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Forde shows Labour has no right to call itself an anti-racist or anti-misogynistic party

The machinations of anti-Corbyn officials bring shame on the party and represent an utter betrayal of the membership and many excellent candidates, says ROGER McKENZIE

AT LONG last the much-awaited Labour Party Forde report has now been published.

It confirms what many activists have been saying over what seems like the eternity since this report was announced.

Labour, which I recently left after 41 years of continuous membership, is riven with racism; and staff and some senior members believe the organisation is their personal property and that it is therefore permissible to siphon off money to a secret slush fund to use in a shadow election campaign with no hint of accountability.

Senior staffers also took the view that their legitimate role was to not only undermine the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in his job, but to use their positions to purge leftwingers from membership of the party so they couldn’t vote for him in two elections.

The Forde report makes for interesting reading and largely presents a picture of the Labour Party that I sadly recognise. 

One of the flashpoints of the Labour Party since the election of Corbyn was the weaponising of anti-semitism against the left in general and Corbyn in particular.

Let me be clear: fighting anti-semitism or racism isn’t something that has just been discovered by Corbyn, myself and many of the others accused of those crimes. 

These are issues that we have been fighting on for many years and there is more than ample evidence to support such a statement.

But this was never about letting facts get in the way of attacking Corbyn and anyone who supported him.

In fact the mere mention of weaponising anti-semitism to attack the left has led to a number of activists, including those from Jewish backgrounds, being kicked out of Labour.

But the report makes clear: “Some anti-Corbyn elements of the party seized on anti-semitism as a way to attack Jeremy Corbyn.”

A failure to deal with the very real anti-semitism that faces the Jewish community within and outside Labour was matched, in my view, by the “overt and underlying racism and sexism” that was given voice in the abusive WhatsApp messages revealed in the leaked report that sparked this inquiry.

Forde said: “Racism in the party is not experienced by individuals solely through acts of aggression or microaggression towards them personally — it is experienced through seeing colleagues being passed over for promotion; being the only person from an ethnic minority background around a meeting table; being managed by a near exclusively white senior team; and hearing the particular disdain which colleagues reserve for (for example) ethnic minority MPs, councillors and CLP members.” 

This is racism 101 and comes as a lived experience by many black people. The only thing missing from this is the impact on us of people who see these behaviours taking place and choose to do nothing.

I am devastated by the very public hostility handed out in particular to my friend Diane Abbott, but this behaviour is also widespread across the Labour Party — and, yes, including to some extent on the left. So, please, no holier than thou is required!

Just about every black Labour member I have been in touch with since the report was published say they do not have very much confidence that anything will be done to deal with anti-black racism in Labour.

We shouldn’t get taken in by a shallow notion of diversity — more black people in senior positions who just follow the dominant narrative but do not challenge racism because they are comfortable in their positions.

This leads to situations, as in the Tory leadership elections, where Kemi Badenoch, the so-called equalities minister, can deny the existence of institutional racism enough to secure the support for her career ambitions from the racist group Britain First. 

But it was heartening that Forde was unequivocal about the meaning of the leaked WhatsApp messages between senior management team in the 2020 report, which triggered the inquiry.

Forde said: “We find that the messages on the SMT WhatsApp reveal deplorably factional and insensitive, and at times discriminatory, attitudes expressed by many of the party’s most senior staff.”

I do not believe this sort of behaviour at the top of the party was a secret and as such Labour has no right to call itself an anti-racist or anti-misogynistic party.

The revelation of the secret slush fund, by a handful of senior staffers was, for me, as deeply disturbing as the racism and misogyny.

The Lone Ranger behaviour of these staffers was done from a sense that the party belonged to them and they could siphon off around £135,000 without scrutiny.  

It was right for the report to point out that it was “unequivocally wrong for HQ staff to pursue an alternative strategy covertly.” Because make no mistake — that is what it was.

This was members’ money. But that didn’t seem to matter to this small gang of staffers. They obviously felt that they had cover within the party to take these actions — perhaps from senior officials or from union leaders who opposed Corbyn?

I’ve met a few of these staffers. I even worked alongside one of them for a while. I hope they will find it within themselves to reflect on their behaviour and feel ashamed rather than trying to make excuses.

I am now a Communist Party member and have no interest in returning to Labour. But these events took place at a time when I, like many thousands of activists, was out knocking doors and trying to convince people to support Labour.

The Forde report reveals an utter betrayal of the membership and many excellent candidates. Its findings cannot be allowed to stand without action.

At a bare minimum there should be a formal apology to Corbyn and the party whip restored. Then action needs to be taken against the named party staffers followed by a re-establishment of the aims and values on which the party wants to go forward.

People can then decide — to coin a phrase — whether or not they wish to remain or leave.

Roger McKenzie is a journalist and general secretary of Liberation (liberationorg.co.uk).

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