Mo Ahmed is a young labour activist. He was co-chair of Manchester Labour Students from 2015 to 2016 and currently sits on the executive of Young BAME Labour. In this article he tells us of the experience that he had at Youth Conference last weekend.
My name is Mo. I am 22 years old. I am a journalism student at MMU and have been involved in the Labour Party for nearly 3 years, so I am by no means a new member.
Last weekend, I went to Scarborough for young labour and labour students’ national conference. A conference venue by the seaside, with the chance to see old friends and have a fun weekend all around. What could go wrong? Unfortunately, I quickly learnt that the answer to that question was everything.
From the moment I arrived at conference, I was made to feel unwelcome as a BAME member. First of all, the “Safeguarding” officer attacked a fellow BAME person on Twitter, causing her to run out of the room in tears. While the person responsible sincerely apologised afterwards, and was replaced as safeguarding officer, the incident itself made me and others like me feel uncomfortable. Then came the BAME caucus. Labour Students were apparently ready to proceed with an election-with an all- white electorate- while we were holding our caucus until our BAME officer Huda Elmi stopped them. It shows that we are invisible, and as such are completely ignored. Our issues are not taken as seriously as those of other liberation groups. People who would be called out for sexism or homophobia can easily get away with low level racism. Tokenism also exists. Our caucuses are ignored, our BAME officer is frozen out. I have no problem with the outgoing national officers who were responsible. This issue, however, does betray a sort of complacent mind-set in the party when it comes to BAME issues that has been happening for many years.
The next day, things only managed to get worse. I was smeared and bullied by certain people who accused me of leaking images to the Morning Star that were critical of a candidate who was running for NEC Rep. These blatantly untrue smears, on top of everything that had happened the previous day, finally got too much for me. I ran away from the venue in tears and spent the next few hours crying on a hill, on my own, thinking some terrible thoughts. I also resigned from my position as Co- Chair of Manchester Labour Students due to what I was feeling. Politics should not put your mental health and wellbeing at risk. Once again, the “Safeguarding” policies of the party were found to have been woefully inadequate. On Sunday I made a speech. This speech was an emotional and angry one and it started a conversation that had long needed to be started, but it never should have been that bad.
What is possibly worse than what happened to me, though, is the fact that other BAME people came to me all weekend and told me that they had also felt unwelcome and might never come back. To lose such talented people would be a tragedy for “The party of equality”.
The Labour Party must improve its safeguarding policies and take action to make us feel welcome as a community, to ensure that this never happens again. It is time that Young Labour and Labour Students address their “BAME problem” and start treating us as equals rather than subordinates.