Black Labour staff suffer under party’s ‘hierarchy of racism’, Forde report finds

Many staff members felt that the “overwhelmingly white” Labour Party is an “unwelcoming place for people of colour”, the Forde report concluded

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:51 BST
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<p>The Forde report described criticisms of Diane Abbott from those within the party as “racist tropes”. </p>

The Forde report described criticisms of Diane Abbott from those within the party as “racist tropes”.

Labour has failed to tackle anti-Black racism and Islamophobia which has resulted in staff members leaving the party, according to the long-awaited Forde report.

The Forde Inquiry, set up to look into allegations detailed in a party dossier leaked in April 2020, found that while Labour had made “some progress” on areas such as sexism, fewer improvements had been made where racism is concerned.

Some Labour staffers raised concerns about a “hierarchy of racism” and felt some forms of discrimination were taken more seriously than others.

Many employees said they felt the “overwhelmingly white” Labour Party was an unwelcoming place for people of colour, the report found.

“Many staff felt that specific problems were only dealt with when it was politically expedient and/or essential to do so, and that the party’s more recent steps to address the problems with antisemitism, for example, have not been matched by a commitment to tackle other forms of racism”

“Racism in the party is not experienced by individuals solely through acts of aggression or microaggression - it is experienced through seeing colleagues being passed over for promotion, being the only person from an ethnic minority background around the meeting table, being managed by a near-exclusively white management team; and hearing the particular disdain which colleagues reserve for ethnic minority MPs, councillors and CLP members,” the report stated.

Martin Forde QC, a barrister and former adviser to the Windrush compensation scheme, was asked to lead the Forde Inquiry into the “circumstances, contents” around the leaked dossier.

Over 1,000 submissions were made and the report runs to thousands of pages. The scale of feedback, plus staffing changes and the pandemic, meant that its planned July 2020 publication date had to be pushed back.

One witness told the Forde Report: “I write this submission to you feeling degraded, overlooked and insulted on so many levels. I am a prime example of why so many say the party has a problem with race.

Keir Starmer commissioned the report into events that took place while Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

“It is why you can count on one hand the number of senior Black women in the party, and on multiple hands the number of Black people that have left.”

Another said: “It is quite interesting to hear how some of the staff refer to activists or politicians of colour when they don’t agree with them. They use far more extreme or dangerous references to them.”

The Forde report also found that two groups within the Labour Party treated antisemitism as a “factional weapon”.

While the 860-page dossier, leaked while Jeremy Corbyn was leader, was intended to be a part of the party’s submission to an ongoing investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into anti-Semitism, it advertently raised concerns of anti-Black racism too.

It included private WhatsApp conversations between officials who used a string of insults to describe senior Black MPs and officials, including senior MP Diane Abbott who was referred to as “repulsive”.

“The criticisms of Diane Abbott are not simply a harsh response to perceived poor performance – they are expressions of visceral disgust, drawing on racist tropes, and they bear little resemblance to the criticisms of white male MPs elsewhere in the messages,” the Forde report concluded on Tuesday.

“In our view, the fundamental problem is that people who are committed to progressive politics find it difficult if not impossible to accept that they might have acted in a way which was discriminatory.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The Forde report details a party that was out of control.

“Keir Starmer is now in control and has made real progress in ridding the party of the destructive factionalism and unacceptable culture that did so much damage previously and contributed to our defeat in 2019.”

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