Is Labour a racist party? The answer, I believe, is ‘no’. Apart from anything else, some of my best friends are in the party and I cannot think they hate themselves or anybody else simply because of their skin colour.
Yet the question must be asked. For just this weekend I was rummaging through recent editions of the Gazette Live (the latest news, sport and business from the North East, Middlesbrough and Teesside) when I happened upon this story: ‘Five Middlesbrough councillors resign from Labour Party and will stand as independents.’
You can read about the whole sorry episode here. But the crux of the article is this:
‘Cllr Junier said in his resignation letter: “I can no longer sit back and watch our fractured group implode through lack of direction, lack of leadership and more importantly lack of Labour values”
‘Cllr Pervaz Khan said he felt “ashamed” for belonging to Middlesbrough Labour group which “is treating some of my Asian family and friends in a manner which they perceive to be racist and, incidentally, so do I”
‘Cllr Sajaad Khan also criticised the current Labour leadership saying it was “different under Sir Stuart Bell, who would not have stood for all this”.’
Now I confess that I have no idea how different things would have been under Sir Stuart Bell, nor any particular insight into what he would or would not have stood for. But what I do know is that this story deserves to be front page news. After all, accusations of racism, especially justified or unjustified ‘perceptions’ of racism, from within any political party, from anybody at all – be he or she ne’er so low in the party’s apparatus – is front page news these days.
The Gazette Live ran this story on the 6th of this month. Yet this morning I have once again been scouring the front pages of The Times, Guardian and other national newspapers, and can find absolutely no reference to, or outcry over, this whole business. Is there a reason? Do any readers have any idea of what it might be?