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Labour’s dangerous obsession with race

Anneliese Dodds’s race-baiting business plans are the last thing Britain needs.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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The Labour Party has once again reminded Brits that it is dangerously in thrall to racial identity politics.

Last week, shadow equalities minister Anneliese Dodds tweeted that businesses led by black, Asian and ethnic-minority (BAME) entrepreneurs are ‘bristling with potential’, but are being held back by the Conservative Party’s ‘economic chaos’. Among other measures, she has pledged to reform the state-owned British Business Bank to offer extra financing opportunities to BAME-owned businesses.

No doubt it is true that the Tories’ poor management of the economy is holding businesses back. But why is Labour focussing on minority-led firms? Surely Labour should be pledging to help all businesses realise their potential, regardless of the ethnic identity of their owners.

Dodds’s rhetoric is straight out of the American identitarian playbook, pioneered in large part by the Democrats under President Joe Biden. Even before he formally took office, Biden announced in early January 2021 that federal Covid-19 recovery funds would prioritise ‘black, Latino, Asian and Native American-owned small businesses’. He acted as if small businesses not owned by minorities had been totally unaffected by the economic chaos caused by lockdown.

This toxic racial-identity politics is now firmly embedded in American political culture. We should do everything we can to stop it from taking hold in Britain. Divvying up small-business support on the basis of racial identity is a hugely divisive approach. That Labour seems only too happy to go down this path shows the grip identity politics has over its leadership.

It’s clear that small businesses across the UK would benefit from better economic policymaking. Many are still suffering from Britain’s low growth and sluggish productivity. For far too long, our political class, obsessed with bringing in hefty big-business donations, has actively neglected the smaller enterprises that are often the lifeblood of local communities. In my multi-ethnic hometown of Luton, these businesses come in multiple forms, from Irish-heritage construction firms to Indian-origin newsagents. Unsurprisingly, many local businesses are also owned by white Britons. No credible political party can justify leaving these firms behind.

Dodds’s announcement also unhelpfully frames the Conservatives as a ‘white-interest’ party. She even insinuates that white Britons are largely insulated from the Tories’ economic failures. This couldn’t be further from the truth. England is one of the most regionally unequal nations in the industrialised world, while hyper-diverse London continues to be the country’s sole economic powerhouse. In reality, some of the most materially deprived and socially atomised communities in England feature very few ethnic-minority people at all. Many of these communities have undergone severe industrial decline and have been starved of meaningful investment for decades. The fledgling businesses in these communities are full of potential, often staffed with aspirational, young workers. Why would Labour, the so-called party of working people, go so far out of its way to overlook them?

Instead of dividing us on the grounds of race, Labour should be developing an ambitious economic agenda for spreading prosperity and opportunity across Britain’s neglected regions. Many enterprises would appreciate reductions in business rates and improvement in local public-transportation links. Bolstering skills, training and apprenticeships would also help increase the local supply of capable workers that small businesses desperately need.

Hard-working Brits from all backgrounds expect their elected representatives to provide realistic solutions to our economic challenges. While many people have been severely let down by the Tories, Labour is still failing to offer a genuinely attractive alternative.

Labour claims it wants to make Britain a place where, in Dodds’s words, ‘businesses can flourish’ and ‘anyone can succeed’. If it’s serious about this, it needs to drop its obsession with American-style racial identity politics.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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