Keir Starmer is now in serious trouble.
His tone-deaf description of Black Lives Matter as a “moment” – along with a series of other race-related mishaps – has upset a multitude of voters – not just black or from ethnic minorities but everybody – and heralded a mass exodus that he seems ill-equipped to stem.
And the mass media are full of stories about it.
Here‘s black, working-class woman – and now-former Labour member – Evie Muir in Metro:
When Starmer took over this year, I was open to the change in leadership. His voting record on social issues mirrored my values and I was hopeful that this would be reflected in his actions moving forward.
But over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself distancing from the Labour Party at an evolving pace.
Starmer … positioned himself as a leader who will not be exploring [racism] for the party’s constituents. He is not only gatekeeping a problematic institution, but also failing to recognise the nuances within the relationship between the police and Black communities in the UK.
His comments are neglectful of the most recent examples of incompetency in the sector, including the circumstances around 12-year-old Shukri Yahye-Abdi’s death by drowning, and the police officers who just weeks ago allegedly took selfies with Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, two murdered Black women.
After the statement [on Black Lives Matter] went viral, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, notorious for his unapologetic bigotry, right wing rhetoric and anti-multiculturalism stance, tweeted that he ‘heartily agrees’ with Starmer’s condemnation of the BLM organisation.
I immediately cancelled my Labour Party membership.
I am not the only one to abandon Labour. My social media feeds, WhatsApp groups and DMs sprung to life with likeminded friends telling me they feel equally betrayed.
Questioning the validity of the only organisation that advocates for Black people, questions the validity of all Black people.
If the Labour Party is not prepared to listen to the needs of Black people, unapologetically support these and advocate for our rights to be heard, then the party is no longer a safe place for us. You are either with us or you are against us, there is no room for debating our humanity, excusing our oppressors or talking over us. This only puts us in further danger.
Starmer’s statement othered us so completely that I no longer feel like we have a home in the party, and as an avid and loyal Labour advocate, this turnaround is humiliating.
I won’t be forgetting Starmer’s comments, and I won’t be returning to Labour under his leadership.
This article has been endorsed by at least one black Labour MP:
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) July 4, 2020
Black Lives Matter has published its own opinion:
This photo showing Labour's race problem – Starmer speaking to an almost all white audience in Tottenham! BLM asking victims of Labour anti-Black racism to report it. Do it. Do it. Do it.https://t.co/8oWpz8n3O3
— Jackie walker (@Jackiew80333500) July 4, 2020
If you click on the link to the article, you’ll see that BLM is asking Labour members to report anti-black racism within the party – including, presumably, that of its leaders – to their regional offices, with contact details included, hence Jackie Walker’s exhortation for people to do it.
Here’s a tweet identifying two more issues alongside the Black Lives Matter fiasco:
1. Minimises racist & misogynistic talk revealed in Labour Leak, effectively as banter
2. Insults #BlackLivesMatter and thinks an apology is end of matter
3. Sacks RLB for retweeting article in which phrase complained of was clearly NOT antisemitic
What kind of leader?
— Tom London (@TomLondon6) July 4, 2020
The first point refers to the way party officials allegedly defended “racist, sexist and abusive” messages about colleagues, as seen in the leaked Labour report on the party’s response to allegations of anti-Semitism.
Here‘s The Independent:
One third of the National Executive Committee’s members, including representatives from four trade unions, wrote to the Labour leader this week accusing his office of misleading them about how the party dealt with leaked WhatsApp messages by senior officials detailed in a controversial internal report.
The messages, which included senior officials saying they wished a prominent Labour activist would die in a fire, calling a left-wing staffer “pube head”, and commenting that female advisers had “stopped wearing bras” in meetings, provoked widespread anger in the party when they came to light earlier this year. The party’s NEC ordered an investigation, which is still ongoing.
However, last week Labour’s press office provided a statement to journalists covering the story that defended the comments, describing criticism as “po-faced” and stating: “These were messages exchanged between co-workers in the expectation that they would remain private and confidential and the tone of the language used reflects that.”
The comment outraged NEC members, who called for an apology and retraction at a meeting of the body on Tuesday, but Sir Keir’s office is understood to have told them that the statement was not intended for publication and said it had been provided by the party’s lawyers.
But the offending statement, which The Independent has seen in full, was sent to journalists at the OpenDemocracy website from the Labour press office’s main email account and refers to “the party’s lawyers” in the third person. Although clearly written in legal language, it has the subject line “Re: URGENT: Right of reply offer pre-publication”, suggesting it was issued in response to a request for comment.
Labour has launched an inquiry into the contents of the leaked report, but NEC members – rightly – pointed out that this was now prejudiced by the press release:
In their letter to Sir Keir, the 13 NEC members said: “The Labour Party’s statement was not only inexcusable in defending the racist, sexist and abusive comments in the WhatsApp groups, it also directly prejudged the specific issues that Martin Forde’s inquiry is considering. This prejudices Martin Forde’s inquiry and thereby undermines its independence.
“It is clearly unacceptable for party officials or officials in the leader’s office to politically interfere with or compromise the integrity of the independent investigation that the NEC has commissioned. As members of the NEC, we therefore ask that you issue an immediate apology for this Labour Party statement and retract it completely.”
No such apology or retraction appears to have been made. A statement that the quoted comments “do not in any way represent the party’s position in relation to the contents of the leaked report overall and do not prejudge the outcome of those investigations” is unconvincing; we can judge those words for ourselves.
The storm over the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey has been well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.
All in all, it seems Starmer has dug a hole for himself and seems determined to sit in it.
Perhaps he thinks this will all blow over and he’ll be able to carry on as though he hasn’t made a damn fool of himself and everybody who follows him.
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