Paul Scarrott speaking at the Anti-Racism Summit, Sheffield, 2 June 2018
We have to stand up to these things because otherwise we are faced with a very simple situation. Today’s unacceptable becomes tomorrow’s norm.“There is no end to it. But we do know there is an end to it, it ends in people dying; either in their dozens, their hundreds, their tens of thousands, or their millions. And that’s why we have a duty and a responsibility to not allow today’s unacceptable to become tomorrow’s norm. That is not going to happen.” The full text of Paul’s speech is below. It was given with only a few minutes notice that he was to talk
Paul Scarrott speaking at the Anti-Racism Summit, Sheffield, 2 June 2018
Edited version of the Speech:
Thank you for asking me to join the platform this morning. I will just make some comments that I think are important for the discussion today.
It’s great to see so many people here today having this important discussion because it is something where we really need to go into the detail of it and be learning about the different experiences that I’m sure we share today.
It’s also good to be…[here] … as a member of the of the Labour Party. A Labour Party now led by Jeremy Corbyn. A Labour Party of over half a million people. A Labour Party who when the leader was elected his first thing to do was not to get the plaudits of the media, but was to go and speak at a rally in support of refugees – that was a breath of fresh air.
And the proof of that is in what is happening across Europe. All of those parties that went along with austerity, but who also made concessions to racism are now in crisis. All they have done is to legitimize the racists from Italy to Belgium and that is unacceptable.
And locally certainly my constituency that is affiliated to UAF [United Against Fascism] of which I am the secretary, it is good to see now along with rallies and demonstrations and protests that have taken place in this City that the Labour Party and Labour Party members – many of whom are here today – are at the centre of those and again it is something that we can celebrate, develop and build upon.
I want to draw on some of the history that was referred to by the Chair, because we are faced with taking stock now of what happened in Britain with the defeat of the BNP [British National Party] and the throw back of the EDL [English Defence League], without being complacent about it.
What was at the core of that? It wasn’t them [the fascists] actually. What was the core of it was – and it was something unfortunately we have seen this week that is the unacceptable – the legitimization of racism by many main stream politicians and sections of the media. That is at the core of it, where politicians play the race card to win votes and the media play the race card in order to get interest for their outlet – it is unacceptable, it is dangerous, it is playing with fire.
And picking up earlier [on] what was said – one of the things that was the experience in Sheffield in 2013. We had the unfortunate experience of the EDL coming to Sheffield twice in a week It was following the horrific death of Gunner Lee Rigby. Contrary to the wishes of his family the EDL tried to exploit that and they went to Cenotaphs across the country. In Sheffield they did not reach the Cenotaph. It was the only place in the country they didn’t. Tommy Robinson came back a week later. The first week they had 50 people and 500 people opposed them, the second week they came back with 500 people, but 2,000 plus people opposed them and it was clear they that were not going to take root in this City. They were stopped from establishing themselves as a credible force in the City.
And it was that unity – the Labour Party was there, the Leader of the Council was there – people spoke up in the week and took sides. They took the right side. They said you have to be there. You have to stand up to racism. You have to do it publicly not privately, and that was what made a difference in that week when we moved from 500 people to 2000 plus. That’s what you have to do every time they appear.
That battle was fought out in the media. What it did was it galvanized all sorts of other people who privately may have said all sorts of things but were encouraged to say things publicly.
There’s been another debate in the last few years and it’s connected to the previous one, because again Sheffield stood out – there was never a BNP councilor in this City. They didn’t even get close to getting a councillor and that was not an accident. It was not chance. It was because people campaigned against that week in and week out. People united against that, and those forces the BNP came up against [were] a brick wall [of] multi-cultural unity in this city for which tens of thousands of people were involved in doing that month in and month out – and the whole city unite[d] against those people who wanted to divide it. That is a proud achievement in the city that they didn’t even come close to winning a councillor.
We also saw UKIP defeated locally in the recent election. Again let’s remember the debate that took place on this. And certainly it’s been defeated by the election of Jeremy Corbyn on the back of hundreds of thousands of people supporting him. People said the way you stop UKIP is by meeting it half way, by appeasing it, by making concessions to its agenda because they are raising “legitimate issues”. The BNP, the EDL, UKIP do not for one second of one day raise any legitimate issues – they use racism to divide people – there is no appeasement of that.
Along with that we should be positive though. Because we mustn’t let other people set the agenda. We set the agenda. We celebrate that multi-cultural unity.
Next week One Sheffield Many Cultures will be having its seventh festival with children from across the city and from all sorts of walks of life and communities and other speakers and so on celebrating that multi-cultural unity. That event will be opened by the Lord Mayor and I urge you to come to [it]. It’s at Barkers Pool next week 11am to 3pm weather permitting.
So again, we need those positive examples because we need to win hearts and minds – not by what we are just against but by what we are in favour of.
I will just conclude Chair
We had some very important battles in South Yorkshire and across the country. We still need to win some of these, because whilst the fascists are on the back foot, the racism unfortunately isn’t. The nature of fascism is like a virus – it mutates. It will try to reinvent itself, whether it’s the FLA [Football Lads Alliance] or something else in order to come back. We need to win these debates. These are part of the day.
On the freedom of movement – migrants do not cause unemployment. Migration is a net benefit for the economy. Without it, this country would be that much poorer not just economically, but politically and culturally and socially.
There is no such thing as Muslim grooming. It doesn’t exist. There is grooming. There are perpetrators and victims from all communities. As soon as you racialise the topic you are doing the victims a disservice, but you are also introducing race into something where it has no place. We are very clear – and the campaign in Rotherham has been great on this and other places in the country as well – perpetrators and their victims come from all communities and that’s the message that we need to get across. We need to defend those victims and need to support them in whatever way we can as a whole society, but we do not allow people to come to our towns and cities to whip up racism in a very self-serving, cynical, hypocritical, deceitful way, just to meet their own interests. That is unacceptable and all credit to the people in Rotherham and elsewhere who have stood up to that.
And as with earlier comments, this is a basic question of rights and liberties. We should not be having to have the discussion in 2018 [whether] women can choose what they want to wear. It is a disgrace. It is an obscenity that we even have to go there and have that debate.
Across Europe that debate has been lost in places. We had a woman come over from Paris to speak at a UAF event some time ago and she was absolutely astonished that we were able to take her together with the Chair of UAF John Campbell into the Town Hall to meet civic leaders in the city. That is not something she can experience in France because of the way she was dressed. How obscene is that? How unacceptable is that?
And we have got to be very clear on this – we have to stand up to these things because otherwise we are faced with a very simple situation – today’s unacceptable becomes tomorrow’s norm. There is no end to it. But, we do know there is an end to it. It ends in people dying, either in their dozens, their hundreds, their tens of thousands or their millions. And that is why we have a duty and a responsibility – we will not allow today’s unacceptable to become tomorrow’s norm. That is not going to happen.
We need unity, but we need to be very clear with the message we carry on throughout the labour movement and wider – you do not defeat racism by appeasing it. You defeat it by uniting people, by bringing people together, by giving voice and supporting the central role of the people who are feeling that racism to be at the heart of the movement in alliance with all those who stand up to racism, because without that unity we will not win. We need that unity and we need positive messages to celebrate why multiculturalism and diversity is a positive thing for humanity.
Thank you Chair.