Jeremy Corbyn’s best response to the Conservatives’ xenophobic proposals, which would force businesses to list their foreign workers, comes through actions rather than words.
Emboldened by a leadership challenge that only increased his record-breaking mandate, the Labour leader has made yet more history by appointing five parliamentarians from the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community to his new Shadow Cabinet in the making.
Diane Abbott, who was born to Jamaican parents, was promoted to Home Secretary. The MP for Hackney’s record suggests the party will adopt a more liberal approach to immigration than the one being promoted by the Labour right wing. Indeed, the UK economy will take a hit if free movement is curbed, because immigrants make a net contribution to the economy and increase demand for products.
Born to Bengali parents, Shami Chakrabarti (who was made a peer by Corbyn this summer) took the position of Shadow Attorney General. With years of experience as a barrister for the Home Office and as Director of human rights group Liberty (where she campaigned against “excessive anti-terror legislation”), supporters can say she is more than qualified for the job of representing the state in legal proceedings.
After appearing to support spending £205bn on nuclear weapons, Clive Lewis (also from the BAME community) was switched from Shadow Defence Secretary to Shadow Business Secretary.
Dawn Butler, who was born to Jamaican parents, was made Shadow Minister for Ethnic Minorities. She was one of the few MPs to stand up against the widespread and ongoing purge of (primarily Corbyn-supporting) Labour members for dubious reasons, writing a letter of concern to the party’s General Secretary. The importance of her promotion is highlighted by her own many experiences in parliament; another MP, for example, once said to her “this lift really isn’t for cleaners”.
The final frontbench position held by someone from the BAME community is the Shadow Secretary for International Development. Kate Osamor MP was promoted back in June.
This is not the first time Corbyn has broken an all-time record with his Shadow Cabinet. Last year, his front bench was the first in history to appoint more women than men.
At present, only 4% of MPs are BAME people, compared to 13% of the population. Parliament should represent the whole of society. Yet BAME people are not the only demographic underrepresented: 77% of MPs are male, while the country is 51% female.
But that’s not to say that having women and BAME people in leadership positions automatically solves institutional racism and misogyny.
Actions speak louder than words
- She presided over a relentless austerity programme, which disproportionately hits women.
- As Home Secretary, she oversaw the deportation of thousands of vulnerable women.
- Migrant women are still being detained indefinitely at Yarl’s Wood. And May has refused to disclose the extent of sexual abuse at the detention centre for fear that it may harm commercial interests.
So clearly, having a woman in even the highest office is not necessarily a feminist victory. Nor will it necessarily solve structural inequalities.
But the more women and people from BAME communities we have in parliament, the more likely these groups are to be represented, and the more inspired other women and minorities will feel to get involved.
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) October 6, 2016
Corbyn has broken records when it comes to the number of BAME people and women he has appointed to some of the highest positions in public office. This appears to be completely at odds with media portrayals of Corbyn and his supporters as racist and misogynistic. Why would people who are prejudiced in such ways support a Corbyn government that properly represents minorities and women?
In appointing such a diverse front bench, Corbyn is displaying how a progressive government should act, in the face of the dangerous policies coming from the Conservative government.
– Support the Canary so we can continue to bring you the context that matters.
– Write to your MP to express any discontent.
– Pledge to take direct action.
Featured image via Labour website