Hate crime, elections and politicians
By Fitzroi Capili - November 2021
Hate crime is a reality for too many people and it is having disastrous effects.
Crime reports show that both Brexit and the Pandemic have fuelled an increase in hate crimes based on someone’s ethnic and racial identity. I feel like racially-motivated hate crime has become so ingrained in our society that people are not bothered enough by it to take action and make change.
Police crime figures show that in 2019/20 that there were 105,090 hate crimes committed. This was 8% higher than in 2018/19. However, it is widely accepted that these figures do not capture the true extent of hate crimes and the Crime Survey of England of Wales (CSEW) reports 190,000 incidents in 2019/20.[i] Consistently around three-quarters of hate crimes are racially motivated, around 10% are because of someone’s sexual orientation and small proportions are due to religion, disability or transphobia.
The effects of hate crime are significant and long-lasting. According to the CSEW victims of hate crime were more likely to be impacted emotionally and psychologically following a crime than victims of all crime (e.g. property theft):
- 45% of hate crime victims felt fear after the crime compared with 17% from all crimes;
- 29% of hate crime victims had difficulty sleeping following the crime in comparison to 13% for all crimes;
- 34% of hate crime victims suffered from anxiety or panic attacks compared with 14% for all crimes; and
- 18% of hate crime victims felt depressed after the attack compared with 9% of victims of all crimes.
We need to take political action to tackle hate crime!
Did you know that you have a say in local policing through your Police Crime Commissioner?
The role of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are elected by the public making them and in turn the police answerable to the communities they serve. PCCs ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible by preventing and reducing crime. They also aim to improve local relationships through building confidence in the police and restoring trust.
The role of PCC was introduced in 2010, when Theresa May, then Home Secretary, wanted to increase the accountability of the police force. However, the low turnout at the elections of PCCs suggests they are having little effect on the public’s incentive to engage with the police. In the 2021 elections turnout was just 33.2% meaning two-thirds of people didn’t cast their vote.[ii]
One vote which had a higher turnout (72.2%) and where the rhetoric increased racially motivated hate crimes was Brexit. Specifically, the issue of immigration became a hot topic during Brexit, and 73% of those who stated they were concerned about immigration went on to vote Leave in the EU referendum according to the National Centre for Social Research.[iii] Research by the London School of Economics supports this idea. Their research suggests that those who amplify Englishness over their British identity holding the harshest views towards immigrants, preferring a hard Brexit that would reduce immigrant rights in Britain the most.[iv]
It is noteworthy that there was such a high turnout for a vote that for many boiled down to their position on immigration, but a low turnout for oversight of policing given increasing concern about not only rising levels of hate crime, but also systemic racism in policing. This suggests more must be done to promote the role of PCCs and their elections amongst those who are concerned about racially motivated hate crime.
Beyond elections, those in government have displayed hateful behaviour. Conservative MP Robert Blackman has had six allegations of Islamophobia made against him as of 2020.[v] Moreover, there was a 375% spike in anti-Islamic incidents in the months after PM Boris Johnson compared Muslin women to ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, with 42% of offline incidents directly referencing him.[vi] With such a huge influence over the UK, if our own politicians are unable, or unwilling, to understand that their choice of words are offensive and insight hatred, then how will we know what is and isn’t acceptable to say and legitimately hold others to account? Politicians are expected to be role models. They need to start acting like them.
Who is in charge?
There are six key politicians that work in the Ministry of Justice and have responsibility to tackle hate crime:
- Dominic Raab: Secretary of State Lord Chancellor - has overall responsibility and oversight of the Ministry of Justice strategy.
- Victoria Atkins: Minister of State for Prisons and Probation - in relation to hate crime Atkins has responsibility for policy reform and industrial relations; public protection; reducing reoffending; extremism and Youth Justice
- Kit Malthouse: Minister of State for Crime and Policing - in relation to hate crime Malthouse has responsibility for policing, including police powers; and serious violence, including knife crime.
- James Cartilidge: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice - in relation to hate crime Cartilidge has responsibility for victims and witnesses; race disparity in the justice system; miscarriages of justice; criminal law; and Human Rights;
- Tom Pursglove: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Immigration Compliance and the Courts - in relation to hate crime Pursglove has responsibility for immigration system legal reform; and sentencing.
- The Lord Wolfson of Tredegar - Lord Wolfson is responsible for all departmental businesses in the Lords.
What about your MP?
I have contacted my MP, Harriet Harman, who is part of the Labour Party. She has represented the Camberwell and Peckham area since 1982. It is an area where over half of the residents come from a non-White British background. She is very popular within my constituency, for example in the 2017 general election she received 78% of the votes.[vii] This demonstrates that she knows the area and its people very well. She understands that the families who live and work in Southwark are here to work, to make a better life for themselves and their families than they could in their country of origin. They work hard, often in low paid jobs and living in council housing or in private rented flats. Harman believes that migration and diversity offer us the prospect of being internationally literate, being able to look outward and having a huge advantage over unchanging homogenous societies.
She is currently the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and she strongly supports the necessity to have better representation and diversity in roles of power, especially within our current government.[viii] I really like her definition of diversity as “people are able to uphold their own cultural and religious beliefs and peacefully coexist, whilst having a common thread of being British with society being held together by every individual having pride in where they come from and a shared hope of where they are going. To achieve this, all cultures need to be open, self-critical and interactive in their relations with each other.”[ix]
As part of being my local MP, she has met with many different ethnicities of residents within my borough, such as a group of people from the Ivory Coast who she met to discuss their South London organisation FARASSA. They met to work out how they could bring together their offer to help the local schools and the local schools’ need for language teachers. Ivorians are French speakers, and so as part of their discussion Harman asked why they chose London when they fled the violence in their country – rather than France or Canada. They gave three reasons: their wish for their children to have English (a global language) as their first language; their sense that they could use their enterprise and initiative to set up businesses and prosper in our strong economy; and that while being British, they could still be Ivorian.
The London Borough of Southwark has the largest community of people with an African origin in the UK. On top of working hard and long hours, often in low paid jobs, and supporting themselves and their family, many Africans in the UK send money (remittances) back to their country of origin. This money is a vital, largely unseen, contribution to tackling poverty and helping development around the world. A survey she carried out in my constituency found that 40% of respondents sending remittances earn less than £12,000 a year – taking home £830 per month but sending an average of £130 a month to family abroad. Many respondents often relied on two or more low-paid jobs in order to provide for both their family in the UK and send money home.[x]
In addition, Harman believes that to bring about the progressive change that we want to see, our diverse community must be reflected in our political system. She argues that our House of Commons is not representative or democratic. According to the 2018 UK census, about 13.8% of the UK population were from a minority ethnic background, this rises to 40% in London.[xi] Yet, following the 2019 General Election, just 65, equivalent of 10%, of Members of the House of Commons were from ethnic minority backgrounds. In March 2020, 50 or 6.3% of Members of the House of Lords were from ethnic minority backgrounds.[xii]
In summary, the work of tackling prejudice and racism is a moral imperative and a duty for any modern political party. We need to be identifying it in all its forms and eliminating it from the mainstream of political culture and public life. It is the duty of politicians to act as custodians for shared values: including those values of freedom, opportunity, and equal life chances, each of which can exist only when conferred without regard to colour, race, and ethnicity.
What can we all do now to prevent hate crime?
1. Act. Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.[xiii]
2. Write to your MP using some of the evidence in this blog, plus your own research about your MP and ask them to take action. Here are some ideas for what you could ask them to do:
- Speak out against and challenge negative stereotypes of particular groups in Parliament. Discriminatory behaviour by public officials should not be tolerated, and any use of derogatory racist or other discriminatory language by them should be addressed.
- Put greater responsibility on platforms for preventing racist content on social media.
- Improve the reporting system for hate crimes to allow for a better understanding of motivators and reduce the amount of unreported hate crimes.
- Make sure their party commits to being anti-racism and is fully transparent about investigations into racism and/or xenophobia.
[i] Allen, G., Zayed, Y., and Lees, R. (2020) ‘Hate Crime Statistics’ https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8537/CBP-8537.pdf
[ii] Danechi, S. (2021) ‘PCC Elections 2021’ https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9244/
[iv] LSE (2018). ‘Nationalism, racism, and identity: what connects Englishness to a preference for hard Brexit?’ Available from: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/11/08/nationalism-racism-and-identity-what-connectsenglishness-to-a-preference-for-hard-brexit/
[v] Muslim Council of Britain (2020) Available from: https://mcb.org.uk/press-releases/mcb-calls-for-conservatives-to-finally-take-decisive-action-against-bob-blackman-mp-following-the-6th-serious-incident-linking-him-to-islamophobia/
[vi] The Independent (2019) ‘Britain voted to leave the EU to stop immigration, definitive study finds’ Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/boris-johnson-muslim-women-letterboxes-burqa-islamphobia-rise-a9088476.html
[vii] Wikipedia Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Harriet_Harman&oldid=1050508260
[viii] Southwark Race Equalities Council (2007) Available from: https://www.harrietharman.org/southwark_race_equalities_council
[x] Harriet Harmann (2007) https://www.harrietharman.org/harriet_publishes_her_remittances_report
[xii] Uberoi E, Lees R. (2021) ‘Ethnic diversity in politics and public life’ Available from: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn01156/
[xiii] Southern Poverty Law Center (2017) ‘Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide’ Available from: https://www.splcenter.org/20170814/ten-ways-fight-hate-community-response-guide