I have spent much of this week internalising feelings of shock, anger and disappointment. As a female, Muslim, person of colour, member and first time Labour councillor I feel the disturbing language and actions of senior Labour directors are an intense betrayal of the Labour party I thought I had joined.
I can’t describe the feeling of seeing, in black and white, the racism and Islamophobia of people in the very party I’ve campaigned tirelessly to get elected. This is compounded by the fact that they worked in opposition to that goal, they wanted Labour to fail. Let that sink in.
I feel for every single person who sacrificed their time to help Labour in 2017 and 2019, I feel for every single person that voted for a Labour government; but I feel worst for all those who desperately needed a Labour government. A decade of austerity and a grossly underfunded NHS, dilapidated schools, underpaid teachers and nurses, children living in poverty, homelessness — all seemingly a worthy price to pay for a few individuals to enact their own factional ambitions.
It has been so sad to see many members talk of cancelling their membership, but I cannot blame them. In the aftermath of this leak, I questioned my position too. But this is exactly what these individuals wanted. We can’t give in. This is a crucial point for our party and if we aren’t at the table we can’t shape the decisions that need to be taken in the aftermath of this leak. Whatever sex, race, faction you identify with — stay. We need you to move forward.
This isn’t about the Left and the Right, it is about those specific individuals and their total lack of respect for Jews, Muslims, women, Black people, members and the electorate — in fact, anyone who obstructed their plans.
Dealing with all forms of bigotry should transcend factional politics, members will rightfully expect that the hideous examples contained within this report are unequivocally condemned by all. The toxic language: “bitch-faced cow”, “pube head”, “fat” — evidencing a complete absence of respect and basic decency. I would say Machiavellian but the language warrants more ‘Nasty Nick’ levels of sophistication.
The report of a black female MP crying because of the racist abuse she had suffered sparked mockery. Instead of compassion and solidarity, her location was leaked to a journalist so they could doorstep her. This isn’t normal enmity. This is bullying of the lowest sort, a kind I cannot fathom inflicting on my worst enemy.
Considering this, our party has lost the moral high ground. The cronyism we despised in the Tories is now embedded in our own party. The racism we claimed to stand up against is now a casual norm amongst senior officials. The sexism and misogyny we claim to challenge were weaponised against women that represented our party. This isn’t my Labour party.
The dossier also exposed staff rooting for Labour’s loss in 2017, with senior executive directors upset at Labours unexpected surge; one describing this as “opposite to what I had been working towards for the last couple of years” and another labelling the public “bastards” for voting Labour.
These individuals used their connections and access to large sums of members’ money to campaign for Labour to fail. That’s not a defeat for leftists or Corbynites — that’s a defeat for every single one of us; black or white, left or right, Muslim or Jew, member or non-member — all of us.
These aren’t examples of mistakes, these are examples of an organised attempt to ensure failure. They were paid with party money and on top of that used our membership subs to fulfil their political aims. Members’ money that they were responsible for, was diverted to the seats that they wanted to protect, the seat of the person they wanted to lead the party when their ‘Operation Cupcake’ had come to fruition.
The sheer audacity that they did this, with money that they had a duty to follow due process for, is baffling. This is misconduct. Their roles demand that they are impartial and they have failed in this basic duty.
I grew up in the Blair years and saw my quality of life dramatically increase in that period. From minimum wage to properly funded schools, I saw what a Labour government meant for families like mine and communities like the ones I grew up in — it was a lifeline. I even recognised this as I vehemently opposed the Iraq War and all of its consequences.
While I completely supported Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband’s leadership, it was clear that as a party we could not continue business as usual — we desperately needed to breathe new life into the movement. I was inspired by the new vision Jeremy Corbyn had brought to the party — young people were mobilised and our movement was re-energised.
During the tenure of all these leaders, I remained firm in my belief that any Labour government is better than the best Tory government. That is the baseline. Whichever camp people align themselves to (or none) — condemnation of the content of this report is the bare minimum everyone should be doing.
Our identity as Labour party politicians and members implore us to do so. The silence among so many has been deafening. Yes, we are in a crisis, but it’s absolutely possible to do more than one thing at the same time. Condemn bigotry — tick! Provide strong opposition — tick! Defend NHS — tick! Demand PPE — tick!
If Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner did in fact have this report on their desks a week ago, it is critical that we know exactly what they did in that time to deal with it. I welcomed their statement about investigating the contents of the report – but the circumstances around how it was leaked should not be treated with equal importance. It is official Labour party policy that whistleblowers are protected.
I condemn the report being released unredacted so the complainants names are exposed, this was unfair and insensitive especially as some were vulnerable minors. However, the method by which racism, sexism and misconduct are exposed should not overshadow the main point, which is that the racism, sexism and misconduct existed. If that’s not your first response, don’t pretend you’re an anti-racist.
It is time to restore some professionalism and integrity into politics and our party should lead on this. The examples evidenced in this report are tantamount to gross misconduct, a wilful attempt to thwart the success of the very organisation that pays staff to do the opposite.
If this were any other organisation, suspensions would have been implemented yesterday. Minority communities have suffered enough in recent years, and we need to stop taking the BAME vote for granted. If this isn’t dealt with robustly, this will come back to bite in the next election.
The Tories are quiet now but come 2024, they will point to us as a morally bankrupt and racist party. The party that consciously put factional political gains over support for Grenfell victims. And we will have provided the evidence for them to do so.
It was seen as untenable that we would lose the ‘red wall’ a few years ago and yet we did. The same goes for the other chunk of votes that Labour thinks is guaranteed — the BAME vote.
If we don’t practice what we preach we will lose BAME communities too — and we will deserve to. We should expect better for our party, expect more from our representatives and strive higher for our members and voters. I sincerely hope the leadership are listening, so we can learn, grow and evolve into the party that will govern in 2024.