The left should focus on the prejudice BAME Brits face instead of playing political football with Mandela’s death

by Rene Anjeh

Tuesday was the day of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. World leaders, politicians, celebrities and ordinary South Africans gathered in Soweto’s FNB stadium.   It is worth remembering that over 37 years ago, in that very town, the Soweto riots took place.  It was not just a day of mourning but a day of celebrating the life of truly magnificent individual.

I remember when I heard the news of Mandela’s death.  I was playing pool with a friend but the game was interrupted by a text. “Apparently Nelson Mandela is dead,” my friend said in disbelief.  I put down the pool cue and checked the BBC website to see for myself.

Tears started to stream down my face as if a close relative, or even a grandfather, had passed away.  Nelson Mandela was a hero who personified the last great struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century.   Mandela set an example to the four black Labour MPs elected in 1987. Mandela arguably paved the way for Barack Obama to become president of the United States almost twenty years after his release.  Mandela reminds everyone – especially the BAME community – that many of the rights that we enjoy have been fought for and won.

Which is why it was saddening to see certain members of the Twitterati play political football with this great man’s death.

One prime example was from Michael Chessum. For those of you who don’t know, Chessum is the president of University of London Union (a fellow London Young Labour comrade too) who has recently been arrested for protesting against the closure of ULU in this academic year.  He tweeted:

Nelson Mandela was made honorary President of ULU when the British government said he was terrorist. He’d be on our side #copsoffcampus

Personally, I could not care less about Chessum’s protests, in fact I am completely unsympathetic as it was he who banned ULU student officials from wearing poppies or attending a remembrance day service.  However, it was his decision to use Mandela’s death to make a petty point that was really annoying.

Another example was political point-scoring from a Labour PPC who shall remain nameless.  On Monday, this parliamentary hopeful tweeted about the amount of Labour MPs and compared it to the amount of Tory and Lib Dem MPs who spoke.   One of the great things about Mandela was that he was able to forgive and work with others for the good of his country.  He forgave Margaret Thatcher when she stood by the apartheid regime in South Africa.  He worked with FW de Klerk, who served as his Vice President.  Just imagine going into coalition with the same people who cruelly imprisoned you for 27 years? I am sure that Mandela would not have liked his death to be used for partisan point-scoring, even though the Conservative party did nothing to bring about his release.

The Labour party should rightly be proud of its role in the anti-apartheid struggle.  Trade unions worked with their South African counterparts to defeat the apartheid regime.  People such as Peter Hain made anti-apartheid activism their life’s work.  Leaders such as Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock were unwavering in their support for the ANC.  It is no surprise that Mandela was an honorary member of the Labour Party and gave the keynote address at the Labour Party’s Conference in Brighton in 2000.

However, the Left should not think for one second that it has a monopoly over the values that Mandela espoused and it should start thinking of ways it could honour Mandela’s legacy here in the UK.   Why is it that black people seven times more likely to be stopped and searched? Why is it that unemployment among black young men is over 50%? Why is it that only 27 MPs out of 650 are from ethnic minority backgrounds?  Why isn’t there a strong black middle class in this country?

Some on the left would better off focusing on these challenges that remain for BAME young people instead of playing political football with Mandela’s death.  Rest in peace Madiba.

Renie Anjeh is a Labour party activist

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17 Responses to “The left should focus on the prejudice BAME Brits face instead of playing political football with Mandela’s death”

  1. swatantra says:

    Renie is absolutely right: the real battles are right on our doorsteps, right in front of our noses. Charity begins at Home, as well as Abroad, but we tend to neglect the ‘Home’ bit.

  2. John reid says:

    If you want there to be less stops and searches of black kids, change the law, that stops can’t be for having articles to use in burglaries, articles stolen or for knives and drugs, and the law could be for stopping people on suspicion of being peadophiles, that way there would be more stops than average of white people,

    As for a black middle class, any proof that BAME people can be defined by class due to personal income?

  3. Ex Labour says:

    OK here we go….

    Quote: “He forgave Margaret Thatcher when she stood by the apartheid regime in South Africa”

    As I pointed out this morning in a seperate response, Thatcher did not stand by. Behind the scenes she was urging PW Botha to release Mandela and roll back Apartheid, as recently released SA government documents show. Yes she was against sanctions as she feared that they would hurt the black population and not the SA government. She again explained this to PWB in her correspondence.

    As I also pointed out this was the stance of George Galloway on Iraqi sanctions which killed thousands. Many on the left agreed with Galloways position, but because Thatcher thought sanctions were the wrong way to defeat Aparthied – sanctions are now acceptable because its a left wing cause.

    Quote: “I am sure that Mandela would not have liked his death to be used for partisan point-scoring, even though the Conservative party did nothing to bring about his release.

    No partisan point scoring there eh ? You just cant help yourself I guess. Mandela himself said of Margaret Thatcher she was an enemy of Aparthied and thanked for her support.

    Perhaps he knew a little more than you ?

  4. swatantra says:

    We’ll only know the real truth about Mrs T’s stance when the Cabinet papers are released here. But it is to be remembered that sanctions can work, and can cripple an economy, but only if they are unilateral sanctions. For example Ian Smiths Regime could have been brought to book, if South Africa had not kept it going for 13 years by sanction busting. Cuba has been crippled by US embargos and prevented from natural progress development.

  5. Matthew Blott says:

    @ Never Was Labour

    Still showing us how the Right can be just as good as the Left at Stalinist revisionism? A much better perspective on the Right’s relationship with Mandela can be found here …

  6. Andy says:

    Lots of blah blahs.

    Notice a lot of noise but very little if anything being said on India’s recent court decision on gay rights.

    Another political football not being kicked for fear of upsetting a section of voters?

  7. swatantra says:

    And little being said on Australia’s reversal of Gay Marriage under Tony Abbotts new Regime, and like the Pope he’s just annulled them!
    Only one politician hs come out and condemned a nasty practice practised by some of our communities and that is Chuka, whose condemned those who advocate and practice segregation in some of our more backward communities.
    So Chuka goes up in my estimation.

  8. Ex Labour says:

    @ Matthew Blott

    Oh dear, just when I thought you had some credibility when you said you wern’t a Guardianista, you then quote that bastion of independance The ….errr… Not Independent. Im sure they appreciate you being their reader.

    Leftard confirmation bias……surely not.

  9. John reid says:

    Mathew Blott, every view ex labour has put why he’s now not labour has made sense,it’s by dismissing his as a right wing loon, is hardly going to get back the people who’ve deserted labour back,

  10. swatantra says:

    These ex-Labour types (most of the closet Tories fron the outset anyway) are a complete waste of time and space; they’re never ever going to comeback. They carp and whinge and moan, about anything and everything. No, Labour should be concentrating on the 30% of the Don’t Knows, Undecideds, and Don’t bother to vote.
    Thats where the winning margin lies.

  11. Ex-labour says:

    @John Reid

    Many thanks for your common sense intervention.

    Unfortunately there are those on the wider left with whom you cannot engage without suffering ad-Homs or abuse.

    In any debate or stance from any politician or party I look for common sense and evidence to back up their position. As an example Labour had a secret open door policy on immigration, something they consistently denied when it was discussed in Parliament and in the media. It took a whistle blower in the civil service in Sheffield to confirm it, and guess what? Labour had him sacked. After losing power politicians such as Jack Straw then admitted they did in fact have an open door and lied to the public.

    That’s the kind of hypocrisy and lying which turned me away from Labour after thirty years.

    I would like to be in a position where I felt comfortable with the current Labour leadership and see at least some policy but sadly with those two in charge I cannot return. Much as I dislike Balls in fairness he has tried to make some firm financial commitments only to be undermined by Miliband a few days later.

  12. BenM says:

    Good on Matthew Blott for stomping on Ex Labour’s blatant attempt at revisionism.

    Yes the Tories have had to squirm this last week. Deservedly so.

  13. Ex Labour says:


    Typical of your moronic leftard comments on here. Same old, same old. You have no arguements or point of fact, just ad-homs.

    Said it before and I’ll say it again. There is nothing like the vitriol of the Stalinist left when you disagree or point out their falsehoods.

  14. John reid says:

    Swatantra,Ben M, has ex labour ever said he’s either voted Tory in the 80’s or now, of all those ex Labour voters, that we lost since 97′ only 1 million if that actually voted Tory in 2010

  15. BenM says:

    @ John reid – I don’t believe Ex Labour was ever a Labour voter.

    And given his narrow minded attitudes now, not sure we should be chasing that vote anyway.

    There is more fruit in wooing the pool of Lib Dem voters which is far larger than the poll of stingy reactionaries Ex Labour represents.

  16. Ex Labour says:

    @ BenM

    You can question me all you like I dont really give a toss one way or another. However, sadly I was a Labour voter for 30 years, that was until I saw what labour really stand for.

    I guess your just scared of losing your welfare benefits. No problem, just drop me your email address and I’ll send cheap beer and pizzas once a month. Sorry though, cant stretch to the Sky subscription and fags.

  17. John Reid says:

    BenM, how do you know Ex labour doesn’t vote Libdem now, after all of the 3 and a half million votes that Labour lost in 1983′ O.K one million abstained,but one million went to the Liberal/SDP, and when the SDP Libdem alliance collapsed, look at some ex Liberal SDP voters like David Owen and Lord John Seed they went to the Tories, so saying that it doesn’t matter if E labour doesn’t vote labour, it would be just as important to get people like that not to vote Tory, as they see labour swing to the left, criticising, all those who don’t vote labour anymore, that was the mistake we made in the 80’s blaming the electorate for not voting for us,

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