Ekua Bayunu – a letter to Keir Starmer

Black activist Ekua Bayunu, Arts & Culture Officer of Manchester Central CLP, has sent an impassioned letter to Keir Starmer, reproduced below.

In it she commends Black MPs Diane Abbott and BelI Ribeiro-Addy for their participation in the Don’t Leave, Organise Zoom meeting on the 29th April, Labour Leaks – Lessons for the Left, and for the inspiration she drew from their presence.

She wrote that the event, introduced by four panelists including the two MPs, was “to focus on the appalling racism revealed in a leaked report commissioned by and into my Labour Party (and) to discuss the implications for Black socialists organising in the party.” It attracted more than 900 advance bookings.

Starmer is under pressure from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to suspend Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy for taking part in a meeting which had two expelled party members among those who made contributions to the general discussion. The Board, erroneously claiming to represent all British Jews, is particularly exercised by the presence of another Black woman, Jackie Walker, who is herself Jewish, wrongly describing her as among “those that have been expelled from the Party for antisemitism.”

The Don’t Leave, Organise network, of which JVL is a founder member, has made clear in a public statement that the panelists (the two MPs plus Matt Wrack of the FBU and former Labour Parliamentary Candidate Pamela Fitzpatrick) had no role in determining which members of the public joined the meeting or participated in the discussion.

The strapline for the event – Together against bullying, misogyny, racism and sabotage – seems ironic given the racist, sexist bullying which Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy have been subjected to since the meeting. We find it deeply shocking that demands for the suspension of Black, women MPs should be made because they participated in an essential discussion about the shocking racism revealed in the leaked internal party report. This demonstrates precisely why open, honest discussions must be urgently encouraged.

As Bayunu says in her letter to Starmer, “It was a very positive step from our parliamentary party to have two such senior Black MPs witness our discussions with over 600 people, many Labour Party members, in attendance.

“We are living through extraordinary times and I would urge you to ask the Board of Deputies to take a moment to consider this before they continue in their actions against those of us who attended”.

Ekua Bayunu

To: Keir STARMER <[email protected]>
Subject: I was at the Zoom Meeting on the 29th April 2020
Friday 1st May 2020

Dear Keir,

I attended a Zoom meeting organised by Don’t Leave Organise on Wednesday 29th April 2020.

I did so because the discussion, following contributions by Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, was to focus on the appalling racism revealed in a leaked report commissioned by and into my Labour Party. To discuss the implications for Black socialists organising in the party; how Black self-organisation fits with task of re-building a unified party; where Black self-organising is happening in an effective way and how to support this and get involved.

And to agree what demands, comrades should put on our leadership now, especially in the light of the extraordinary impact that Covid 19 is having on Black communities after years of historic and current institutional and societal inequalities.

It was a very positive step from our parliamentary party to have two such senior Black MPs witness our discussions with over 600 people, many Labour Party members, in attendance. I congratulate and commend their attendance and the inspiration we drew from it.

We are living through extraordinary times and I would urge you to ask the Board of Deputies to take a moment to consider this before they continue in their actions against those of us who attended.

Most of us are working day in and day out in service to our communities. Many members are working in our hospitals and our care homes, on our buses or in other key essential work. If we are not, members of our families will be. Family we cannot spend precious time with but who are foremost in our minds whilst we work to help our neighbours through mutual aid groups or stay shut in to help the contagion from spreading. And for Black members especially, the risk we/they are taking in service to us all weighs heavily upon us.

We need to be free to meet online to share our thoughts and ideas for a better future. A future that will not see our communities continuing to die in extraordinary numbers.

I understand the role that the Board of Deputies have set themselves in protecting the wellbeing and interests of the Jewish community. There is still very necessary work to be done towards an equal and just society for all.  But I believe that on this occasion, the Jewish community would demand compassion and understanding for their Black neighbours and friends at this very difficult time. They would understand the oppressive practices that are leading to our deaths in unprecedented numbers and seek to offer support and kindness not the vitriol and anger being expressed.

I would therefore urge you to stand strong in your support of all members and especially those Black members like myself, who have remained loyal in spite of being at the receiving end of the type of racism evident in the report.

Ekua Bayunu
Manchester Central CLP
Arts & Culture Officer
Member: Socialist Health Association, Unite Community, Artists Union England

Pronouns Her/She

I choose to use the term Black to express my solidarity with all communities adversely impacted by White Supremacy.

 

 

Comments (37)

  • Diana Neslen says:

    Daniel Kawcyzinski MP for Altrhingham and Sale took part in a festival of the far right, with the Brothers of Italy followers of Mussolini, Victor Orban inveterate Antisemite, the National Front from France, representatives from the Law and Justice party in Poland and apologies from the xenophobe Italian politician Salvini. The MP not only attended, but appeared on a platform with far right politicians and vigorously defended his behaviour on his return. The BoD asked that he be disciplined. He was spoken to and apologised. The BoD was satisfied with a grudging apology for consorting with true antisemites. Compare and contrast their outright demands now. They demand the suspension of two black MPs who spoke at a public zoom conference. These are open events and anyone can attend. It is one rule for white Tory men and another for Black Labour women. I note they had nothing to say about John McDonnell who I believe was also in attendance. So it is very hard not to believe that the Board itself is showing its misogyny and racism. and the more people respond to their bullying the greater will be their demands.

  • Iqbal Sram says:

    Well done Ekua Bayunu! She is principled and courageous. I would further that all socialists should support the right to free association. As far as I am aware neither Jackie Walker nor Tony Greenstein were expelled for reason of being found to be anti semitic. They have a right to attend public forum and to attend public meetings without being harassed or bullied. The LP expelled them and now it should leave them alone to pursue their lawful activities.

  • Dorothy says:

    I read the report and was staggered by the racism and sexism uncovered. Not to mention the incitement to violence against a mentally ill member.
    I was also horrified, that as a Labour voter, how my vote was undermined and ultimately discarded by senior officials in the party.
    I am not at present minded to forgiveness.
    I am astounded that this appalling abuse has not be met by suspensions of those allegedly implicated.
    I am even more appalled by this further evidence of discrimination against black female MPs.
    This is not a direction of travel that the Labour party should be travelling il

  • Ray Aplin says:

    The Board of Deputies have consistently shown themselves to possess no credibility whatsoever.

  • Clive Niall says:

    Great letter

  • June says:

    I agree with you while heartedly and think the measured tone of your letter will help with this issue

  • Dr ALAN MADDISON says:

    A survey of online abuse against female MPs by Amnesty revealed that BAME MPs were the most abused. Diane Abbott was subject to 8x, yes eight times,more abuse than any other female MP. She has received numerous death and rape threats.

    Another survey showed that despite the claims of people like Ruth Smeeth, the only Jewish MP in the top 50 most abused was Ed Miliband.

    Overall in society Black people face 5 times more prejudice than Jewish people in Britain, and the UN has criticised the Tory hostile environment policy and racist narratives.

    As the far right grows into mainstream politics, and we face the risk of an economic depression with echos of the 1930’s, I would have thought it very appropriate that left wing Jews and BAME people unite to combat the hate that threatens them all, the very hate which was was horrifyingly revealed in our own Labour staffers.

    At a time too when Covid 19 is exposing appalling inequalities, such an attack by the BoD is both divisive and extremely callous.

    I hope Keir Starmer rejects such appalling interference, and instead encourages those who come together to seek a way forward with our shared Labour values, to protect all those at risk, including members of the BoD.

  • G. Beagley says:

    I support this Statement because I participated in the DLO event.

  • Diane Miles says:

    If Keir Starmer’s aim is to act as an agent of the government of Israel via the Board of Deputies, he will disappoint many active Labour members. Many of us are waiting to see what happens at the Labour Leaks enquiry.

  • Philip Ward says:

    Keir Starmer’s behaviour in relation to this meeting is appalling: the worst kind of McCarthyism. The reaction of the BoD and Jewish Chronicle only serves to intensify the racist threats that Diane Abbott and Bell Rieiro-Addy are likely to be subjected to.

    I do think, howver that we need to think of a response that goes further than appeals to Starmer’s better nature. We should not forget that he has already forced Diane and Bell to “apologise” for appearing in this meeting. Furthermore, has just broken with Labour Party Conference policy and endorsed Modi’s policy on Kashmir – a concession to a powerful lobbying campaign similar to the kind of pressure used by pro-Zionist Jewish organisations. (“Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully.”)

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/06/british-hindus-labour-india-bjp

  • Mary Davies says:

    I hope Keir Starmer listens.

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?” That was the famous House Un-American Activities Committee “64,000 dollar question”.
    Does Keir Starmer want to replace this with “Have you ever met in person or online a person claimed by the Board of Deputies to be an anti-Semite?”

  • Robin Bradbury says:

    Is it not wholly absurd that a body, the Board of Deputies, that has no affiliation to Labour wishes to speak to the Labour leadership complaining that people outside Labour wish to enter conversation with members?
    Please be careful to look where you may be being led Keir Starmer.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Who are these twisted people that make and send death and rape threats to Diane Abbott! And how is it that in these days of mass surveillance no-one has ever been caught and charged. Is it really possible that they all know how to avoid being identified? Seems improbable to me, yet that is the reality.

  • People need to think very carefully as to what are the major issues at stake in this entirely confected campaign of the Board of Deputies.

    2 Black MPs address a large internet audience. Two people, both Jewish, speak from the audience. They have been expelled from the Labour Party, not for antisemitism, but because the Jewish Labour Movement, affiliated to the racist Israeli Labor Party and the equally racist World Zionist Organisation, objected to and targeted both individuals. That is not in doubt now that the leaked Report is available.

    These same MPs are targeted for disciplinary action because they presumably should have objected to our speaking, got up and left, shouted some obscenities and made clear that now we have been expelled we have lost all our civic rights. It is too absurd.

    The Board of Deputies is not, as Ekua states, there to ‘protect(ing) the wellbeing and interests of the Jewish community.’ The Boards primary role is to defend Israel right or wrong. That is how it sees itself. It therefore demands that Jews who don’t agree with it on Israel or Zionism are made persona non grata and they have drawn up 10 Pledges of which no. 8 demands they have the exclusive franchise on which Jews MPs and the like can meet. Anyone else is beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable.

    In short this is about McCarthyism. Quite simple and basic democratic rights. If the Labour Party goes along with this, in addition to the continuing witchhunt of anyone raising anything to do with Zionism/Palestine, then they are subject to investigation and possible expulsion.

    This is certainly about anti-Black and Muslim racism and also the rights of free speech on Israel/Zionism. But it is also about whether the Labour Party is a democratic party or has the pall of McCarthyism hanging over it.

    It is ironic that the most left-wing leader the LP had, Jeremy Corbyn, ended up presiding over the most intolerant and repressive internal regime ever. Corbyn himself bears a great responsibility for what has happened.

    What is essential in the current climate is that a group of MPs have the courage to speak out and reject the idea that the Board of Deputies is a gatekeeper of who is and is not a legitimate person to speak with.

    The status of Jackie, Marc Wadworth, Ken Livingstone and myself seems akin to the category of banned persons in South Africa. I expect that soon it will be a disciplinary offence even to mention our names!

  • Linda Edmondson says:

    I was so angry when I read the Canary report that I sent Starmer the most abusive email that I’ve ever sent anyone. I won’t quote it here. As a result, I expect to receive a letter of ‘investigation’ or ‘suspension’ imminently. Added to his refusal to condemn Modi over Kashmir, and the dubious team chosen to investigate the Labour Leaks report, this action against Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy makes me despair of Labour ever becoming a decent and effective political force again. And in the meantime we have Boris.
    Heartfelt thanks to Ekua Bayunu for her letter.

  • Allan Howard says:

    If Jackie Walker or Tony Greenstein said anything anti-semitic, then how come no-one reported either of them to the police – ie the BoD or the JLM or CAA or LAA etc? Surely if they really thought that that was the case, they would have done so at the time, and I have no doubt whatsoever that they would have made sure it received lots of coverage in the MSM – ie that they HAD reported them to the police. And ditto for Ken Livingstone and Marc Wadsworth and Pete Willsman etc. OR Jeremy Corbyn for that matter! So why didn’t they??

    This isn’t just bordering on fascism, it IS fascism!

    ‘Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy disciplined by Sir Keir Starmer over Zoom call anti-semitism’

    https://distincttoday.net/2020/04/30/diane-abbott-and-bell-ribeiro-addy-disciplined-by-sir-keir-starmer-over-zoom-call-anti-semitism/

  • Cathy says:

    Absolutely right and valid. I weep at what the party appears to have become. Now we will see whether KS is a man or a mouse.

  • Sarah T says:

    With his picks for the inquiry into the leaked report, I don’t think he will or indeed can listen. If he were to want a genuine inquiry he would be among the first to suffer the fall out from the findings. Meanwhile Israel plans to annex parts of Palestine, all these years Israel was allowed to get away with one abuse after the other. Starmer and his rightwing witch-hunt colleagues will be directly complicit, along with HM Govt, in the tragedy which unfolds just as much as WMD Blair and his colleagues are.
    Great letter but has Starmer even bothered to respond to the JVL? Whistling in the wind.

  • Susan Greaves says:

    I very much hope that Ekua’s letter will have some impact but I fear it will not. Most of us know that in not standing up to the false accusations of anti-semitism initially was meant to placate a section of society who have a certain view of the Israel/Palestine question. It is a cliche that if you give in to bullying tactics, the bullying gets worse. Keir Starmer will, I fear, go for the people who leaked the report and bypass the horrific and reprehensible behaviour of people like Emilie Oldknow and the others whose emails we have now all read. In my own branch, the person who vilified me for expressing a view on Palestine that did not chime with his own, has now moved branch and has already managed to get another person suspended. We are in for the long haul but the truth will prevail. We must not give up.

  • david bradley says:

    no real socialist should ever vote for labour ever again, after the witch hunt against Corbyn and many more it is clear that the party is finished. After reading the leaked report and seeing Starmers reaction plus his bowing to BOD it is clear that the party will never be the same and saying we should stay and try to do something from within is a dream that will never happen.

  • Zohar Glouberman says:

    The Jewish Board of Deputies represent no one but right wing Jews who support a racist regime in Israel. As a Jew, I object to their meddling in Labour politics. Since when do they dare to speak for all Jews? The Jews I know stand against racism, bullying and the rest, and for free speech on these subjects. Thank you Eku Bayanu for your letter, and all those who stand for a Labour party we can be proud of again.

  • Jan burgess says:

    Fabulous letter which I will forward to my Sheffield MP, Paul Bloomfield.

  • Kim Jocelyn says:

    I support Ekua’s statement 💯. I am the secretary of the Hulme Labour Party. I have the pleasure of knowing Ekua; she is a principled and strong woman, wholly commited to Labour values and to a just, fair and equitable society. I have raised concerns about unaddressed racism in the Party prior to this; I did so at the Manchester Central CLP meeting to select Leader and Deputy Leader candidates, where I supported Dawn Butler, expressing concern at how little support she was receiving; also at Clive Lewis not even having made the slate. Ekua and the others who participated in this meeting are absolutely right to be expressing these concerns; if we don’t acknowledge they exist, how can we all learn and move forward to a better situation.

  • Ann Fahey says:

    I said right at the beginning, way back in Jan that Covid19 would affect those people that were most disadvantaged in our communities. People that had had years of poor nourishment and unable to be in optimum health. People on zero hrs contracts earning minimum wage with little or nothing in the way of workers rights or protection. Unfortunately this applies to many from the BAME community.
    We have an opportunity as we come out of this to take a good hard look at ourselves, as a political party and as a wider society , be transparent , acknowledge our wrongs and apologise for them. I rejoined the labour party because Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Here was a man that I believed was prepared to ‘walk the walk ‘ as well as ‘talk the talk’.

  • How much influence have the BoDs got in the Labour Party. For a non-affiliated group they seem to have a lot of influence which is wrong. They are nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Israeli Lobby who are making it look like they represent all Jews. Which they don’t. It’s only about 28%
    But the way Starmer and Labour bow down to their demands it gives the public the impression that they do .
    We need more letters going to Starmer like that lady has sen .
    We should try and get a letter going were we all sign and show our discust at the way the labour party is being run at the moment. And who is responsible for the way it’s been run.
    While we want to rid the party of all antisemitism we also want to rid it of all forms of racism
    And this is what Starmer should be instigating while at the same time suspending all those implicated in the report right away. Just like the suspensions of those MPs and Members who were being accused of antisemitism even though there was not any real proof of it .

    Yet here we apparently have emails, texts and WhatsApp messages that allegedly back up the contents in the report which include racism against certain MPs and their staff and which cannot be tolerated in the party.
    So the last thing needed here is for Starmer to agree to the suspensions of 2 hard-working MPs by a group like the BoDs and others .

    If Starmer does agree to these demands by the BoDs he will be putting the boot in on all those MPs, members and activists who worked so hard to try and get a Labour government elected in 2017 only to find that they were being betrayed by senior members of their own party.

  • John Bowley says:

    Thank you for bravely speaking directly, Ekua Bayunu.

    What hypocrisiy we now seem to have at the top of the Labour Party.

    I hope that the Leadership will sincerely act for the truth and for honesty.

    I wish that our Leader communicates with Members rather than the BBC.

  • Philip Ward says:

    I just want to reply to Allan Howard’s suggestion that people “saying something antisemitic” should or could be reported to the police. That is not true and I for one think that is a good thing. The criminal offence is about incitement to racial hatred, which is a much higher bar. This explains why even the actual antisemites flagged up in the report have not been referred to the police by the BoD, JLM etc.

    Generally speaking, I think the left could do worse than follow the approach of the Institute of Race Relations in its discussions about (institutional) racism and discrimination. A lot of the discussion about who said what and what does it mean that THE LP report gets bogged down in then goes out of the window. It allows one to distinguish between mistakes, ignorance, offensiveness that is not criminal, racial violence and state racism. The latter is currently the most serious form of racism in Britain.

  • Julia Hay says:

    I don’t know wether to feel sad or angry. Just total disillusioned with this Party that used to uphold the principles of justice and humanity
    I don’t know how it changed

  • Martin. [email protected] says:

    I find this utterly perplexing. How on earth can any Labour Mp/ member ever sit on a panel again?
    I may be mistaken but there was one expelled for anti semite comments and one fir alledged. Anti semite comments. Since when has
    ‘ alledged’ been made guilty?

  • Thirza Asanga-rae says:

    I support your statement and letter to Kier .

    If not careful Labour issues will be the demise of the Party. We African heritage kings and Queens of Africa have had enough and the time is nigh!!!!!
    Well done sister Ekua.

  • Jeffrey Davies says:

    It’s just an excuse to rid themselves of true labour it’s just another red herring that these greedie ones of the party want total control

  • Edward Hill says:

    We have now seen the first major manifestation of the 5th of the Board of Deputies of British Jews “Ten Pledges To End The Antisemitism Crisis”: “PROVIDE NO PLATFORM FOR BIGOTRY; Any MPs, Peers, councillors, members or CLP s who support, campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitics incidents should themselves be suspended from membershilp.” On this occasion the accused have been let off with a warning that applies to all MPs, as illustrated by the Jewish Labour Movement statement quoted by New Statesman: “If the Labour Party is going to be able to demonstrate that it has taken antisemitism and racism seriously then it needs to show consistency. That includes anyone who holds a position of responsibility within the party staying well clear of those who do not share our values.”
    A wider application of Pledge 5 could have led to the suspension of any party member involved in the event as organiser or participator, or indeed those of us sharing this JVL comment platform with Tony Greenstein.

  • Eileen Stapleton says:

    I take issue with the statement that Starmer is ‘under pressure from BoD’. As a self-proclaimed Zionist and a signatory to the 10 Pledges, he is fully committed to their aims of destroying the Left of the Labour Party; that’s why the establishment chose him as a candidate to support as the next Labour Leader. The Labour Party as a champion of democracy and internationalism is dead; the Left should move on.

  • Nigel James says:

    I wholly support her letter

  • Eileen Rowbotham says:

    It was the first on line meeting I participated in. We might joke about George Orwell’s book 1984 but ir seems it has come to pass.

  • Elizabeth Ramsden says:

    A brilliant letter which truelly speaks truth to power. Well done Ekua.

Comments are now closed.