POLITICS
12/02/2021 15:20 GMT | Updated 12/02/2021 16:27 GMT

Black Labour MPs Hit Out At Keir Starmer After Delay To Forde Inquiry

MPs including Diane Abbott say failure to publish risks “doubling down on the impression that the party does not take issues of anti-Black racism seriously”.

Black Labour MPs have hit out at Keir Starmer and accused the party of failing to take racism seriously after the publication of a key inquiry was indefinitely delayed.

The leader ordered an inquiry by Martin Forde QC after the emergence of the so-called “Labour leaks” report. 

Compiled under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, it examined Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints. 

But it also revealed party officials used a number of insults in private conversations to describe senior Black MPs and officials including Diane AbbottDawn Butler and Clive Lewis.

Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner originally requested the report be published in July last year, but it has been delayed amid a separate probe by the Information Commissioners’ Office into alleged data protection breaches, including the officials’ WhatsApp messages.

Forde has said making the report public risked prejudicing the ICO report.

Now several MPs have signed an open letter to Starmer, warning him that failing to publish the report risks “doubling down on the impression that the party does not take issues of anti-Black racism seriously”.

HuffPost UK understands that the party’s position is that it does not have the ability to release the report. Forde has said that “any suggestion that I, or my panel, have been subject to pressure from the party regarding the delivery, content and conclusions of our report is entirely refuted”.

But MPs, including former shadow home secretary Abbott, say the parts of the report not related to the ICO investigation should be made public. 

The group includes shadow ministers Marsha de Cordova and Chi Onwurah, who warn Starmer that Black members are “disappointed and seriously concerned” at the delay.

The MPs also hit out after it emerged that several of the officials who were suspended following the leaked report emerged saw their memberships reinstated last month.

PA
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer 

The letter reads: “As Black Labour MPs, we wish to draw particular attention to the evidence in the leaked report the Forde inquiry has been tasked with looking into, which showed repeated hostility and abuse shown towards Black Labour MPs. 

“The possibility of a racist culture and a hostile environment for Black members within the party needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and the Forde inquiry is an important tool for doing just that.” 

The letter urges the party to weigh up any impact on the ICO’s investigation with “maintaining the confidence of party members” who want to see Labour “addressing crucial concerns around all forms of racism”. 

Several officials readmitted last month did not include Patrick Heneghan, the party’s former elections chief, who remains suspended. It is not clear why his suspension was not lifted along with others’.

In the report, it was claimed he had ridiculed former shadow home secretary Abbott in some of the WhatsApp messages. 

“Delaying the Forde inquiry and failing to provide a future date by which its findings will be published risks further doubling down on the impression that the party does not take issues of anti-Black racism seriously,” the MPs wrote.

“The abuse contained within the report and the issues it seeks to address are incredibly serious and must be part of our attempts to ensure the Labour Party is an inclusive and tolerant place. 

“The fact that members who contributed to anti-Black racism have been readmitted to the party is a cause for concern and this delay only adds to the anxiety.”