Keeping up Appearances: The Labour Party’s ‘campaign against racism’
The Forde Inquiry’s first term of reference was in part to uncover “the extent of racism, sexism and other discriminatory culture” within a major political party. It stopped taking evidence in August 2020. The Inquiry’s last update stated that:
The Forde Inquiry Panel (the Panel) has been unable to proceed with its work for a number of months now. This was due, in part, to the need to avoid any prejudice to work being done by the Information Commissioner (which might still affect the scope of our report), and in part due to logistical reasons beyond our control. However, the Panel has now resumed its work, and will use its best endeavours to report by early Autumn.
This mirrored reports early last summer that the Inquiry’s report will be published in
October – at least that part of it dealing with its first term of reference.
But having missed this deadline neither the Inquiry nor the Labour Party have given any indication as to when it might be published. We reached out to both the Labour Party Press Office and the Forde Inquiry for an update but received no response from either..
Truth Defence’s View
The delay of the Forde Inquiry, tasked by the NEC with investigating the damning evidence of racism towards Black Labour MPs from some of the party’s most senior officials, bares the hallmarks of an institutional cover up and remains a stain on a party that claims to be anti-racist, “committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
The rightwing faction of the party have dismissed its importance, allegedly impacted on the integrity of the investigation, subjected it to months of delay and pushed it further into obscurity. If the claims made within the leaked report are true, that former senior officials hostile to Jeremy Corbyn obstructed his efforts to tackle antisemitism, made derogatory comments about Black female MPs, or colluded to undermine the party’s electoral prospects, it would be a damning indictment of Starmer’s leadership. Rather than avoid prejudicing the inquiry, Starmer has effectively exonerated those implicated.
He says that under his leadership “every Jew will count” but faces legal action from Jewish Voice for Labour over ‘unfair’ disciplinary procedures that discriminate against leftwing Jews. He has expelled more Jews from the party than all of his predecessors combined. After promising to reunite the party’s factions he has stoked its divisions, accusing Jewish members of antisemitism and ousting them from the party under the pretense that by speaking out against discrimination or apartheid they have ‘undermined the Party’s ability to campaign against racism.’
From failing to challenge a racist far-right conspiracy theory during an LBC phone-in, to calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “moment”, Starmer’s ‘campaign’ against anti-Black racism has been pitiful, to say the least.. He has failed to show any concern for the racist abuse that MPs Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler have experienced from both outside and inside the party.
His position on Islamophobia is similarly, shamefully indifferent. During a parliamentary debate last month marking Islamophobia awareness month, MPs Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum spoke openly about the racist, Islamophobic abuse they have been experiencing. Speaking to Novara Media last week Sultana said "I find it quite hurtful that the leader of my party has found it difficult to express solidarity publicly to both me and Apsana”.
On the same day Starmer tweeted a response to the now widely shared footage depicting a group of men behaving abusively to a bus of Jewish students in London: “Racism will never be tolerated. We must do all we can to root it out and hold those responsible to account.” But if he is unable to empathise with the experiences of Labour’s Black and Muslim members or recognise the racism concerning those that he stands shoulder to shoulder with, how can he be trusted to deliver on Labour’s longstanding commitment to tackling racial inequality?
In February a group of nine MPs released a statement in response to the indefinite delay of the Forde inquiry: “As Black Labour MPs, we wish to draw particular attention to the evidence in the leaked report the Forde inquiry has been tasked with looking into, which showed repeated hostility and abuse shown towards Black Labour MPs… The possibility of a racist culture and a hostile environment for Black members within the party needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and the Forde inquiry is an important tool for doing just that.”
Given the party’s complacency in ‘rooting out racism’, it’s unsurprising that the inquiry has yet to receive a deadline for its release. Starmer has thus far put more weight behind finding out who leaked the report in the first place than he has towards the accusations of racism, sexism and discrimination made in the report itself.