Letter to constituents: Black Lives Matter

I was deeply angered by the brutal murder of George Floyd in the USA, adding yet another victim in a long list of black men who have needlessly died at the hands of the police. Protests all over the world including in Cardiff have highlighted the desperate anger and utter exhaustion of BAME people after decades of activism has been met with woefully insufficient action.  It is sad for me to reflect, as someone who joined the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Anti-Nazi League and marched with the Rock Against Racism campaign as a 15 year old schoolboy in the 70s, that racism is still a feature of society. It is shocking that a campaign called Black Lives Matter should be so essential in 2020. I also recognise that as someone with a significant platform I must amplify their voices and stand in solidarity with them.

I will continue to participate in the strong tradition in the Labour Party of fighting against both overt racism and the less visible racism which exists within the structure of our society, disproportionately resulting in BAME people having less job security, lower wages, inferior access to higher education, housing and jobs in large parts of the economy, and less safety in their day-to-day lives.

I was proud to see people of all ages and backgrounds in Cardiff join together spontaneously and peacefully in the city centre in condemnation of years of inaction. As you know regulations have been put into place by the Welsh Government to stop the spread of the spread of Covid-19 and save lives which includes a ban on mass gatherings, including protests  but it is commendable that organisers cooperated fully with the police in arranging last Sunday’s demonstration in the city centre, and that social distancing was maintained throughout. In the interest of preventing further spread of the virus, I would encourage people to refrain from meeting physically for now, and to follow social distancing guidance, particularly given that we are fighting a virus which kills BAME people at four times the rate it kills white people. We must use this time, in the eloquent words of Killer Mike, to plan and organise until it is safe to come together physically once again.

Our Labour Shadow Secretary for International Trade, Emily Thornberry MP, has written to the Secretary for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss MP, asking for exports of British-made riot control equipment being used to attack unarmed protesters and journalists to be immediately stopped. You can find her letter here in full: https://twitter.com/EmilyThornberry/status/1267900461090291714.

I have added my voice to these demands, and have written a letter to the Secretary of State for International Trade regarding the suspension of export licences for the sale of these products being used brutally and indiscriminately by police in the US during the ongoing protests. The UK Government has a duty to condemn police brutality across the world, and ensure than it does not grant licences for exports of products which might sustain and support the violent suppression of peaceful protest.

I have written to the Foreign Secretary asking him to lobby his US counterparts to stop what appear to be violent, targeted attacks on peaceful protesters and journalists covering those protests. Progress can never be achieved if the basic rights of our democracies, such as the right to a free press and the right to free speech and protest, are eroded.

I have also written to the Welsh Government's Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, to ensure that the curriculum in Welsh schools thoroughly and critically addresses BAME histories in Wales and the UK, and integrates the stories of positive BAME people’s contributions throughout our history.

As a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the House of Commons, I also feel it is my duty to hold large social media companies to account in tackling fake news and removing poisonous and racist content from their platforms.

Lastly, a number of people have written asking me to urge the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to publish the Public Health England report into the effect of Covid-19 on BAME people. Following pressure from the Labour frontbench team, the UK Government decided to publish its report, which showed that:

“…being black and minority ethnic is a major risk factor. This racial disparity effect holds after accounting for the effect of age, deprivation, region and sex.”

The Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova MP, and Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, have both expressed their deep disappointment, however, that the report fails to address structural inequalities or put forward any recommendations. They have called for a risk-assessment to be complied for businesses to ensure that they do everything to protect their workers, similar to the risk assessment tool published by the Welsh Government which you can find here: https://gov.wales/written-statement-all-wales-covid-19-workforce-risk-assessment-tool.
Rest assured that I am here to represent and amplify your voices as my constituents in the battle against racism in all its forms.

Kevin Brennan MP
Cardiff West