Keir Starmer throws support behind MP forced to close her office because of racist threats

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Friday 10 July 2020 11:30
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(Getty)

Labour leader Keir Starmer has thrown his support behind Black MP Dawn Butler after she was forced to close her London constituency office because of racist threats.

In a statement this week, Butler said staff in her Willesden office had been “verbally assaulted” while the office had been vandalised.

“My staff have been attacked in the office, verbally assaulted coming and going from work, bricks have been thrown through the windows and the frontage has been smashed,” she wrote.

“I have had to work extensively with police and security staff to simply try and create a safe working environment for my employees. Many of these incidents were not made public in order to not encourage copycat attacks”.

Butler vowed that she would not be “threatened into silence” and would continue her work on behalf of her constituents.

Now her party leader, Keir Starmer, has condemned Butler’s treatment and tweeted that he offers her “full support and solidarity”.

“I have spoken to @DawnButlerBrent to offer the Labour Party's full support and solidarity,” Starmer wrote.

“The racist abuse that Dawn and her staff have suffered is appalling. Dawn’s voice is vital. The racism that our Black MPs face has no place in our society”.

But a lot of people think Starmer has taken too long to offer public support after Butler shared her statement.

And others have criticised him for a perceived inaction over reports of anti-Black racism in a leaked Labour report earlier this year.

Starmer has faced a rough reception from Black Labour party supporters in recent months, with reports of many leaving the party thanks to the belief that Labour is not tackling racism effectively.

The Labour leader was forced to issue an apology last week after he seemingly dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as a “moment” in an interview and labelled calls to defund the police “nonsense”.

Starmer later appealed to Black Labour members not to leave, saying that Labour was an “anti-racist” party and denying claims that he had been slow to act.

“We take [racism] really seriously,” Starmer told HuffPost UK.

“Angela Rayner and I are determined to root out any racism in the party – whether that’s staff or members. We are a proudly anti-racist party. They are our core values and principles."

“Within hours of getting the leaked report we had ordered an independent inquiry. We didn’t delay, we didn’t just leave it to the internal process, and we have not inhibited that inquiry in any way whatsoever”.

Starmer also revealed he had appointed Martin Forde QC, the Independent Advisor to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, to oversee the inquiry into the leaked report.

Yesterday Starmer was also accused of being “silent” on the matter of racism against the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities in the party, by an equality campaign.

Still, it's undoubtedly positive that Starmer is taking a stand against the abuse faced by Butler. And we hope she feels safe enough to open her office again soon.

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