implemented fully or in part but in 2009 it was found that there was still a problem with stop and search, with black men being 6x more likely to be subject to stop and search than white men. It is now 9x. The DNA of 30 % of black men is on the National DNA Data Base while it is only 10% for white or asian men. The Home Affairs Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into progress in twenty years since the Macpherson Report so it seems the problems are still not solved. The Lammy Review of 2017 concluded that BAME people face “overt discrimination” in parts of the justice system. He made 35 recommendations, little of this was ever implemented. These are just two examples of reports/inquiries into racism which have still not been fully implemented. In 2018 Chief Constable Gareth Wilson, the national lead for diversity, equality said “If you use the definition in the Macpherson Report you could argue policing is institutionally racist." Recent videos of Bianca Williams, Dawn Butler, Neomie Bennett (NHS nurse) being stopped for seemingly no reason other than racial profiling have shocked. Even a Black Met Inspector was stopped recently in his car. His internal complaint was not taken seriously and so he has had to go public to get justice. The evidence that the police service is suffering from systemic racism is pretty conclusive.
The Labour party need to keep asking why the recommendations from reports into racism are not being implemented. Questions should be asked at PMQs about individual cases. We should launch our own inquiry into stop and search. We also need to educate the membership. Ask Black Labour party members to give talks to CLPs so that the membership is given some idea of the lived experience of Black people in this country. Motions need to go to conference confronting the issue. Racism in the party needs to continue to be called out.
Do you agree that in the long term, Labour should aim to abolish the prison system as it currently exists and work towards defunding the police? If not why?
The prison system is an antiquated system of punishment not rehabilitation. Since the Tories introduced PFI and PPP the prison service as been re-modelled on the American system where profit comes before everything else. And the criminal justice system is being adjusted to provide profit to multi-nationals. So yes, the prison system does need major reform. If we invested properly in social care, mental health and youth programmes then the work of the police would be much reduced. So I wouldn't advocate defunding the police but with increased investment in mental health and social care the nature of policing would change and would require a smaller budget.
Name one Black socialist man who inspires you, and explain what inspires you about them?
Why is this restricted to men? I admire many black socialist women. Diane Abbott, Jackie Walker, Dawn Butler. They have all been subjected to terrible racist and misogynistic abuse but have kept going and remained true to their socialist principles. In the case of Jackie Walker, a black Jew, she has also been subjected to accusations of anti-semitism and I believe, expelled unjustly from the party and yet she continues to fight for socialism.
Institutional Racism in the Party
What do you think a reformed complaints process should look like and how will you work to see it materialised as part of your role on the NEC?
The present complaints procedure gives far too much unsupervised power to Labour HQ. I would like to see complaints go directly to the NEC or a sub-committee of the NEC which then decides if the complaint warrants investigation. I would also like to see more specific guidance on what constitutes grounds for a complaint and I believe guilty by association should not be one of them. When it has been decided to investigate, the member should be informed of the complaint against them in sufficient detail and suspended if deemed necessary by the NEC. I would also like to see a time limit on investigations and on bringing complaints in the first place. Disciplinary procedures should be completed within 6 months from charges being brought. As an NEC member I would volunteer to be on the complaints sub-committee and would bring a motion to conference to ensure greater oversight of the complaints procedure by the NEC and suitable time limits.
‘The Labour Party is institutionally racist.’ What is your personal response to that statement?
I was shocked at the lack of support shown recently to Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler by the party. Also the statement that BLM is a 'moment'. Does this mean that the party is institutionally racist? I am sad to say that the evidence is pointing that way even though the majority of members are not.
What structures, processes, and changes do you think are required to change the culture within the party to one where racism is not permitted? Please answer with specific reference to anti-Black racism, antisemitism, and islamophobia.
The Chakrabati report should be implemented fully. I would like to see educational materials provided to CLPs on racism and racist language. I would like to see Black, Muslim and Jewish party members encouraged to tell their stories of discrimination. I was moved by Diane Abbott telling us of her experience in her first year of high school. Personal stories have great impact.
When geopolitical events cause an increase in racism against certain ethnic & religious minorities how would you ensure that these spikes in racism found in wider society aren’t found within Labour?
You cannot ensure that it won't be found within Labour but you can have ensure that it is dealt with fairly in accordance with our disciplinary procedures.
What will you do to address the anti-GRT language and stereotypes within Labour and how would you uplift the voices of the GRT community?
I have not heard any anti-GRT language in Labour meetings. Since you are asking this question I must assume you find it to be a problem. As in all things, education is key. Information on the GRT community should be supplied to CLPs. We should also encourage spokespeople from the community to address CLP meetings. Fear of "other" diminishes when you get to know and understand people and how they live.
Do you believe that the foreign policy employed by the Labour Party has had a positive or negative impact in the communities of colour directly affected by the policy, at home and abroad?
The Iraq war made us all less safe but I believe the current policy is successful as it is working for international peace, security and justice. Now we need to make sure it is implemented!
In your view what should Labour’s stance be on immigration and refugees?
As a socialist I believe all people should have the right to live and work wherever they can find employment and want to live. We should certainly offer refuge to people fleeing from persecution and war in their own country
In your view, what should Labour policy and rhetoric be with regard to Kashmir and its occupation by the Indian government?
We should honour conference's decision to support the Kashmiri people in their struggle.
What do you personally believe Labour Party policy should be relating to the Israel — Palestine conflict, including your view of BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions)?
We should be supporting human rights and calling out abuses wherever they are happening. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict I believe Labour should support BDS and call on Israel to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people and to withdraw from the territory that it is illegally occupying. I am not sure whether Labour should be in support of a two-state solution or calling for one state with all citizens given equal rights. I favour the latter.
Do you believe the Iraq war was justifiable? If yes, why? If no, what do you believe Labour policy should be to address this wrong?
No, it was not justifiable. Labour policy should be to show solidarity with the working class in Iraq and support the people in electing a socialist government.
Engagement of Members of Colour
How will you help to create an environment within Labour which is conducive to increasing and promoting the participation of minority members, and Black members specifically within the party?
We already have some amazing role models in our parliament, 40 MPs from Black and other minority groups, almost 20% of Labour MPs. That is quite an achievement. I would be encouraging them to reach out to the Black and minority members, giving talks at CLP meetings. It is so much easier at the moment using Zoom as no-one has to travel.
Why do you think there has never been a Black man on the NEC, and what measures do you think need to take place to ensure Black men are represented within the party?
I really don't know why there has never been a Black man on the NEC, if indeed there hasn't. AWS have been instrumental in increasing the number of women in parliament and I would like to see the same for BAME members but I wouldn't be happy for that to be restricted to Black men.
Do you agree with the current Labour democratic structure where white members can vote on motions specifically relating to BAME representation and policies that affect communities of colour?
Yes, to maintain democracy but that voting should be informed by consultation with BAME members and the communities affected in the form of talks and written reports.
BAME Labour is currently not fit for purpose and must be reformed. Do you support the creation of a BAME section? If yes, what will you do to ensure that this is democratic, politically autonomous and that it’s established as efficiently as possible?
It is sad that a BAME section is necessary at all and I look forward to when we can dispense with it. Also putting Black, Asian and other minorities together in one group is, I think, somewhat problematic and not a little patronising. As a socialist I believe the important thing is the class system . We may have different ethnic backgrounds but we are all in the same struggle, to stop the rich robbing the poor.