A huge number of constituents have contacted me about the killing of George Floyd in the USA. I will reply to everyone who has contacted me individually, but I wanted to share my thoughts about this tragic incident in the meantime.
This a challenging and uncertain time for members of the BAME community both in the UK and the US.
This is a particularly salient issue. The UK has a moral obligation to call out discrimination and injustice wherever we see it—no matter where in the world it occurs – and the death of George Floyd must not become another name but a catalyst for change in our society. To build a better society, we must stand united against injustice and racism.
Protesters are rightly calling for a simple fact – that black lives do indeed matter – to be respected; for black people to be able go about their daily lives without the threat of police violence, and for all of us to take action to dismantle the structural and institutional racism in our societies.
Recently, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refused to comment on George Floyd’s death. While calling the incident “very distressing,” he wanted to refrain from commenting on President Trump’s response, stating that such comments on other world leaders become a “media distraction.” His silence was condemned by Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, and the Labour Party. Such ambivalence and an inability to unequivocally condemn the killing of George Floyd is wrong.
Furthermore, while the Prime Minister has spoken out against the treatment and arrests of US journalists during the protests, this is far from a firm condemnation of discrimination and injustice. I firmly believe that when the Prime Minister next speaks to President Trump, he must now convey the UK’s abhorrence about his response to recent events.
I think it is a legitimate concern that British-sold equipment may have been used in these incidents. Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry recently wrote to Liz Truss calling on the Government to immediately suspend any exports of riot control equipment to the US, pending a review of whether they are being used in response to ongoing civil rights protests.
Regarding the recent report that was published about BAME individuals and Covid-19, I share your concern about the findings that were unearthed in the document. While it did not confirm anything that was not known before, it underlined the fact that those from BAME communities are at higher risk of catching and dying from Covid-19. I recently spoke to Sky News about this concerning issue which you can see here.
I believe that the government now should be setting out a strategy to reduce a risk for BAME individuals. This includes provision for BAME key and frontline workers such as Belly Mujinga, who recently passed away after contracting Covid-19 when not provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It clear that we still have further to go in combatting racism and structural inequality in the UK.
The Labour Party fundamentally believe that we must stand united against injustice and racism, condemning discrimination and injustice wherever we see it, and I will continue to press the Government to fulfil these responsibilities and moral obligations to ensure a more equitable society.
I understand that this is an issue of grave importance. The Labour Party will and must continue to push for equality and unity, as recently illustrated by the illumination of Leeds Town Hall this week in memory of George Floyd.