Unite assistant general secretary and Labour National Executive (NEC) member Howard Beckett has written to acting party general secretary David Evans about the scandal of this week’s exclusion of Black and ethnic minority members from key party selection processes.
Both Yasmine Dar, a Labour councillor and elected NEC member , and Walsall-based Mish Rahman – also an elected member- were blocked from representing the NEC on a panel to select local election candidates for Sandwell, in favour of two white men.
Around one in four residents of the West Midlands Borough is BAME.
Beckett’s letter addresses this scandal – and also the general abuse of NEC processes by the party’s leadership:
On reflection I feel compelled to email you about the debate around Sandwell yesterday.
I do have a number of other concerns about how the NEC is currently being conducted, in particular around the question and answer sessions with the Leader and Deputy Leader, but the nature of the debate around Sandwell needs to be considered in isolation of other concerns.
As you know I was Unite’s Regional Secretary in the West Midlands for 18 months. I am familiar with the problems of Sandwell and would be naturally sympathetic to the difficulties in resolving those problems.
Sandwell is of course a diverse community. I would hope that the majority of our members are from Black and Ethnic Minority communities. To this end I was pleased with your commentary thanking both Mish and Gurinder for the work they have been involved in. However that commentary was, in my view, entirely undermined by the Chair accepting, without explanation, that this work then debarred both from sitting on a Sandwell panel as NEC representatives. No explanation was given as to what potential conflict could exist, the narrative of Wendy Nichols was simply accepted by the Chair without question. I should not need to say that the reality of that decision, given absent reasoning, meant that two BAME members of the NEC were excluded on the reasoning of two white members.
The subsequent debate about whether Yasmine should be added to any selection panel from the NEC is troubling to say the least. There should have been no need for debate whatsoever. Instead the Chair again accepted Wendy’s account that the region would provide the necessary BAME representation. I am unsure as to whether this is in fact correct and would be grateful for more detail on this, but in any event it is simply unacceptable for the NEC to oppose a BAME member sitting on a panel for Sandwell, more so given the diversity of the Sandwell community. The upshot of the NEC yesterday is that two BAME colleagues have been excluded as ineligible and one BAME colleague has been voted down from sitting on any panel, in favor of two white males and following the narrative of two white females.
How anyone could raise an argument against a BAME member sitting on the panel is beyond me, but in addition the methodology of reaching the decision for two white men to represent the NEC seems to apply uniquely with Sandwell.
The NEC must be judged by actions not words. For us to talk about inclusivity and being an anti racist party means that we must actively empower the BAME community.
Yesterday the NEC failed by any measure to empower either the BAME members of the NEC or the Sandwell community.
Assistant General Secretary
Labour’s current leadership is abusing party members and undermining Labour’s effectiveness as a force against racism.
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