14 February 2022

Crude claims about race and the energy crisis show just how little credibility Labour has left

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Is the energy crisis racist?

That was the bizarre claim of Labour Party chair and shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds, who posted a tweet framing relatively low savings among black British communities as a product of ‘structural racial inequality’. She added that a future Labour government would tackle this through a new Race Equality Act. 

This is an incredibly reductive view of both Britain’s ongoing energy crisis and ethno-racial disparities in wealth accumulation. The cost-of-living crisis is bound to have a serious impact on black British communities in deprived inner-city neighbourhoods across London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Bristol. It will also have a negative impact on the day-to-day lives of those living in predominantly white, left-behind communities in the provinces – places such as Blackpool, Grimsby, Clacton-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth, which are all too often overlooked under the modern left’s ‘white privilege’ theories. 

Placing racial identity at the heart of complex debates on social and economic disadvantage is not something I would expect from a mainstream political party’s public policy analyst – but this is exactly what Dodds is guilty of. Claiming that four in five black people have less than £1,500 in savings and implying this is a direct by-product of structural racism that can be solved through new legislation shows that Labour has ceased to be a serious contributor in British policy debates. 

When discussing limited savings among black British communities, there are a myriad of social, cultural, and geographical factors that come into play. Six in ten Black British people live in ultra-competitive London – with its high-cost economy and dysfunctional housing market. There is also the admittedly uncomfortable truth that Black British communities are characterised by relatively high levels of family breakdown and lone-parent households – which makes wealth accumulation more difficult. While only 6% of Indian-origin dependents up to the age of 15 years live in lone-parent households, this rises to 43% and 63% for their peers of Black African and Black Caribbean origin. On top of that, a notable chunk of London’s black British population are recently-arrived refugees from war-torn countries such as Somalia. The reality is that it takes time for recently-arrived families to bed into their new society and accumulate wealth. To ignore these factors when looking at levels of wealth accumulation across racial and ethnic groups only serves to debase Britain’s equality debate. 

The unfortunate reality is that the left-wing Americanisation of the UK’s Labour Party means its policies are increasingly guided by the pseudo-intellectual ‘disparity = discrimination’ paradigm. The introduction of a new ‘Race Equality Act’ will not boost savings in black British communities – and if Labour genuinely believes it can, it shows how far the party has collapsed into an amateurish activist group bereft of serious policy ideas. 

While it may be an unfashionable view in leftist circles, the UK ranks highly when it comes to the provision of anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of race, ethnicity, and religion – especially when compared with major EU member-states such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands. It is home to some of the strongest equality bodies in the world. Race is officially stated as a ‘protected characteristic’ under the 2010 Equality Act passed by the last Labour government. For all of its flaws, the UK remains one of the most successful examples of a post-WWII multi-racial democracy.

Proposing the introduction of a new Race Equality Act only serves to demonstrate Labour’s abandonment of the family unit and the concept of class. It is worth noting that while sexual orientation and gender reassignment are included in the current string of protected characteristics, social class is not. 

Britain is in desperate need of a traditional, patriotic, social-democratic party which understands that racial identity politics divides working-class Brits who share similar economic concerns and social anxieties. Its toxic racialism threatens to create greater fragmentation in British society, when times of crisis call for stronger social cohesion. The UK’s soaring energy bills demand bold thinking on how to boost the UK’s energy self-sufficiency and a re-evaluation of environmental social levies. The cost-of-living crisis requires discussions on matters ranging from housing affordability to food security. 

By aggressively racialising problems that affect working-class British families of all races and ethnicities, Labour will undermine its appeal as a credible electoral alternative to the current Conservative government. And the quality of our democracy will be all the poorer for it. 

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Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and the author of the forthcoming book Beyond Grievance (which is available to pre-order on Amazon).