We have all been touched by the grief and anger of the recent protests in the US and at home.
The Liberal Democrats exist to fight for justice, liberty and equality and we support the Black Lives Matter movement.
These protests are not just about America, nor about the issue of police tactics. At their heart, they are about injustice, inequality and discrimination.
The government here has failed to understand the issues and seems more intent on demonising people and enacting flawed new immigration laws than about tackling the inequality that has angered so many of us.
Camden is a diverse community: 34% of residents are from BAME backgrounds. That diversity is rightly celebrated in Camden.
However, nobody is equal until everybody is equal. In order to achieve equality for all, we need to act now.
The global pandemic has laid bare the inequalities that lie at the root of our society here in the UK
Under pressure from Lib Dems and others, the government has released the delayed report into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups, including ethnic minorities. The report tells us very little we didn't already know.
The people of Camden need to know WHY, for example:
- There have been 4 TIMES as many excess deaths of black people than white people during this period
- People who contract COVID-19 are TWICE as likely to die if they are of Bangladeshi origin and 10-50% more likely to die if they are black or another ethnic minority
Lib Dem Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan explains why the government response is not good enough:
We know that health inequalities exist between different income groups - and these inequalities are also unacceptable - but that does not fully explain why ethnic minority groups have been impacted so profoundly by this crisis. Indeed, death rates for Black and Asian communities were lower on average than for white groups before the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has also been a disproportionate financial impact on BAME groups as a result of the pandemic.
You can read the party's response to the COVID-19 inequalities report here: We demand action on the disproportionate impact Covid-19 is having on BAME groups.
In a civilised society where we aim for everyone to be valued equally, the injustice and inequality that has led us to this point are unacceptable.
We have a long way to go to improve policing in the UK
Issues of race and policing are by no means confined to the US. Black people are more than five times as likely to have force used against them by police as white people.
You are ten times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police in the UK if you are black than if you are white. As a tactic, stop and search has a very poor record in detecting knife crime, which is its primary aim. All of this leads to profound and counterproductive distrust of the police in minority communities.
For more on this, you can read former Police Commander in Lambeth, Lib Dem Lord Brian Paddick’s reflections on the issues of racism within UK policing, both past and present.
What have the Liberal Democrats been doing to show our support?
Our party has been active in highlighting some of the issues faced by black communities - and by other ethnic minorities - both here and abroad:
- This article: George Floyd cannot just be another name by Roderick Lynch, chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality, includes a brief summary of some of the injustices we need to fight here in the UK.
- Lib Dems in Parliament have written to the Prime Minister to urge him to publicly condemn the violent rhetoric and use of military force against protestors by President Donald Trump, as well as to set out the steps that the government should take to prevent deaths such as George Floyd’s from happening in the UK. They have also supported a cross-party call for the UK Government to ban the export of tear gas and rubber bullets to the US.
- Lib Dems have also been leading calls for the government to investigate whistleblower claims that BAME health and care workers seem to be disproportionately rostered on the front line.
- Lib Dem MPs have been calling on the government to publish in full the expert recommendations on reducing inequality and safeguarding vulnerable communities that were allegedly removed from the report before publication.
- They have also pushed to abolish suspicion-less stop-and-search powers
- Lib Dems demand an independent public inquiry into the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
- At the same time, we are also keeping up the pressure on the government to stand up for the rights of the people of Hong Kong. You can help us by signing our petition.
- Here in Camden, leading Lib Dems penned an article in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What can we do to change things?
Real change will only happen when we make fundamental changes to society. We need to ensure that we value all people equally and provide opportunities for everyone, regardless of their background or the social and economic circumstances into which they were born.
More and better-quality affordable housing; properly-funded social care; integrated community-led services; better provision in mental health; and more funding for education and services for children are all things that we need right here in Camden that will help to start to address the inequalities that fuel our anger with the current situation and to improve public health and wellbeing.
For more on these topics, you can read Eradicating Racial Inequality, a policy paper adopted by the party in early 2019, which outlines our party's commitment to racial equality and our determination to understand and eliminate the inequalities that exist.
In addition, improving things like social and mental health services will also reduce the reliance on the police (and A&E) to step in and fill the gaps.
But there are things each of us can do here and now to start to tackle racism specifically:
- If you care about issues of justice, liberty and equality, join us
- If you are already a member of the party, join the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality
- If you are white, read this guide on being a more effective ally in the fight against racism
- Support the Black Lives Matter movement and encourage others to do the same. If you can, dig deep to donate to the following causes:
- We are also keen to support organisations standing up for equality here in the UK. It is LBGTQ+ Pride Month, but many events have been cancelled due to COVID-19. Please consider spending any refunded Pride event tickets or the cost of a pint to one or more of these charities that do amazing work. Also follow them on social media and show your support:
- UK Black Pride – the pride event for Black LGBTQ+ people
- BlackOut UK – “making space for Black Queer men in the UK”
- Bis of Colour – the organisation for Bisexual People of Colour
- Gaysians – for South Asian LGBTQ+ people
- Imaan – for Muslim LGBTQ+ people
- NAZ project London – supports BAME people of all sexualities with HIV and sexual health services
- MindOUT is a mental health charity for LGBTQ+ people of all ethnic backgrounds
- The Londonist has also collated a list of organisations to support, key resources, petitions, and ways to protest from home.
To all black people in the UK and across the world, our friends, our families, our partners, our members, our neighbours, our colleagues, we know how tough it must be for you having the trauma of everyday racism brought so starkly to the foreground. Social media is filled with videos and stories of police brutality against black people. Don’t suffer in silence: talk to friends who will understand or seek professional help:
- Free therapy from the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network
- Community empowerment for 13-25 year olds: Black Minds Matter
- Mental health charity, MIND's resources
- Mental health resources from Heads Together
- NHS Mental Health resources
- Access to the Samaritans
And, if you’re planning on joining a protest in person, we encourage you to look out for each other and stay safe. Wear a mask, bring hand sanitiser and respect the rules on social distancing to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Finally, if you have views on any of the issues above, or ideas about any issues that Camden Liberal Democrats should be raising locally or nationally, please get in touch on [email protected]
In solidarity ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿
From Camden Liberal Democrats
P.S. Diversity and Inclusion begin at home
We know that we have work to do within our party to make it more diverse and inclusive. You can read the national party's report on what needs to be done here.
Camden Liberal Democrats are committed to building an inclusive party where diversity is celebrated. We have a duty to ensure that our party is a true reflection of the communities we hope to represent. One area where we still have work to do is in reflecting Camden’s diversity within our membership, local party leadership and candidates. This is not acceptable and we want to change that. Join us