Speech to Council 26th July 2016
Condemnation of hate crime
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of the Barnet Labour Group
[Check against delivery]
Thank you Mr Mayor. I am pleased to put forward this motion and am ceding my right of reply to Cllr. McGuirk. I am also accepting both amendments.
We live in troubling times. We've had the awful act of terrorism – the political assassination of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen. Not just a personal tragedy for her family and friends but also an attack on our political culture based on democracy, open debate and tolerance.
Since the Brexit vote hate crimes in London have increased more than 50%. Thankfully we have not seen a marked increase here, however, last year hate crime in Barnet rose at a higher rate than London overall, and therefore we must remain vigilant.
It is our responsibility as political leaders to clearly state that there is no place for hate in Barnet.
Everyone has a right to feel safe here, safe from being attacked due to their colour, faith, country of origin or any other form of hate crime.
So to all residents of Barnet who are contributing to the rich diversity of our Borough, the Labour Group say you are welcome, valued members of our community and we will stand alongside you.
For EU citizens this is a particular time of concern after David Davis’s statement that their future here is uncertain. Whether from Poland or France, Lithuania or Cyprus the Barnet Labour Group is your ally. We will fight for your right to remain a Barnet resident.
And although Barnet has not seen as big a rise in hate crime post the Brexit vote as other areas of the country, there has been a rise in reported incidents.
But it is not just reported incidents. At the Coppetts Police Panel we heard about a local primary school where a pupil told some Romanian children they should ‘go home’. When the parents attended the school their first question was ‘Why are the Romanian children still here’. This was the week after the referendum.
It’s as if, for a small group of people, Brexit has given them permission to vent their fury, and access to social media has created a space where people feel safe to pour out their bile.
But it is not just Brexit. During the London elections there were thinly veiled Islamophobic attacks on Sadiq Khan – condoned by David Cameron.
Mr Mayor, to attack someone’s faith to win votes is reprehensible and I am confident that each Conservative speaker this evening will also condemn it.
Last week Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi spoke out about the divisive tactics deployed by some politicians that has allowed xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-semitism to enter the mainstream and become so-called ‘respectable racism’. She said “When politicians express shock and condemn the rise of hate crime, what I ask is, take a long, hard look at yourselves first.”
So, Mr Mayor, tonight while we are debating this I must hold up the mirror to my own Party and address the issue of anti-semitism. Some of it, I am ashamed to say, has been perpetrated by people in the Labour Party. Let me say, here and now, in the strongest possible terms – we will not tolerate anti-semitism in our Party.
Action to expel anyone found to be guilty of committing anti-semitism must be undertaken swiftly and robustly.
I welcome the Shami Chakrabarti report and her finding that “The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism", but that more needs to be done to stop the minority of hateful or ignorant attitudes including more clear and transparent disciplinary procedures and more education.
Anti-semitism is a hate crime and needs to be dealt with as such whatever form it takes: whether that’s racist epithets, stereotypes, allusions to myths used against Jewish people, insensitive or incendiary language including in relation to Zionism and Zionists, metaphors, distortions or comparisons. It is unacceptable and must not be accepted.
And to answer Cllr Finn’s earlier question about the apparent comparison between the State of Israel and ‘self styled Islamic States’ by the Labour Leader - I agree with the former Chief Rabbi that the comment was unacceptable and I do condemn it. I also stand by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has lead in resolving these issues, but it is vital that non-Jews like myself and others in our party stand side by side with them in this battle.
Mr Mayor, I am glad of this opportunity tonight to make it clear and to ask all Councillors to support our motion and proclaim that in Barnet there is no place for hate.