It was announced today that MP Keith Vaz had defeated the challenge by Leeds councillor Asghar Khan for the ‘BAME Labour’ (BL) place on Labour’s ruling NEC (National Executive Committee). This has been portrayed as a ‘unexpected blow’ for Momentum, which had backed Khan:
While there’s no question that Momentum would have wished to see Vaz replaced on the NEC, it was not unexpected. Many viewed Khan’s candidacy as important to highlight the issue rather than for any serious chance of victory – because BL appears to be far from representative of Labour’s black and ethnic membership which, like the rest of Labour’s membership, is largely pro-Corbyn and therefore unlikely to vote other than for the most pro-Corbyn candidate.
BL is an affiliated organisation that is meant to protect and promote the interests of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the Labour Party.
However, contrary to what you’d expect simply being a black, Asian or minority member of the Labour Party does not make you a member of BL. You have to apply to join – and if you apply, you don’t automatically become a member – you receive a message saying your application has been submitted for approval.
Rumours abound of Labour members applying to join and finding that their application was never registered, or even that they have been debited the membership fee but then find the organisation has no record of them when it comes to voting time. Even NEC members will admit that membership numbers are extremely unclear – but most active party members who would qualify for membership are not in BL.
What is clear is that BL looks a very long way from being an organisation representative of Labour’s wider BAME members – and many members who know anything about the organisation suspect that it exists to further the interests of right-wing Labour far more than those of BAME members of the Labour Party.
And, those interests are best served by keeping control of the BL NEC spot. Much as that needs to change, that makes the result anything but surprising.
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