I’m Afzal Khan, Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton and Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
I’m so glad to be able to be here with you today to speak at Labour North West Connected. It isn’t quite our usual trip to the seaside, but I’d like to thank Anna and the regional staff for the hard work they’ve done putting together this fantastic day.
There is no doubt that this has been a difficult year for everyone in the North West. We have been faced with an unprecedented health and economic crisis, made worse by an irresponsible Tory Government, an absent Prime Minister, an incompetent Health Secretary, and a Chancellor determined to make public sector workers pay for his own mistakes.
This crisis has shone a light on aspects of our society that the Tories would prefer us to ignore. We have seen how Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Baroness Doreen Lawrence’s report tells us how this pandemic has brought into sharp relief existing inequalities as well as creating new ones. The Government has failed to take any action to protect minorities. Islamophobia has been intensified during this pandemic and when large swathes of the north faced enhanced restrictions just hours before Eid, a Conservative MP went on television to blame Muslims for the spread of the virus.
Inequality or discrimination on the basis of race or faith is a global issue that must be tackled across borders. In America, the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a racist police officer working within an institutionally racist system sparked an international movement: Black Lives Matter. It was so moving to see so many young people from different backgrounds expressing their solidarity, joining protests or ‘taking the knee’.
But as Labour members we must make sure our own house is in order. Our Party must be a safe and welcoming home for everyone. It is right that Keir Starmer has committed to implementing the EHRC’s recommendations on antisemitism in full. Yesterday, I met with the leadership to discuss the Labour Muslim Network’s report into Islamophobia in our Party. I am pleased to say that Keir and Angela have agreed to take swift and concrete action to root out discrimination and prejudice against Muslims in our movement and beyond.
It is up to all of us to take the passion and anger of this year and to make it more than just a moment in history. An injury to one is an injury to all, and we must stand together as a Party to fight discrimination and prejudice wherever we find it.
As a Muslim, I stand with our siblings in the Jewish community, in the trans community, and wherever there are those who are marginalised.
And I know they stand with me.
We must all work to change our world for the better, and to create a diverse and inclusive society.
Thank you, and I hope to see you soon.