Labour’s race relations adviser: ‘I wish Sir Keir Starmer listened to me’

Baroness Doreen Lawrence was appointed as race relations adviser once Sir Keir Starmer was elected leader
Baroness Doreen Lawrence was appointed as race relations adviser once Sir Keir Starmer was elected leader - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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Sir Keir Starmer’s race relations adviser has accused him of failing to listen to her at a private meeting of Labour MPs and peers from ethnic minorities, it was reported on Wednesday.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, is said by The Times to have told the meeting on Tuesday: “I wish Keir listened to me.”

The newspaper reported that she said “gatekeepers” around the opposition leader had “obstructed” her work.

She also said he needed to spend more time visiting diverse communities and churches with black congregations.

The peer added that she did not know how to respond to complaints about the party leadership from black voters any more.

She also questioned a decision by the party leadership to scale back a conference where Sir Keir had been set to lay out plans for new race equality legislation last month.

The peer is said to have complained at the meeting: “I was appointed as the race adviser but I haven’t been listened to. I wish Keir listened to me. There are gatekeepers who stop things from happening.”

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, left, spoke for Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of his campaign for the Labour leadership
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, left, spoke for Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of his campaign for the Labour leadership - Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

She made the comments in the presence of Sir Keir’s chief of staff Sue Gray, as well as frontbenchers David Lammy, Shabana Mahmood and Thangam Debbonaire, the newspaper said.

Baroness Lawrence said on Wednesday night: “Of course I’m always going to push the party to do more as the fight for equality is never done, but I’ve known Keir for years and I’ve no doubts about his commitment to equality and fighting racism.

“That’s why I’ve been proud to work with Labour to develop their plans for a new Race Equality Act,” she said.

Baroness Lawrence spoke at the launch of Sir Keir’s campaign for the party leadership, and has previously praised him as instrumental in securing justice for her family after the racist murder of her son in South London in 1993.

Once elected leader, Sir Keir appointed her as race relations adviser and commissioned her to investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in ethnic minority communities.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Baroness Lawrence is said to have complained: “I was appointed as the race adviser but I haven’t been listened to. I wish Keir listened to me. There are gatekeepers who stop things from happening.”

In 2022, a report by one of England’s most senior black barristers Martin Forde KC into the party’s internal culture and factionalism from party officials hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership concluded that there were “serious problems” with how the party dealt with racism.

Some Labour staff felt the party took certain forms of racial discrimination more seriously than others.

Sir Keir apologised when the report was published, but Mr Forde has since criticised the pace with which Labour has moved to implement his 165 recommendations for improving how it dealt with sexism, racism, bullying and factionalism.

The party’s ruling national executive committee heard in December that 154 of the 165 proposals had been implemented.

Sir Keir’s office declined to comment.

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