At the weekend, right-wing Labour back-bencher Chuka Umunna, perhaps rattled by the visit of his well-known and popular colleague Chris Williamson’s ‘Democracy Roadshow’ to his constituency a few days before, followed up his ‘dogs’ attack on Labour’s pro-Corbyn membership majority by telling broadcasters that Labour is ‘institutionally racist’.
The comments have been widely interpreted as Umunna preparing the ground for the long-awaited split of as many as, oh, half a dozen of Labour’s least popular centrists.
The ‘dogs’ jibe earned the back-bencher a searing rebuke from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell – but the racism smear was condemned by an array of senior BAME front-benchers, of whom Labour is blessed with many.
Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler posted a tweet brimming with righteous anger and indignation:
Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor thought Butler had it exactly right – and said so:
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott tweeted what many Labour members must have been thinking:
Shadow Treasury Minister Clive Lewis went further, appearing on BBC News to condemn the ‘scorched-earth policy’ of Labour right-wingers and telling viewers that Umunna and others should have spent the past three years considering the damage they were doing to the party:
Lewis wasn’t finished, either. He told the SKWAWKBOX:
To hear our Party described as ‘institutionally racist’ is not only wrong, it’s an affront to every person, who through voting or working for it, strives to build a better, fairer less divided country. That isn’t to say our Party is perfect when it comes to issues of race and especially immigration. You only have to look at a history book to understand that.
But given its many positive achievements in this area, the progressive ethos at its very core and a leader that understands the reality of structural racism, it’s not a statement I think many would genuinely agree with.
However, it wasn’t only Labour’s BAME front-benchers who took Umunna to task on Twitter. Slough’s Sikh MP Tan Dhesi joined in:
Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya, too:
— Fiona Onasanya (@Fiona_Onasanya) September 11, 2018
Nor was the condemnation limited to MPs. Well-known NHS campaigner, The British Medical Association’s honorary vice-President, Dr Kailash Chand OBE, first retweeted a damning comment,
To claim Jeremy Corbyn has created an “institutionally racist” Labour wilfully defies history & reality. To traduce your own for petty gain is the behaviour of a meddler on the make.
before telling the SKWAWKBOX:
I am a party member for over thirty years and have literally spent all of my life fighting racism. I see racism, where racism is.
Chukka calling labour party ‘Institutionally racist’ is” irresponsible” “disrespectful” and “offensive”. I call on Chukka Umunna to unreservedly apologise and retract his vindictive statement, or resign from the party straightaway.
Many others on social media joined in the condemnation.
Chuka Umunna has been contacted for comment. But he is already on the record on the topic of institutional racism in the Labour Party from a very different viewpoint from that expressed at the weekend.
Just two years ago, just after participating in the creation of a Commons report that concluded there is no evidence for any particular issue with antisemitism in the Labour Party, Umunna published a Facebook post that said:
The term ‘jumping the shark‘ is a television industry term that refers to the moment in many long-running series where the plot becomes so plainly nonsensical that the show would be better terminated.
The recent accusations against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party under him sprang over the Great White long ago – and the message for the careers of those indulging is them same.
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