Over the past month, my inbox has been dominated by residents from across Walthamstow demanding action on racism – both in America and in the UK. To help ensure everyone in Walthamstow is aware of what action is happening in response to this call for change please find an update below. If you would like to sign up to receive direct updates from me on these issues and are a resident of Walthamstow please use this form to consent to be sent this information. Please note due to parliamentary protocol I require the full name and postal address to confirm that recipients are Walthamstow constituency residents; those who are not will not receive updates from me due to these protocol requirements and should contact their own MP to raise concerns and to ensure their voices are heard accordingly.
Whether supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing horror and outrage at the murder of George Floyd in America and the response of the American President Donald Trump or seeking the publication of the Government review into the connection between Covid19 and black and ethnic minority deaths in the UK, these emails express anger and frustration not only at these issues themselves, but also the long term and deep rooted structural causes of racism which are endemic in our society. I therefore want Walthamstow residents to know that each of their emails will be heard not just by me, but as part of Walthamstow’s call for action; they speak to the widespread concern not only to address these individual concerns but at the environment in which we currently live where they are not unexpected.
Since the first initial correspondence on this issue, the Government has now chosen to publish the report by Public Health England into the impact of Covid-19 on Black and ethnic minority communities. As one of the MPs who had previously joined with other MPs to call for such a review to be conducted because of the growing evidence this vicious virus was disproportionately affecting particular communities I welcomed this development. However, it is very concerning to subsequently discover that key sections of this report may have been removed prior to publication. What has been published confirms that BAME communities are much more likely to die at a higher rate from covid-19. It is therefore urgent that the Government comes forward with a plan to protect these communities from these higher risks. I had hoped to be able to participate in a question session with the Health Secretary in parliament to be able to raise concerns about this issue; unfortunately, the abolition of the hybrid parliament meant I was unable to do so. Despite this, I will continue to work with other Labour MPs to call for action and clarity on this data.
Protests in UK and US
I have joined with other MPs to call for an immediate cessation of the sale of teargas, riot shields, and rubber bullets to America and for a strong and clear condemnation of the murder of George Floyd. You can read our letter here. As our local MP, I have long sought to challenge the divisive rhetoric and conduct of Donald Trump- speaking against his activities and treatment of those from minority communities in parliament- and will continue to seek to do so. I also recognise the concern that many have raised about the conduct of the police here in the UK. I therefore also wrote to our local police to share with them the concerns raised with me and ask how they intended to address this as well as how residents could feed into the oversight of the conduct of the police. You can read their response here. If Walthamstow residents have any feedback about this or would like to raise concerns about our local police please do get in touch as I am happy to act as a third party reporting mechanism for this purpose. In considering if you wish to take up Commander Tucker's offer of participation in this committee you may also find it of interest to explore the Met Police 'stop and search' dashboard which provides updates on the use of this tactic by borough.
Challenging the conduct of the current President of the United States and providing scrutiny of our local police is the start, not the end, of the activity which is necessary to address the systemic causes and consequences of racism. I have been proud and honoured to work with a wide range of groups within our community to help support and give a voice to minority communities in Walthamstow - and I know we need to do so much more to ensure that the UK truly is a place that not only values and celebrates diversity but also benefits from it. We must all acknowledge our own role in that work. In the current political climate where leadership seeks to divide our country, and not to recognise these inequalities or seek responsibility for addressing them, I welcome the chance to work with residents of Walthamstow for a different outcome. As we continue to socially distance to protect diverse communities such as ours where more residents are at risk of harm from Coronavirus our shared actions are confined to online forums and emails. However, I hope that when this crisis subsides, the anger and energy the messages from residents on these subjects reflect can be channelled into both our local and national efforts for change.
Belly worked for our transport system, helping people as a ticket collector at Victoria station. She sadly contracted this vicious virus in March- I understand and share concerns that have been raised with me about her infection, and the desire to identify what happened and ensure that if there were malicious circumstances involved justice is sought.
I have therefore shared the requests made by Walthamstow residents for further information on this matter with the British Transport Police and with Govia Thameslink who were her employers. You can find their responses here and here. I also joined other MPs in signing a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to extend NHS death-in-service payments to transport workers. You can read the response here.
A number of residents have also been in touch with me about the Black curriculum campaign to let me know they have raised this with the Secretary of State. If you have not seen this campaign and want to know more you can find the details here. I have written to the Secretary of State to support the call for change in our curriculum for all pupils so that they learn about the contribution made throughout the generations to our nation by those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds – you can read my letter here and the Government's response is here.
I have also signed a letter from The Black Curriculum campaign calling on Ministers to meet with them. You can read it here.
The Runnymede Trust got in touch to share education resources created in direct response to requests from teachers for classroom materials on British histories of migration and empire. You can find them here and here - please do help me spread the word.
Criminal Justice System
Several constituents have written to me about racial inequality within the Criminal Justice System and I wrote to the Government on their behalf. I have now received a reponse which you can read here.