Articles by Dawn

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Over a year ago, prime minister Theresa May announced the “race disparity audit” to tackle what she called “burning injustices” that people face in society. The audit was finally released on Tuesday on a new government portal, yet it is abundantly clear that the data contained within the website is not new. It has been available for years.

The government expected plaudits for this exercise. But simply collecting data we already knew existed just won’t cut it. In fact, I could have done it myself; the government has effectively taken 411 days to open a Dropbox account. Report after report over the past few years have exposed shockingly similar data about disadvantage in our country.

Whether it’s the Baroness McGregor-Smith review, which found that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are being held back in the workplacebecause of the colour of their skin, the Lammy review, which exposed to us the shocking extent of racial bias in our criminal justice system, or the Education Committee report in 2014 on underachievement in education by white working-class children, people have been highlighting disadvantage for a long time.

Widespread discrimination has serious consequences for individuals and communities that suffer multiple layers of disadvantage. If the data could analyse how discrimination intersects that would be a useful tool. Tackling this deep-rooted problem requires strong action, not more talking shops.

I recognise there is value in putting all of the data together in one portal. Yet what truly matters is what the government is going to do about the problems identified. This audit will be worthless unless it leads to action and new policies, pursued with determination and conviction.

It doesn’t inspire confidence that the government has been sitting on this data since July. Nor has May’s record in government done anything but hurt our diverse communities.

Research shows black and minority ethnic women are being hit the hardest by this government’s austerity. A report, also released on Tuesday, by the Runnymede Trust and Women’s Budget Group claims the poorest black and Asian households have faced the biggest drop in living standards, of 19% and 20% respectively.

So the Conservatives may talk a good game but their policies in government have in fact punished those with protected characteristics.

As I said in my speech on Tuesday, whether it is the public sector pay cap, universal credit, disability benefits, tuition fees or something else, every step of the way May’s policies have had a devastating impact on communities up and down the country. Instead of tackling the “burning injustices” she has simply added fuel to the fire.

Under this government we have a deficit of solutions. I’m afraid that while targeted hotspots and mentorship schemes are respectable ideas, they are not nearly ambitious enough.

When I put these arguments to the first secretary of state, Damian Green MP, in parliament this week, he merely responded by saying Labour do not know what we’re talking about when it comes to race. A white, privileged man telling me, a black woman, that he knows more about racial discrimination than I do summed up, for me, just how out of touch this government is. The disregard and derision with which my questions and concerns were treated demonstrated a disturbing lack of willingness to genuinely listen to and work with people of all backgrounds and parties to address these fundamental inequalities in our society.

What we need is a government not afraid to face uncomfortable truths. Labour would do just that, putting equality at the heart of everything we do. Because it not only makes sense for a better society but it is the right thing to do.

We stand ready to act once again. We launched a diverse communities manifesto this year and we would reinstate public sector equality duties, introduce equal pay audit requirements on large employers, launch an inquiry into names-based discrimination and consider rolling out name-blind recruitment practices if necessary.

Labour would also implement the recommendations from various important reviews, such as the Parker review to increase diversity on boards. These are real solutions to real problems.

Nothing May has done as prime minister and nothing the first secretary of state said in unveiling this audit has convinced me this government is ready to take the action needed.

History has shown that positive change happens under a Labour government, and under Jeremy Corbyn’s lead, we are that government-in-waiting, ready to tackle racial inequality and build a fairer, more equal society for the many not the few.

This article was originally published in The Guardian on 13 October 2017 and can be found here.

Theresa May’s ‘race disparity audit’ tells us nothing and offers no fresh solutions

Over a year ago, prime minister Theresa May announced the “race disparity audit” to tackle what she called “burning injustices” that people face in society. The audit was finally released on Tuesday...

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What a contrast there has already been between the Tory and Labour Party conferences.

Labour conference was full of enthusiasm, hope and positivity. I met members from all across the country, from all backgrounds, members who worked so hard pounding the streets in the general election. Our manifesto continues to be celebrated and built upon as a blueprint for a Labour government. Labour conference was an opportunity to prove that we, the Labour Party, are a government in waiting and we took it. It was truly a pleasure to be a part of.

In contrast, Conservative Party conference is just another example of how the Tories are failing the many, lacking in ideas and enthusiasm. The Tory manifesto is in tatters; new Labour research has shown that 40 per cent of its commitments have already been broken or shelved. Remarkably that’s more than one a day since it was published. Theresa May’s now one and only priority seems to be holding together her shaky alliance with the DUP to cling onto power.

Theresa May’s desperate attempts to win support of young voters prior to their conference by announcing a freeze on already extortionate fees shows just how out of touch our prime minister is. She even had the gall to say that the election lacked debate, when she herself refused to participate in TV debates with Jeremy Corbyn.

The prime minister may apologise to Tory activists for calling an early election, which backfired massively. But what she should be doing is apologising to the general public – her arrogant decision to call a snap election cost taxpayers over £140m.

While Theresa May provides excuses for her mistakes, this government is failing on the most important issues including Brexit. We know that the government is no closer to making any progress, a view echoed by their EU counterparts, and their approach is putting the jobs and the economy at risk. The prime minister can’t even keep her foreign secretary in check. Absolutely no one should be unsackable. All this does is highlight just how weak and fragile Theresa May’s leadership is.

This all should come as no surprise as this government has a record of failure. Working families are set to be on average over £1,400 a year worse off by 2020 due to Tory failures, this all while the few at the top receive tax breaks. We have also witnessed a crisis in the NHS and social care, while there have been cuts to school budgets and our police. The Tories have all the wrong priorities.

And as shadow minister for women and equalities, I know only too well how this government is failing women and our diverse communities. This government is no friends to women, with 86 per cent of the burden of austerity falling on women. They also demonstrated their lack of commitment to equality by their recent decision to delay their audit into racial disparities in our public services.

Instead of fixing these mounting problems the Tories are busy plotting against each other and squabbling amongst themselves. But while the Tories fail to act, we have shown ourselves ready to step in.

Our open, inclusive conference showed people what a Labour government would look like. An example of a costed policy is to tackle the problem of period poverty, where many women from low income backgrounds cannot afford basic sanitary products. I was delighted to announce that a Labour government will offer free sanitary products in secondary schools, foodbanks and homeless shelters.

Whether it was the announcement of real investment in further education and lifelong learning, speaking out in favour of rent controls to tackle rising costs, or fixing the broken system of social housing and giving tenants a proper voice, Labour’s conference announcements added to an already stellar manifesto. These are real solutions to real problems, something the Tories cannot offer.

The inspiring Labour conference sent a clear message that Labour is ready for government. Ready to tackle the problems facing this country, ready to deliver a new progressive relationship with Europe and ready to deliver a fairer, more equal society. The public deserve nothing less, yet we have ended up with a weak Tory government led by Theresa May who has no plan, no majority and no legitimacy.

I echo Jeremy Corbyn’s sentiment that if the government are unable to rise to the occasion and get on with the job, they should step aside and let the Labour Party lead the way. While the Tories falter, Labour is now well and truly a government in waiting. Willing to be a government of the many and not the few.

This letter was originally published on 4 October 2017 on LabourList and can be found here.

Labour is ready for government – and the PM can no longer keep Boris Johnson in check

What a contrast there has already been between the Tory and Labour Party conferences. Labour conference was full of enthusiasm, hope and positivity. I met members from all across the...

On Saturday at Labour women’s conference I delivered my first major speech since being appointed as shadow minister for women and equalities this month. I spoke about the relationship between all forms of discrimination and how if we as the Labour Party, and as women, do not stand up to such injustices, we have let down our principles and values.

I have a personal mantra that I like to repeat; equality is equality, you can’t pick or choose. You cannot fight a cause for one group in society just to stand idly by in ignorance to another’s plight. Which is why only together will we succeed in making a society that is fair and equal.

In my life I have had to fight tirelessly to get where I am today. Fighting discrimination as a black, working class female working in male dominated industries hasn’t been easy. From my time as a computer programmer to now as an MP, I have faced discrimination at every corner. What drives me is ridding this discrimination in our society, so that those following close behind me will not face the same obstacles that I did.

I joined Labour because my parents told me that Labour made them feel welcomed when they arrived in England from Jamaica. I must admit I didn’t understand why my dad was so angry at Margaret Thatcher the milk snatcher because I hated drinking that warm milk. But my dad sat me down and explained it wasn’t about me. It was about all of the other children who couldn’t afford milk or breakfast in the mornings. And I got it! Social justice. And years later the trade union movement taught me that united we stand, divided we fall.

People laugh when I tell them the late Mary Turner, the phenomenal GMB national president and former dinner lady, taught me how to hold my drink. But it’s the deeper lesson of not letting anyone take advantage of you that is truth of the lesson. And to beat them at their own game.

Yet sadly progress has stalled for women and people of protected characteristics under this current government. Yes, we may have a female prime minister but her words have not led to actions. Theresa May is no friend of women. Cuts have fallen on the shoulders of women and especially black and asian women, according to research undertaken by the Runnymeade Trust and Women’s Budget Group.

We need a prime minister who cares enough to start laying those foundations in which we can bring about true equality for women, diverse communities, LGBT communities and many more persecuted groups in society.

A Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would do just that. With pledges to reverse the devastating Tory austerity measures and tackle specific issues such as period poverty, he and our party have been shown to be the true friends of women.

In my conference speech I was proud to announce Labour’s period poverty policy. I recently watched a documentary on how homeless women cope once a month whilst on their periods. It saddened me. There are so many organisations and individuals helping women and being a friend of women. Monica Lennon MSP has tabled a fantastic bill and our bill will be very similar. Together in our lifetime we will eradicate period poverty.

I also outlined my focus on tackling intersectionality. This is where different layers of discrimination interact with one another. As said before, I have faced discrimination on a number of levels and in the same way that a disabled woman or a working class gay man would have both faced double discrimination. We must recognise one another’s struggle and champion the fight together.

It is intersectionality and diversity that allow us to view the world through different lenses and points of views. The more diverse our boardrooms, government and positions of leadership become, the more knowledge it will bring to the table to shape a better fairer society.

The Labour Party has always been committed to working together on equality and diversity and I’m proud of our record when in government. I now look forward, as the new shadow minister for women and equalities, to build on Labour’s record on equality. Labour has a track record on equality and the next Labour government will tackle all forms of injustice and build bridges to overcome adversity for a fairer Britain for the many and not the few.

This article was originally published on 27 September 2017 in the Times.

Only Labour will tackle discrimination and create a fairer Britain

On Saturday at Labour women’s conference I delivered my first major speech since being appointed as shadow minister for women and equalities this month. I spoke about the relationship between...

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I am delighted to support the International Week of the Deaf and it is important that we use this week to promote positive change.

Many perhaps will not know, but the International Week of the Deaf is an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) first launched in 1958 and is now celebrated annually by the deaf community. It is an important week for people from all around the world, bringing people together to raise awareness about the rights of the some 70 million deaf people around the world.

This is a community which is underappreciated and often underrepresented and that is why this week we must celebrate the achievements of the deaf community who are often not recognised enough. It is vital that we give deaf people the right support to enable the full inclusion of sign language in everyday life.

I have long campaigned to give British Sign Language (BSL) full legal status as is afforded to other languages. It is so important that it is given parity with other languages. Using my level two qualification in BSL, I asked the first ever question using BSL in the House of Commons in March to stand up for BSL users, to ask whether the government would give BSL the recognition it deserves.

It is disappointing that the government chose not to make this commitment. There is a significant BSL community in the UK with an estimated 151,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. These people deserve the right to communicate and go about their lives using their preferred language.

The deaf community also faces other significant disadvantages. This includes in employment, where they are often discriminated against, and there are also insufficient services for deaf people in going about their daily lives. As an ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club, I hear these stories too often. One step that we can take is to promote BSL as much as possible.

I was proud that the Labour Party gave a commitment to give BSL full legal status in this year’s election manifesto. We have a proud and successful record on equalities and a Labour government would bring forward a BSL Act to give it equal status and improve the rights of deaf people.

I have long believed that Parliament should be more reflective of the society it seeks to represent and Parliament must be more accessible for deaf people. I have therefore written to the Commons Speaker, himself a moderniser who has taken great steps for equality, to enquire about how best we can remove barriers preventing deaf people from properly engaging with their representatives. Rosie Cooper MP’s first language is BSL, as she lip reads and speaks she doesn’t use it in the chamber, but we must prepare Parliament for a BSL user in the House. 

I am also humbled to have been nominated this year for the Patchwork Foundation’s prestigious MP of the Year Award 2017, in part due to my campaign on British Sign Language. It is so important that we continue this campaign and also look at other steps, such as promoting use of BSL. I greatly admire St. Michael’s Nursery in my area of Brent for example, for teaching basic BSL to their children.

I have always believed that equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose. I will therefore continue to campaign for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people as passionately as for every other person in society, no matter their background, ethnicity, gender, disability or other characteristic. 

The International Week of the Deaf highlights the fact that together we must take strong action to end the inequality facing the deaf community. I hope that MPs, members of the public, organisations and others will join in celebrating this important week, and join the important campaign to give British Sign Language full legal status which it deserves.

This article was originally published on 21 September 2017 on Huff Post and can be found here.

Why I Am Supporting The International Week Of The Deaf

I am delighted to support the International Week of the Deaf and it is important that we use this week to promote positive change.Many perhaps will not know, but the...

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How often are the stories of working class women not told as strongly as they should?

How a woman could change the course of history, or of what impact she had directly upon your life. what about sacrifices she made nearly 100 years ago to fight for justice and equality.

Earlier this week I started my first official day as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities celebrating working class suffragette Minnie Lansbury. Imprisoned 96 years ago this week. Minnie Lansbury was a teacher in the East End who went on to become a suffragette, Labour councillor, heroine of East London and forced change to government policy that no doubt has impacted your life for the better.

She may have been small in stature but was as strong as a lion. In Jamaica we would say “she’s lickle but she tallawa”. In her 32 years she changed the face of our country, fought for the voiceless, the most vulnerable and demanded answers whenever faced by injustice. We can learn a lot from Minnie’s story when looking at the actions of our current government.

Minnie, born in 1889, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants who had fled Russia from anti-Semitic persecution. She became active in the suffragettes and NUT. She even began a campaign calling for all teachers to receive equal pay.

On leaving teaching she became the full time assistant for the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS) which was set up by Sylvia Pankhurst. This group of strong East End women fought for equality standing up against police brutality, became fiercely opposed to the First World War and helped women who were struggling to provide their families.

There are some brilliant, funny and inspiring stories of ELFS. I particularly enjoy the story where they took over a local pub in 1915, the Gunmakers Arms, and turned it into a nursery, a bit like our UK parliament who turned a bar into a nursery. The pub was fittingly renamed The Mothers Arms and was used to help the many East London mothers struggling to look after and feed their children whilst most men were away in the war.

Minnie was seen as Sylvia Pankhurst’s right-hand woman and was always there fighting for change. Her next accomplishment came when she went on to become an Elderman of Poplar Council where she and her fellow councillors changed the country forever.

Poplar’s first Labour-run council was way ahead of its time, introducing equal pay at the council, minimum wage and also investing in improving social services to its working class residents. However, the economic crisis hit the resident of Poplar hard. The council was under pressure to raise rates but they refused. The rates system meant that the poor residents of Poplar would be charged more to get the same as richer boroughs and they simply couldn’t afford to do that. Minnie and the councillors stood their ground, refused to raise rates, and were sent to prison indefinitely, a demonstration of extraordinary commitment.

The East End showed great solidarity holding mass demonstrations for the entire 6 weeks they served in prison until they were freed because of mounting pressure. To avoid further embarrassment, the government rushed a law through parliament to pool rates so that poorer boroughs were no longer forced to pay more than the richer boroughs. Minnie and her fellow councillors left as heroes.

After all, why should rich boroughs pay less or the same as poor boroughs? It mirrors actions of our government today as the government continues to cut local authority funding to borough’s like mine in Brent and still expects them to balance the books. Many are quite rightly outraged, but how many would be prepared to face to jail just like Minnie did?

Minnie’s story reminds me of my dear late friend Mary Turner whose story follows a similar path, a dinner lady who went on to become the GMB trade union leader, another strong woman with the fire in her belly and drive to make a real difference in the world.

It’s time to stand up to this cruel Tory government just like Minnie Lansbury. Women of the world unite. Join a union, know your rights and fight for your rights. As the shadow minister for women and equalities I hope that we move at a faster pace towards equality and that’s what I will be fighting for.

This article was originally published on 8 September 2017 on LabourList and can be found here.

We must be inspired by working class heroine Minnie Lansbury

How often are the stories of working class women not told as strongly as they should? How a woman could change the course of history, or of what impact she...

Three million people will be hit by the shocking 12.5 per cent electricity price hike by British Gas and these include some of the poorest people in the country.

British Gas has led customers into a false sense of security. Previous freezes mean nothing with hikes like this. This latest increase will see an average of £76 added to the duel-fuel bills of a typical household. I know from speaking to constituents of mine that this is an increase which they can ill afford, especially for those on low incomes including single parent families, women and those from our diverse communities.

Since I was elected in 2015 I have been campaigning for a better deal for people caught on rip off pre-payment meters. These customers are typically charged 15 per cent more on their gas bill than direct debit customers and are often the poorest in our society. This campaign yielded positive results and a victory as the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) recommended a cap on prepayment meters. This will save customers around £80 on their bills. But there is still a lot of work to do.

The government’s inaction has now led the Tories to yet another broken promise on energy prices. In comparison, Labour’s record on this is a strong one.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was branded a “Marxist” by Theresa May’s predecessor when he suggested an energy price freeze. Such displays of ignorance from the government only strengthened the resolve to campaign for justice and reform of the energy market. The Labour Party forced the issue onto the agenda. The government had no choice but to support a CMA investigation into the energy market.

Over three years later the CMA published their findings, concluding that the big six energy companies were overcharging customers by billions of pounds every year.

The Tories’ position has conveniently changed now. Even David Cameron said his government would legislate to ensure that customers receive the “lowest possible tariffs” from energy companies. But that never happened.

Next followed May’s pledge to cap energy prices. Before polling day the prime minister said: “So I am making this promise: if I am re-elected on June 8, I will take action to end this injustice by introducing a cap on unfair energy price rises.” The latest price shock from British Gas shows Tory prime ministers clearly talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.

Labour have shifted the debate on energy. Yet it is clear we are the only party willing to take action, as opposed to the empty rhetoric from Conservatives, who are eager to grab votes but do very little.

The government has since followed up with strong words in response to the British Gas rise but if they are concerned about it, then it begs the question of why don’t they act? They have gone from promising a price cap during the election to “not ruling anything out”. I fear this is yet another broken promise in a long line of betrayals from the PM.

Shortly after entering Downing Street, May stood on the steps of Number 10 and promised to tackle what she called “burning injustices” and said she would look out for those “just about managing”. Yet every policy and every broken promise has contributed to the burning injustices and made them worse. This shines yet more light on the lies she told on the steps of Number 10.

The Tories continue to punish the most vulnerable in society. The government fought hard to keep in place employment tribunal fees, which last week were found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court. Theresa May also announced an audit of racial disparities in public services. She said the study would not shy away from uncomfortable findings but it is now reported the findings have been delayed because the results were “explosive”.

This is why we must keep the pressure on the government and remind them of their clear commitment to introduce a price cap. We, the Labour Party, are calling for a cap on energy prices but the difference is that we have always meant it.

I call on the government to follow through and take the action that is dearly needed.

This article was originally published on 4 August 2017 on LabourList and can be found here.

British Gas price rise exposes Theresa May’s energy bill lies

Three million people will be hit by the shocking 12.5 per cent electricity price hike by British Gas and these include some of the poorest people in the country. British...

This week marked the official State Opening of Parliament by the Queen. This was the Queen’s 64th speech however this one was far from usual, with the new government on this occasion set to be propped up by the DUP. The Tories so often warned us about a coalition of chaos during the election campaign, but little did they expect to be talking about their own chaotic government.

Not even our Queen could be bothered to take her government’s flimsy legislative proposal seriously. It seems to me that everyone seems to see the elephant in the room, but refuses to acknowledge it.

I was delighted to be re-elected as MP for Brent Central and like so many of my colleagues I was immensely proud to be trusted with an increased majority. This was such an important election and I am pleased that the country has sent Theresa May and the Conservatives a clear message; that they should have no blank cheque for their Brexit negotiations, and they cannot take people for granted.

Theresa May put her party before the country. She arrogantly expected to crush the opposition. I warned that irresponsibly holding this election would cost the public over £100m, and it has turned out that unfortunately I was right, in fact I underestimated the cost which is close to £130m. And this is at a time when the government continues to implement its damaging austerity measures.

Our leader Jeremy Corbyn recently said that elections often throw up results you may not expect. After all who can forget the “mic drop” moment at our first press conference, when Jeremy reminded the press that he was 200/1 to win the leadership election. Far from strong and stable, the scrutiny of this election has exposed Theresa May to be weak and wobbly, with no plan for the problems facing this country. The people wanted a positive vision and said no to a Tory majority, and no to a hard Brexit which threatens to damage our economy.

One of my heroes, Robert Nesta Marley, famously said “you can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time” and I often reflect on this message when thinking about the result of this election. Theresa May and the Conservatives need to reflect on it too. As the PM travelled the country going to stage managed event after staged managed event, Tory ministers went into hiding and they all refused to talk to the public or answer questions from the media.

Well Theresa May and the Conservatives certainly did not fool the people of Brent Central with their attacks and negative politics. They’ve now learned the lesson not to take the public for granted. The Tories underestimated the people and the people, particularly the young, fought back. The people - especially those in Brent - instead wanted unity over division, hope over fear and policies over personal attacks.

I was so pleased to stand at the general election on a positive, progressive manifesto. A socialist manifesto which was for the many and not just the few. It was a proper Labour manifesto and I am sure that it will serve as a blueprint for the Labour Party for years to come. And I am confident that before long we will see a Labour government to implement this great agenda. After all, we need it.

Following the Queen’s Speech it is important that the government sets out any agreement that it makes with the DUP. We have come too far on LGBT and women’s rights to turn the clock back on hard-earned rights and the public deserves a firm commitment that they will not be rolled back. Equality is equality - one for all and all for one. Once you truly believe that you understand the struggle.

The Tory record in government is after all one of broken promises. Whether it is the introduction of the unfair Employment Tribunal Fees, its refusal to grant British Sign Language full legal status as given to other languages, or damaging economic policies which disproportionately impact on those from diverse backgrounds, this government continues to punish the most vulnerable in society.

That is why I am looking forward to getting to work in this new Parliament (no matter how short or long it lasts). I will be working closely with colleagues, both in my role as Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities, and also in forming global, progressive partnerships through the newly established Parliamentary Black Caucus, to scrutinise this government and provide a strong voice for those who feel ignored or unrepresented.

I have always believed that Labour on its worst day is better than the Conservatives on their best day. That is why we simply must keep hope alive. Now more than ever we must stand up to the Tories and that is what we, the Labour Party, will do. We are and always will be the party for the many and not the few.

This article originally appeared on 23 June 2017 on Huff Post and can be found here.

How Theresa May And The Tories Can Learn From Robert Nesta Marley

This week marked the official State Opening of Parliament by the Queen. This was the Queen’s 64th speech however this one was far from usual, with the new government on...

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Today is the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and for the first time in history, Parliament will have the important opportunity to acknowledge this day. I am proud to be leading the debate. We have come a long way in the fight against racism and intolerance but we still have a long way to go.

With the imminent triggering of Article 50 and election of President Trump this makes the 21st March extremely important. We cannot sit idly by and not recognise this international effort to remind us to stay vigilant.

And in the UK we have issues in the context of Brexit, as since the referendum we have seen a shocking rise in hate crime. These instances have been truly shocking - including the Muslim woman who had her headscarf ripped off in the street, the ‘beware of the Jews’ road sign in North London and attacks on the Polish community. These incidents are becoming increasingly commonplace and that is why the timing of this debate is so vital.

We are witnessing a surge of intolerance, a surge in a lack of understanding of different communities when we should be embracing differences, because it’s those differences that make us stronger not weaker. Racists have been emboldened by recent events and hate-driven violence is on the rise. We should be fighting poverty and global warming - not other human beings. We must not forget that we are all a minority at some point in our lives and should treat other people how we would like to be treated.

On the 21st March 1960 there was a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. At this demonstration the police turned their guns on the peaceful protesters and killed 69 people, therefore on this date each year the international community observes the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - Parliament has not until now formally marked this date. Parliament is at its best when it pulls together in the public interest and I hope that this debate will draw individuals from across the House, from all political parties, to unite in this campaign.

The theme this year is racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration. This is particularly poignant as we are seeing growing levels of xenophobia and bigotry all around the world - including in the U.S. where there is a President who used the tools of hate to get the keys to the White House, and now seeks to block certain groups from entering the U.S.

Sexism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-refugee - all the tools of hate are on the rise, you must wonder when will it stop? It will stop when we stop it - we must stand up for rights and dignity for all. An attack on one minority community is an attack on all communities. Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination.

Mr Speaker has helped us to make history and this debate is so important not only because we are making history, but because we are calling on Parliament to ensure that it is acknowledged each and every year. Until we live in a post-racial world where people are judged on the content of their character and not the colour of their skin, then we must remain vigilant.

I hope that Parliament will lead the way in building a more inclusive and tolerant society. This has been a month of firsts, as last week I was honoured to make history by being the first MP to ever ask a question in the Commons using British Sign Language. Equality is equality and I will try my best to champion the rights of people. I hope that this debate in the mother of all parliaments will be just the start of a renewed push and will lead to the redoubling of our efforts to tackle racism and discrimination.

This article was originally published on 21 March 2017 on Huff Post and can be found here.

Why Parliament Must Acknowledge The UN International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination

Today is the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and for the first time in history, Parliament will have the important opportunity to acknowledge this day. I...

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