The Racism of the British Political Left | Dr. Rakib Ehsan

People often ask me: “Rakib – why do you direct your criticisms towards the Left so much?”

There is truth in this. I am highly critical of the Left – but this is largely because the Left’s regression into aggressive identity politics and farcical virtue-signalling competitions is deeply personal. Turning 30 next month, I voted for the Labour Party in both the 2010 and 2015 UK General Elections. Shortly after entering full-time employment following the awarding of my PhD, I joined Prospect Union – and I consider myself blessed to be able to pay a portion of the fruits of my labour into the trade union movement. In these testing times, when British businesses are likely to go under and the rights of domestic workers within at-risk groups need to be prioritised, robust and constructive voices from the trade union leadership are required.

But unfortunately, as many predicted, Jeremy Corbyn’s rapid escalation from rebellious far-left activist to leader of a mainstream British political party, has had disastrous consequences. Labour, once a natural party for many of Britain’s Jews, witnessed the departure of Jewish politicians such as Luciana Berger and Dame Louise Ellman over anti-Semitism concerns. Ellman, who served as MP for Liverpool Riverside for 22 years, was a Labour Party member for 55 years. Labour – once a formidable anti-discrimination force in British mainstream politics – now finds itself under investigation over allegations of institutionalised anti-Semitism. Ironically, the body leading the investigation – the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – was established under a Labour government. As a member of a religious minority myself, I simply could not offer my electoral support to a party which has failed so spectacularly in rooting out the poison of anti-Semitism within its internal structures.

There have been suspect views expressed by the Labour leadership when speaking of Britain’s ethnic-minority population – which is anything but a homogeneous, monolithic, uniform bloc. There are important differences, ranging from level of social integration to socio-economic status, both between and within separate ethnic-minority groups. Back in May 2017, Jeremy Corbyn made the claim that only Labour could be trusted to unlock the talent of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people. As well as being an act of breathtaking arrogance, it sought to strip all of the UK’s ethnic-minority people of personal agency; that they could not be trusted to reach an informed choice for themselves on matters of social mobility and career progression. Britain’s ethnic and racial minorities are not the property of the Left. To suggest that their talents and potential can only be unlocked by Labour is exactly the kind of patronising condescension which puts off aspirational non-white voters.

This is very much the case with British Indians, where the values of personal responsibility, individual initiative, and self-sufficiency run deep across this religiously diverse population. Figures from the most recent UK General Election – which marked Labour’s worst performance in terms of seats since 1935, and the largest Conservative Party parliamentary majority since 1987 – suggest a fundamental fraying of the relationship between the Labour Party and British voters of Indian origin. In Harrow East – a West London seat with a sizeable Indian-origin population – Labour fell some way behind. Meanwhile, Conservative MP Bob Blackman increased his vote share by five percentage points. Leicester has the second-largest Indian-born population in Britain. In the last election, in Leicester West and Leicester East, Labour’s vote share dropped by 11 and 16 percentage points respectively.

Politicians of Indian heritage are a growing force in high-level Tory politics, and this has made them a target for the Left. This often spills over into racial slurs. British Indian Conservative politicians have effectively been branded Uncle Toms and race traitors. One left-wing writer described them as ‘turncoats of colour’. Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of having ‘internalised whiteness’ and a ‘Raj complex’. In a pathetic and bizarre hit piece, the Guardian – the bastion of chattering-class intolerance – highlighted new Attorney General Suella Braverman’s membership of a Buddhist sect, which it said could ‘raise questions’ about ‘her judgement as the government’s senior legal expert’.

In the cabinet reshuffle, former chief secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer in spectacular fashion, following Sajid Javid’s resignation. Sunak was subsequently portrayed by the identitarian Left as a characterless, token-Asian stooge. Along with Priti Patel, Suella Braverman, and Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma, Sunak is supposedly just there to ‘help fill the brown numbers’ – not based on merit. However, under extremely challenging circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunak has coped exceptionally well indeed – coming across as calm, assured, and thoughtful.

While the Left often cries racism, it must confront its own racism and bigotry of low expectations. The tendency to insult those who reject identitarian leftist efforts to keep all ethnic minorities locked into a perpetual state of victimhood, is nothing but the politics of self-destruction. This poisonous mentality must be rectified. But I suspect that this may well be a case of wishful thinking – particularly in the case of British Indians. Traditionally viewed as entrepreneurial, ambitious, and self-sufficient, the mere existence of British Indians challenges the left’s grievance-driven politics. And the fact that British Indians have managed to thrive – now earning more per hour than workers in the white British majority – poses a fundamental threat to the left’s precious narrative of ‘white privilege’.

The British Left is now infused with an aggressive strain of identity politics which will immensely difficult to contain and eventually eradicate. It is in free fall.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on Twitter: @rakibehsan

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