In light of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, many have now opened their eyes to the fight against racism that has been being fought all along in the background while many white people were, intentionally or not, complicit in perpetuating racial inequality in the UK. As such, the level to which racism is entrenched in UK politics has been abundantly clear.
The Conservative Party have been absolutely littered with racism scandals, such as when Anthony Brown, MP for South Cambridgeshire, made questionable claims about immigrants. One of his most shocking statements was perhaps his claim that immigration brings germs into the country and therefore in order to decrease the spread of HIV, it is more important to stop immigrants entering the country than encourage people to wear condoms. What retribution did he face when these comments were revealed? Absolutely nothing. He wasn’t asked to stand down from the 2019 election and remains an MP to this day. With such a strong defence as “I went through a phase”, it would seemingly be impossible for this man to be held to an account. Besides, the Prime Minister himself has had more than a few racist incidents, so we really can’t expect him to tackle the racism of his friends. However, it seems unlikely that anything will change within the Tories anytime soon, as ousted government race advisor Lord Wooley suggests– Johnson believes that ethnic minorities should simply “stop wallowing in victimhood”.
Equally, Labour’s hands are absolutely not clean in this matter, and they seem to be doing a similar level of absolutely nothing to fix it. In April this year, a report was leaked revealing WhatsApp messages from Labour staffers racially profiling BAME Labour MPs. All that has since happened is Starmer has said very little and just ordered an inquiry due next year, meaning the staffers have essentially gotten off scot-free and likely hope that the public just won’t notice the outcome of the inquiry if it does not rule in their favour. It is also important to note that Starmer did relatively little about Black Lives Matter, opting to post a photo of himself kneeling and making no further gestures to oppose racism in a tangible way.
It’s not even just that there’s racism in the parties, it’s that MPs within parties are also targeted for their ethnicity. Dianne Abbott, for example, is on the receiving end of almost half of all abusive tweets towards female MPs, with many making use of racist stereotypes. Therefore, we can see that politics can be an actively inhospitable sphere for someone based on their ethnicity, and it is entirely possible that this plays into why there are so few MPs from a BAME background. However, despite the abuse targeted towards Abbott, the Conservative Party, despite their massive majority, have almost half the amount of BAME MPs as Labour, at only 22.
The impact of incidents like these really shouldn’t be understated either, with them have a tangible impact on politics in the UK. Rather notably, 58% of black British people believe the Conservative Party is institutionally racist, and through no coincidence, 64% of BAME voters voted Labour in 2019. Equally, while there hasn’t been a new election since the report was released, Labour is losing members over it, with there being claims that “There isn’t any focus on anti-Black racism in the party”. It is also important to note that these abysmal numbers make up Britain’s most diverse parliament in history.
No party in the UK is entirely clear of racism, even parties who may tend to dominate the BAME vote when it comes to an election. Hate crimes have doubled in the past five years, with racially motivated crimes dominating those numbers. Neither of the main parties are doing enough to target racism, and that’s because neither of them are really doing anything at all, despite Black Lives Matter presenting a real opportunity to voice genuine support for the black community and could have marked a turning point in British politics. Unacceptable doesn’t even begin to cover this issue and a massive overhaul of British politics is needed, starting with holding politicians to account for their racism. How can British people from ethnic minority backgrounds be safe if those who are supposed to represent them are prejudiced against them? Allowing racist MPs to continue only further normalises racism in the UK, making it seem acceptable for racists to be open about their beliefs, this is an injustice, change must be sought.