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“Working together is crucial to overcoming inequality in our communities” says Stephen Morgan MP

In a week where Portsmouth’s Labour Group put forward both a motion and an amendment at the city council’s meeting aimed at combating structural racism, Stephen Morgan MP talks about why differences need to be set aside to overcome inequality.

The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world. While the Black Lives Matter movement is on the frontier of the battle for civil rights, and their peaceful resilience is an inspiration, there are things that we can do here in Portsmouth to stamp out all forms of racism and injustice. To do that, we need to make sure that we are all working together, looking inwards at how we can improve, and making tangible change in our communities at a local level.

Tragically George Floyd’s death was not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set racism in our society. A racism that does not respect borders, has the ability to cross oceans and is just as dangerous across the Atlantic as it is here within our own city. And it is therefore clear that we have a responsibility to drum out this rot where we find it in our own community.

Nationally, there is a lot more that government must do. With the Race Disparity Audit, Lammy Review and the McGregor-Smith Review we have seen inquiry after inquiry telling us the same thing – that racism has infiltrated every echelon of our society. We have seen enough words, what we now need to see is action to tackle the inequalities in employment, health and education laid bare by the pandemic. That is why I am proud Portsmouth as a city, once again, proved that it is willing to tackle the tough challenges head on this week.

At full council I am proud that the Labour Group played a part in making positive changes in our community. Consulting with grassroots minority groups about the disproportionate effect of coronavirus, commitment to developing an anti-racism strategy, strengthening engagement with local BAME groups and reviewing councillor training on equality responsibilities are now all tangible local changes resulting from the Labour Group’s intervention.

When we know that racism and discrimination suffered by Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from Covid-19 in those communities, this couldn’t be more needed.

When facing division and hatred, a united front is always the most effective tool.  That is why at full council Labour worked proactively with the administration and other parties to make sure Portsmouth’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement was as strong as it could be. This meant supporting the efforts of other parties, but constructively offering improvements where they were needed.  It is important that representatives from all parties stand united and work together to combat injustice and hatred.

So, the passing of the motion strengthened by Labour’s amendments at full council proves that our city can pull together and be at the forefront of proliferating progress. But this is only a first step. There is a great deal more to do.

Past behaviour of local representatives, local hate crime data and the everyday racism we all see proves that.  We need to be constantly reassessing our response to racism, listening to our communities and translating this into real, visible change.

While in the first council meeting since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Labour Group has proven its unwavering commitment to creating a more equal society, there is no room for complacency. The party locally will continue to work with others to push for a fairer, unprejudiced and more just society.

Stephen Morgan MP