Labour Black Socialists (LBS) is appalled at the vilification of Diane Abbott MP by many politicians and by much of the media over a letter which she immediately withdrew. We are also appalled by her treatment, including her suspension by the Labour Party leadership. This ignores her work over her entire political life, including 36 years in Parliament, of fighting against all forms of racism and fighting for all her constituents, especially the most marginalised, whether Black or white. It also ignores the huge amount of racist and misogynistic abuse she has received, amounting, we understand, to more than that received online by all other MPs put together. Diane has stood by us and we now stand by her.
A member of the LBS Campaign Against Anti-Black Racism in the Labour Party (CAALP) Committee commented:
“We are appalled at the vilification of Diane Abbott MP by politicians on the so-called ‘left’ and right of the Party and by much of the right-wing media over a letter for which Ms Abbott has immediately apologised and withdrawn. We are also disgusted by the abject failure of the Party to apply their own rules with a modicum of consistency. For example, we do not understand why the MP for Croydon North, Steve Reed, did not have the whip withdrawn when he used an antisemitic trope to describe a Jewish Tory donor. It appears that an apology from the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice was sufficient for Sir Keir Starmer, and we now call on him to restore the whip to Ms Abbott.”
Another member commented:
“Diane Abbott’s entire political life has been dedicated to fighting against all forms of racism. She has been at the forefront of anti-racism campaigns and lent her support to the families of those whose loved ones have been the victims of racist policing, school exclusions, deaths in police custody, racist attacks and murders. All the while being subjected to death threats and attacks that the Party continually ignores. Diane has stood by us. And now we stand in solidarity with her.”
These are not just attacks on Diane but are also attacks on all Black people in Britain and on all visible minorities. They are an indication of the depth and breadth of anti-Black racism and Afriphobia in Britain.
In withdrawing the original letter, Diane asserted that many communities face racism, including Jewish and Irish people, and Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, though of different forms, and that these have had monstrous effects. Her statement implied that there should be no hierarchy of racism in the Labour Party and in wider society. At the same time, she has insisted that anti-Black racism – Afriphobia and racism against other non-white minorities – must be properly recognised and opposed. Also, Diane has consistently stated that the Labour Party has been operating a hierarchy of racism, a point supported in the Forde report. We stand with Diane on all these points.
Diane has apologised unreservedly for the hurt that her badly worded letter has caused. This apology was immediate, genuine and consistent with her words and actions throughout her life. It must be accepted by the Labour Party leadership and her other detractors. Otherwise, we are left with the impression that they do not allow Black women to make mistakes.
Sir Keir Starmer’s failure to acknowledge that a ‘hierarchy of racism’ exists within the Labour Party is a real concern for Black, Asian and Muslim members. Not only is he fundamentally wrong to say that it does not exist, it also means that he is failing Black members and, by extension, Black communities. The Labour Party leadership has never come out in defence of Black MPs who have faced some of the vilest racist abuse within and without the Party. In addition, Sir Keir’s recent comments have focused solely on antisemitism – no mention of the racism faced by the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community – providing further evidence of a hierarchy of racism in the Party. That Starmer is choosing to pick which ‘racism’ battles he goes to war over should be a concern to us all.
There is a saying that Actions speak louder than words. Diane’s actions throughout her political life – the stands she has taken and her work combatting all forms of racism and injustice – speak loud and clear. This is more than can be said for many of her recent detractors. This leads us to ask:
- When has the Labour Party leadership ever defended Diane Abbott against the mountain of racist and misogynist abuse she receives on a daily basis?
- Where is the action against the bullying behaviour and racist comments made by Labour Party staffers against Diane and other Black MPs?
We note the bitter irony of Lord John Mann calling for her to stand down when he had been investigated for stirring up hatred against travellers.
We also note the views of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) who have rejected the claim that what Diane wrote was antisemitic. Throwing around unevidenced accusations of antisemitism does not protect Jewish people against the global, rising tide of antisemitism. Rather it undermines the unity we need in confronting this rising tide, just as we need unity against anti-Black racism and Islamophobia.
LBS calls on the Labour Party to:
- Lift Diane Abbott’s suspension and restore the whip.
- Openly defend Diane and other Black MPs from racist and misogynist abuse, taking appropriate action against Labour staffers, members, Councillors and MPs who engage in such abhorrent behaviour.
- Fully acknowledge that a hierarch of racism exists within the Party and take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the Forde report in relation to anti-Black racism and Islamophobia.
- Restore its commitment to implementing the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) structures within the Party Rule Book and which resulted from the 2018 Democracy Review.
- Challenge racism and misogynoir within the media and wider society.
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