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The Liberal Democrats exist to fight for justice, liberty and equality. We are living through a moment in history where our values are challenged, and as liberals we stand on the side of social justice. We must stand in solidarity with black communities in the US and around the world. As a Liberal Democrat, I firmly condemn all acts of violence, harassment and hatred towards any individual and believe these qualities have no place in our society. I am committed to building an open, inclusive and tolerant society. We must stand against racism where we find it, and work together to build a tolerant and open society in which everyone feels safe.
In an interview with Andrew Marr at the weekend, the Foreign Secretary failed to condemn President Trump’s tweets relating to protests following the murder of George Floyd. The Foreign Secretary’s cowardly failure to condemn the President’s inflammatory language demonstrates a Government incapable of standing up to Donald Trump. The Government’s silence is shameful and indefensible. The UK Government must not only condemn Trump’s rhetoric, but must also act to build a more equal society here in the UK and abroad. The Government should be using our special relationship with the US to condemn Trump’s dangerous and violent language and actions. We have a responsibility to do this privately and publicly.
I am also deeply concerned about the use of UK exported tear gas, rubber bullets and other anti-crowd equipment during the US protests. The government’s own rules say such exports should not go ahead where they are likely to be used for internal repression. I am therefore signing a cross-party letter to the Government calling for the immediate suspension of rubber bullet, tear gas and other exports to the US, as there is clear evidence that the US is misusing exported goods from the UK.
We must never fool ourselves into thinking the UK is domestically immune from what is happening in the US. From Windrush to the disproportionate use of police force, the Government have failed British BAME communities. We have a duty to fight this injustice and extinguish it. In the UK 26% of instances of police using firearms are against black people, despite black people making up only 3.3% of the population. 51% of young men in custody in the UK are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, despite these groups making up only 14% of the UK population. The 2017 Lammy Report concluded that “BAME individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system.” More recently, we have seen that BAME people are 54% more likely than white people to be fined under the new coronavirus lockdown laws.
It had been reported that the Government would not release a Public Health England review into BAME people disproportionately being affected by COVID 19 because No 10 was “worried about current global events”. People want clarity and transparency. Hiding a report this important is disrespectful to BAME communities and tantamount to a cover-up. The Government should have been standing alongside our BAME communities at this time, rather than hiding the truth.
I am very concerned about the disproportional impact that Covid19 has on BAME communities and I am supporting a public inquiry into the issue. I have signed Diane Abbott’s EDM, calling for a public inquiry into the effect of Covid-19 on BAME communities and urging the Government to ensure any such inquiry provides key findings and offers clear recommendations for systemic and transformational change in the role of the public sector and race equality.
Black people are suffering at the hands of institutions biased against them. It is unjust, unfair and racist. My Liberal colleagues and I extend our solidarity to the Black Lives movement. We fully support black communities in the UK and abroad, and stand with them against the injustice they face.
George Floyd cannot be just another name. The fight needs to make real change, and my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will support the movement to bring justice and equality for black communities. Black Lives Matter.