[…]

Southall Black Sisters and Eaves have pulled out of an evidence session, meant to feed into London mayor Boris Johnson’s violence against women strategy, because the BNP member Richard Barnbrook is on the committee.

In a statement posted on womensgrid, SBS said:

We were delighted to be asked to contribute to the strategy, however SBS is compelled to boycott the meeting due to the presence of the British National Party Representative -Richard Barnbrook (GLA member for Barking and Dagenham). We cannot see how we can have a serious and informed debate in the presence of a member of a fascist, racist, sexist and homophobic party.

Southall Black Sisters was born in the midst of anti racist struggles in the 1970s. We have fresh in our minds the memories of fascist and racist activity by the National Front in Southall and the ensuing racist police response to a community that sought to defend itself, culminating in the death of Blair Peach in 1979. Such memories and ongoing experiences of institutional and street racism continue to shape our struggles for equality. Contrary to popular belief, racism in the UK has not diminished. The recent horrific treatment of Romanian families by racists in Belfast shows why we must continue to oppose fascists and racists. We cannot afford to tolerate those who use violence, intimidation or even democratic means, to subvert the very principles of equality, human rights and justice.

How can a committee that includes a member whose political stance is to encourage hatred and segregation, address the call of black and minority women for justice in the face of domestic violence exacerbated by a draconian and punitive immigration system? The BNP’s agenda – to ‘preserve Britain’ for the ‘indigenous’ people of the UK – cannot mask its inflammatory anti-immigration and anti-progressive position. Its intention is to dehumanise and exclude all who fail to conform to its authoritarian, patriarchal and exclusionary notions of British identity. Such a stance is not conducive to shaping progressive public policies in any area, let alone on health or violence against women.

These are just some of the reasons why we urge all organisations who are due to give evidence to the committee to join SBS and the Eaves project in our boycott. Together, we can challenge and defeat racism, fascism and indeed all anti-democratic movements that seek to deny our common humanity and the rights that go with such recognition.

I don’t know what the process is for choosing GLA members for committees, but it seems patently grotesque to let a BNP member sit on this committee given they are an openly racist party, but also because of openly sexist policies as well.

It’s a real shame that the process will lose out on the expertise of these organisations as a result of Barnbrook being on the committee. I just hope it does force the committee to be re-formed, and that they don’t just plough on regardless…