A MUCH DELAYED report into allegations of racism, anti-Semitism and bullying within the Labor Party revealed “serious problems of discrimination” and racism within its ranks.
The Forde Report, led by Martin Forde QC, was commissioned by Sir Keir Starmer in 2020 after leaked WhatsApp messages exposed damaging factionalism with racist comments directed at black MPs.
The report suffered multiple delays as party headquarters staff mentioned in the initial filing filed a lawsuit against its publication. The alleged data breaches were also investigated by the Information Commissioner.
The damning report, which was vetted by Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC) this morning ahead of its release, has stoked tensions within the party.
The report said there was “unmistakable overt and underlying racism and sexism” in WhatsApp messages exchanged by senior executives.
In the posts, an official was quoted as referring to MP Diane Abbott as “really disgusting” and “a very angry woman”.
On one occasion, staff shared information about Abbott crying in the restroom and suggested reporters be warned.
Fellow black MPs Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis – who are on the left of the party – have also faced abuse.
The posts suggest elements within the party were working against then-leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Officials denied the posts were discriminatory and said she was only scrutinized for her performance in light of the Brexit vote. Some claimed they treated the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington the same as white male MPs.
However, the bombshell report dismissed these claims saying, “Colored MPs and female parliamentarians were not always treated during the relevant period in the same way as their white/male counterparts in the Party and in Parliament” , before highlighting how Ms Abbott had been the victim of ‘expressions of visceral disgust’ and ‘racist tropes’.
The report went on to criticize that decades of racial bias targeting Abbott in the public domain should have been carefully factored into party members’ responses to him, even if these were unconscious.
Lewis and Butler said The voice that Labor did not take allegations of racism seriously enough.
Lewis said: ‘People have waited long enough for the report, but I don’t think it really takes a report to recognize that the Labor Party, like most institutions, is fighting structural racism.
“After waiting so long, the party has shown that it can fight very vigorously against certain forms of racism. Now people will be watching the party leadership to see if they can fight as vigorously against all forms of racism within the party.
“The report has clearly identified the things that need to change. There are sections in there that don’t make it easy to read.
He added: “The party has shown, Keir Starmer has shown, as has the NEC, how robust they can be on certain forms of racism, which is to be applauded.
“Now they need to show if they can be as robust on all forms of racism, including anti-black racism.”
The 860-page document was scathing about how racism may have festered within the Labor Party through beliefs that “unless you criticize someone because of the color of their skin, you don’t you’re not racist”.
Although the Forde report welcomed some progress on sexual harassment and misogyny, it called for racial discrimination to be treated with equal prominence.
The report states: “Racism within the Party is not experienced by individuals solely through acts of aggression or micro-aggression towards themselves – it is experienced by seeing colleagues passed over for promotion; being the only person from an ethnic minority around a meeting table; being managed by an almost exclusively white senior team; and to hear the particular contempt that colleagues reserve (for example) for deputies, councilors and members of the PLC belonging to ethnic minorities.
He also pushed back against those to whom we denied any racist, homophobic or sexist discrimination, and said: “We have no reason to doubt the sincerity of what they said.
“However, we also note that those who are not themselves part of groups at risk of discrimination often find it harder to recognize discrimination where it occurs, particularly given the subtle ways in which it manifests itself. often and blind spots that progressive individuals sometimes have when it comes to recognizing it in their own ranks.
A Métis party member said he was “distraught by the lack of urgency in the face of incidents of Islamophobia, racism and sexual harassment due to the organization’s priority being anti-Semitism”.
MP Dawn Butler described the ‘hierarchy of racism’ within the Labor Party as ‘most hurtful’ by staff members.
“Without thought and in a knee-jerk reaction, it seems that some members of the Labor Party have already started telling the media that the report proves that there was no sabotage in 2017. It’s disappointing because it this is a 138 page detailed report. I am still reading it. From what I have read, the actual evidence described in the Forde report reveals that there was some sabotage and that to me is hugely upsetting as someone who worked hard for a Labor victory in 2017 and 2019,” she said.
“The WhatsApp messages also reveal factional and discriminatory attitudes on the part of senior Party officials. I have been ridiculed for speaking out against the racism that exists within the Party and this current response is part of the problem.
“What will matter now is what the party leadership does in response to the report’s findings to eradicate these attitudes once and for all and ensure the party upholds the values of equality it claims to uphold.” I wrote to Keir Starmer and David Evans and they agreed to meet with me, Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis who were all mentioned in the leaked report. I will have more to say once I have read and assimilated the report.
Hilary Schan, co-chair of the left-leaning organization Peoples Momentum, said: “To move forward, we need more than just an apology. In addition to careful consideration of the findings of the report.
“And we need Labour’s delayed implementation of BAME structures to be expedited, given the widespread racism within Labor and the documented failures of management to address it.
“Keir Starmer has faced major questions about his commitment to both anti-racism and democracy – now is the opportunity to answer them.”
A Labor spokesman said: “The Forde report details a party that was out of control. Keir Starmer is now in charge and has made real progress in ridding the party of the destructive factionalism and unacceptable culture that did so much damage before and contributed to our defeat in 2019.”
However, there are growing concerns among some campaigners that Labor is on the verge of abandoning the race equality policies it currently has.
According to a Labor insider, Starmer wants to reject the promises of the Labor Party’s 2019 manifesto on racial equality.
Pledges made in the 2019 Race and Faith manifesto include a commitment to carry out an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy on government, which could open the door to reparations for slavery.
Other pledges include pledging to work to eliminate racial inequality in the economy and to review all major spending announcements for their impact on BAME communities.
A well-placed Labor source said The voice race and sectarian policies were “not official party policy”, but a former NEC source said the pledges were definitely part of Labour’s latest manifesto.
Almost two years ago, Starmer promised Labor would introduce a Race Equality Act into government, but there is very little information about what it might contain.
Last year, Starmer’s equalities spokesperson, Marsha de Cordova, resigned in part due to frustration that the leadership team was blocking the development of the racial equality policy.
Black voters were instrumental in Labor victories in local elections in May, with the party’s best showings in areas with large African and Caribbean populations such as Wandsworth, Southwark and Walthamstow.
Yet of the 20 Labor candidates selected so far to contest the next general election, none are blackand two are Asian, one of whom is already a sitting MP.
Starmer collapses increased pressure for abandoning his 10 promises to Labor members as he ran for leader.
There is also frustration among some members who say party headquarters are dragging their feet on the 2018 pledge to set up an organization to represent BAME members.
Labor is believed to still be in favor of some commitments made in the 2019 manifesto, namely the introduction of all-BAME shortlists for party selections and the introduction of ethnic pay checks.