Keir Starmer has appointed campaigner and Labour peer Doreen Lawrence to the post of race relations adviser and tasked her with leading a review into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
One of the country’s foremost campaigners for equality and justice, Lawrence has been asked by Labour’s new leader to investigate why the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting people from BAME backgrounds.
Lawrence and Starmer kicked off the review with a digital roundtable on Friday morning alongside Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. Other experts at the meeting include Harun Khan (Muslim Council of Britain), Lord Simon Woolley (Operation Black Vote), Yvonne Coghill (Deputy President, RCN), Jas Khatkar (Sikh Network), Prof. David Katz (Jewish Medical Association) and Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association).
Official figures show more than a third of people in intensive care from Covid-19 are from BAME backgrounds – almost triple the proportion of BAME people in the wider population. All 14 doctors known to have died from the virus were from BAME backgrounds.
The head of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, and national medical director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, are among those who have called for more investigation into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic.
Speaking with us about the appointment Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said: “Doreen Lawrence has spent almost three decades campaigning against injustice. I have seen first-hand her drive and determination, and was proud to stand beside her in fighting for justice for Stephen. Her achievements embody Labour’s values and our historic mission to create a fairer, more equal society.
“In the face of this national emergency, Labour will continue to work constructively with the Government. That includes shining a light on issues where it is clear more detailed understanding is needed.
“It is extremely concerning to see the disproportionate toll coronavirus is taking on our BAME communities. We cannot afford to treat this as an issue to investigate once the crisis is over. We must address it now.”
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Labour Peer, commented: “I am proud to take up this role at a critical moment for our country. The coronavirus pandemic has brought society together, but it has also exposed the gulf in living standards that still blights our communities.
“Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have long been disadvantaged by the social and economic injustice which still exists in our country. There is a clear and tragic pattern emerging of the pandemic’s impact on those communities which must be better understood.”
Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said: “All the early signs suggest BAME communities and healthcare workers are disproportionately bearing the brunt of coronavirus.
“Across our frontline are huge numbers of BAME doctors, nurses, bus drivers and other BAME key workers. Every day they put themselves in harm’s way to save and support the lives of others. We must do everything to protect them, their families and communities who have been hit hardest by the virus.”