Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
19 August 2016

We need a united Labour Party to tackle racial inequality

As long we remain divided we will be unable to end the scourge of discrimination.

By Owen Smith

It was in 1965 – five years before I was even born – that Harold Wilson’s Labour government passed the Race Relations Act. This radical and ground-breaking measure – proof if it were needed of the difference Labour makes in government – sought to tackle the scourge of racism at a time when “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs were commonplace.

Labour governments ever since have continued the fight against racism and inequality. But whilst great progress has been made, a report released by EHRC yesterday shows there is a long way still to go. Stubborn and deep-rooted inequalities still scar our country.

The figures are stark. Over the last five years, whilst unemployment has gone down overall, it has doubled among young ethnic minority people. People from ethnic minorities are twice as likely to live in poverty. Black people are much more likely to be the victims of crime, and they are treated more harshly at every step of the criminal justice system. 

The report from EHRC calls on the government to produce a comprehensive race strategy to help address the growing inequality. But this Tory government does not appear to be taking race inequality seriously and has not done enough to tackle this entrenched inequality.

The new Prime Minister talks a good game. On the steps of Downing Street she talked about “fighting against burning injustice” and she acknowledged discrimination in the justice system. Yet this was the very same person who as Home Secretary sent offensive and divisive anti-immigrant vans in to some of our most diverse communities, screaming “go home or face arrest”. 

Select and enter your email address Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A quick and essential guide to domestic politics from the New Statesman's Westminster team. A weekly newsletter helping you understand the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email. Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

As leader of the Labour Party, I would introduce a wide-ranging strategy to tackle inequalities in health, in employment, in the criminal justice system, and beyond. Tomorrow, I will be holding a round-table with a diverse group of BAME campaigners and activists. We will reflect on the EHRC report, and look at how we can address persistent racial inequalities. We will discuss the hugely worrying rise in racism and hate crime following the vote for Brexit. And we will look at how we can deliver greater representation across our party.

Content from our partners
How heat network integration underpins "London's most sustainable building"
How placemaking can drive productivity in cities – with PwC
The UK needs SMEs to reach net zero

Labour has always been the party of diversity and equality; at the forefront of the fight for greater representation. But in truth, progress has been too slow. There are 41 ethnic minority MPs, with the majority being Labour. But if Parliament truly reflected the country, there would be twice as many. As the EHRC report shows, just 4 per cent of local councillors in England are from ethnic minority backgrounds. We need to up our game.

As a Labour Party, we can and we must do better. We need to ensure that the diversity of our communities is fully reflected both in Parliament, and in town halls up and down the country. This means more councillors and more MPs from BAME communities, as well as more women and more working class people too. And this means looking not just at how we select candidates, but how we identify, encourage and support talented members and activists to progress.

As a country, we are more divided and more unequal than we have been for generations. It is the historic duty of the Labour Party to tackle inequality and prejudice. But in truth we too are deeply divided, unable to hold this right-wing Tory government to account. The title of the EHRC report – healing a divided Britain – is exactly why I’m standing to be leader of the Labour Party. I believe I am the person who can unite our party. And together, we can heal our divided country.