EXCL Labour hit by fresh race row as Scottish Asian members claim they are 'not welcome' in party

Posted On: 
21st May 2018

Labour has been hit by a fresh race row after Asian party members told Jeremy Corbyn they had been made to feel "not wanted and not welcome" in the party.

Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard.
Credit: 
PA Images

The five members claim they have been prevented from taking part in a selection contest to choose Labour's next candidate for the Glasgow South West constituency.

It emerged last week that prospective candidate Asim Khan was taking legal action to challenge the decision preventing some members who joined the party during last year's Scottish Labour leadership contest from having a vote.

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In their letter to Mr Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, a copy of which has been seen by PoliticsHome, the five Asian members claim that they have been barred because of their "names, ethnic and cultural origin".

The letter says: "We take no pleasure in writing this letter and we do it with great sadness. We ask that our names please remain private. When you read the circumstances below you will understand why.

"We write because we have been told that we are to be denied our democratic right to vote in the upcoming Glasgow South West selection contest, despite being informed in writing previously that we would have a vote.

"There is a deep concern that this decision has been taken because of our names, ethnic and cultural origin, and assumptions made on how this would influence how we might vote.

"We write to you now as this is the latest in a series of incidents that make us feel that we are not wanted and not welcome in the Labour party. This has been made obvious to us from the moment we joined in the run up to the Scottish Labour leadership election.

"We believe that had we been called Richard, Jeremy, John or any Anglicised name we would not have been treated in this way."

The men - whose names are being withheld at their request - go on: "We believe we are being discriminated against and victimised because we were born with an 'Asian sounding name' - a term a Labour insider was last year quoted as using negatively about us in a newspaper.

"Two of the core principles of the Labour Party are equality and democracy; two principles that the Labour Party seem to be willing to sacrifice when it comes to our membership.

"Please tell me what your reaction would be if this was happening to you when you joined."

They add: "We look at all the hate, abuse and prejudice there is in our society and are committed to supporting the campaign for a Labour government to challenge it. But we are facing it from our own party’s bureaucracy. Why are you allowing this to happen? Why are Asian Scots joining the Labour party seen as a problem? Why are we seen as the enemy? Surely every political party wants to build its membership and support.

"Please don’t stay silent. Please do something about it. We will be the first to applaud you for showing that courage and standing up for our shared principles."

Glasgow South West is a key Labour target for the next election after the SNP's Chris Stephens won it by just 60 votes at last year's general election.

Last year's Scottish Labour leadership election contest between Mr Leonard and Anas Sarwar saw thousands of new members join the party.

Asim Khan's rival for the coveted candidacy is Matt Kerr, son of Andy Kerr, chairman of Labour's ruling national executive committee.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn refused to comment.

A Scottish Labour source said: "No applicant who joins the Labour party is blocked on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or gender, nor would they ever be. The Labour party’s rule book provides integrity and consistency for all members and potential members."

The row comes amid Labour's ongoing woes over allegations of anti-Semitism against party members.