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Race row erupts after a white Irishwoman is picked to represent BAME females in East Ham Labour

PUBLISHED: 17:34 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:05 11 July 2019

A row has erupted after a white, Irish woman was elected to represent black, Asian and minority ethnic woman at the East Ham branch of the Labour Party. Picture: EAST HAM CLP

A row has erupted after a white, Irish woman was elected to represent black, Asian and minority ethnic woman at the East Ham branch of the Labour Party. Picture: EAST HAM CLP

Archant

A row has erupted after a white Irishwoman was chosen over an Asian lady to represent BAME females at a constituency Labour Party (CLP).

East Ham's Labour branch made the selection for women's officer on its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) forum at a meeting on Saturday dividing opinion among some.

Member, Donna Guthrie, said: "Black activists are being made to sit at the back of the bus in our own networks.

"That a white British woman could think it acceptable to stand, let alone be elected, is telling of the state of race relations in the local Labour Party where there is now no African or Caribbean representation amongst constituency officer positions."

However, East Ham CLP's secretary, Syed Taqi Shah, denied the branch had a problem explaining there were several non-white members including himself in key positions.

"If there was a problem, I would not have been elected," Mr Taqi Shah said.

But Ms Guthrie, the national women's officer at Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), was shocked a white woman stood against a candidate facing multiple discrimination as a disabled Asian woman.

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"We face a hostile environment, recently exposed by the Windrush scandal. Our black communities are full of young people left with little hope.

"Black women in Britain are up to three times more likely than white counterparts to be unemployed.

"This is why black representation matters and why we demand the right, as black members, to self-organise in the Labour Party."

But Mr Taqi Shah argued that black representation "absolutely" matters within the CLP.

"The Labour Party is working hard to achieve this," he said.

He claimed that no one at the meeting raised an objection after the Irish woman - who identified herself as belonging to an ethnic minority - was elected.

On whether she would be able to identify with the experience of BAME people, he added: "I don't know how Irish people are treated in this country. Are they still being threatened?

"East Ham CLP is open minded and willing to work with all people. If somebody self-declares [as BAME], and the Labour Party allows them to do so, they should be respected," he said.

But Ms Guthrie said: "Labour urgently needs to address this serious attack on black sections."

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