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LMN Briefing - Forde Report




LMN Briefing - Forde Report



Introduction


In April 2020 the Labour Party commissioned an independent investigation into the contents and circumstances surrounding a leaked report entitled ‘The work of the Labour Party’s governance and legal unit in relation to anti-semitism, 2014-2019’.


As the leaked document entered the public domain, there were significant and legitimate complaints surrounding the structures, culture and practices of the Labour Party at all levels. This included concerns surrounding senior staff at Labour HQ, the elected leadership and amongst members. Amongst those with serious concerns were Muslim members and the Labour Muslim Network.


The leaked report and the communications contained within raised allegations of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims by senior staff and within the party culture and structures. These were raised on multiple occasions by the Labour Muslim Network with both the Leader and the General Secretary of the Labour Party.


An investigative panel chaired by Martin Forde QC, and consisting of Baroness Debbie Wilcox (The Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE), Lord Larry Whitty (the Rt. Hon. the Lord Whitty) and Baroness Ruth Lister (The Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE) was commissioned and appointed by the NEC in May 2020.


The investigation was concluded and the report published on Tuesday 19th July 2022.



The Findings



‘Overt and Underlying Racism’


Following nearly two years of evidence, scrutiny and investigation, the report concluded that there are ‘serious problems of discrimination in the operations of the Party.’


These include, but are not limited to:


  • ‘The undoubted overt and underlying racism and sexism apparent in some of the content of the WhatsApp messages between the Party’s most senior staff.’

  • ‘A significant number of replies to our Call for Evidence - mainly from ordinary Party members - spelling out their experiences of discrimination - racism, islamophobia, sexism - in constituency parties and in Party processes.

  • The ‘failure of Party officials at regional and national level to take such problems [of racism, islamophobia and sexism] seriously.

  • ‘Submissions from current and former member of staff describing their experiences of discrimination and of lack of sensitivity to issues of racism and sexism displayed by senior management.’

  • ‘Racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory behaviour’ feeding a ‘toxic culture’ within the highest levels of the organisation.

  • ‘A culture of denialism across all factions in which many of the people involved in such behaviour failed to accept that they may have acted in a way that is bullying, threatening, discriminatory or which perpetuates discriminatory behaviour, simple because they are committed to progressive politics.’


These findings were entirely consistent with the islamophobia report published by LMN in 2020 and highlights many similar areas of concern. We were pleased to see the panel had taken our report into consideration - noting that ‘the Labour Muslim Network has produced an excellent report on islamophobia in the Party’ - and goes on to advise the Party to ‘consider carefully’ its contents.


‘Hierarchy of Racism’


For many years there have been concerns raised, particularly amongst Muslim members of the Labour Party, that there is a hierarchy both in process and in intensity pertaining to different forms of discrimination within the Party. Muslim members have consistently told us they feel islamophobia often sits at the bottom of this perceived hierarchy. This was a clear theme amongst the submissions to the LMN Islamophobia report.


It is clear, both in the reflections and conclusions of the Forde Report, similar concerns and conclusions have been reached within this investigation.


The report highlights that ‘the Party was in effect operating a hierarchy of racism or discrimination with other forms of racism [including islamophobia] being ignored. For a Party which seeks to be a standard bearer of progressive politics, equality, and workers’ rights, this is an untenable situation. The Party must live by its values and lead by example.’


Within the submissions received, the report also highlights suggestions of ‘manipulation of process along factional lines, marginalisation of those with protected characteristics, opacity of procedures and a perceived hierarchy of engagement with different protected characteristics.’


The Forde report goes on to suggest ‘a parallel approach is needed [between work on antisemitism and] with regard to islamophobia and that…both forms of prejudice and discrimination need to be integrated into a broader ethical anti-racism education programme alongside education on other protected characteristics.’


Conclusion


The Labour Muslim Network welcomes the publication of the Forde report and the critical issues it raises relating to racism and islamophobia within our Party.


While we are shocked and saddened at the scale of Islamophobia within the Party (including by senior staff and elected members), the toxic culture of minimisation and denialism and the hierarchy of discrimination, we must also note that much of the issues raised are similar to our own report published nearly two years ago.


It is difficult to read this report and reach any other conclusion than there being institutional Islamophobia within the Labour Party.


This must now be a turning point for our party. There is a racism emergency we must deal with urgently. We hope the leadership, NEC, Parliamentary Labour Party, and all members meet this moment with the seriousness it deserves.



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