‘Silence’ of Labour leaders over shocking race findings

Islington councillor joins Forde report protest at Labour HQ

Friday, 5th August — By Anna Lamche

Letters graphic

From left: Sam Louis Gisagara, Cllr Valerie Bossman-Quarshie, Lucie Scott and Reederwan Craayenstein

A COUNCILLOR joined a protest outside her party’s headquarters this week, calling for “action and an apology” in the wake of the Forde report.

Bunhill councillor Valerie Bossman-Quarshie joined a small group of Labour members outside Labour HQ in Victoria to protest against the “silence” of senior Labour officials following the release of the report last week.

Compiled by Martin Forde QC, it found evidence of Labour staffers working to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of winning a general election during his leadership.

The report suggested allegations of antisemitism had been used by both right and left of the party as a “factional weapon” in the internal struggle for control.

Cllr Bossman-Quarshie said she was particularly concerned by the report’s findings that Labour was “operating a hierarchy of racism or of discrimination with other forms of racism and discrimination being ignored”.

“I’m here today to call out the afrophobia within my political party that needs to be stamped out,” Cllr Bossman-Quarshie said. “I’m here in solidarity to say enough is enough. There is no hierarchy in racism. Every form of racism is abhorrent.”

She said she was concerned that Labour did not take allegations of anti-black racism as seriously as other forms of racism. “Whenever anyone talks about other forms of racism, everyone waves the flag in solidarity. But when black members are marginalised, no one talks about it,” she said.

The report found evidence of “overt and underlying racism” among some Labour staff, and suggested complaints about racist behaviour directed towards people of colour “were not treated with the urgency and sensitivity they deserved”.

Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott in particular was “singled out” for criticism because of the colour of her skin, the report said, with staffers sending messages about her that constituted “expressions of visceral disgust, drawing (consciously or otherwise) on racist tropes”.

Cllr Bossman-Quarshie said Keir Starmer’s response to the report’s findings amounted to “silence”. The protesters held a board reading: “Silence is violence. Black members demand action and apology.”

Hackney North’s BAME officer Lucie Scott also attended the protest.

She said the report shows black people “have disproportionately been the collateral damage in that factional warfare”.

Ms Scott said she would like to see the Labour leadership apologise to Ms Abbott and other senior black MPs, adding that she wants to see the recommendations of the Forde report adopted by the party.

Despite Labour’s shortcomings, she said the Tories did not offer a better alternative for people of colour, adding: “The Conservatives may have a range of diversity among their ranks but they are not dealing with the fundamental structural inequality the pandemic massively highlighted, whether it’s education, housing, employment, [or] health.”

The group hopes to see their campaign build momentum over the summer months, ultimately aiming to make racism a major topic at the Labour Party conference in September.

Ms Scott said: “Right now it’s do or die. I either try and change it so I can have integrity when I’m out on the doorstep campaigning for the next election, or have to walk away and be demoralised.”

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