Over the past few months, there have been a number of attacks on shopworkers in my constituency and a rise in shoplifting and retail crime. It has particularly affected convenience stores, which have of course remained open throughout all the lockdowns.
So I was pleased to attend a meeting hosted by Deputy Mayor for Crime and Policing Baroness Beverley Hughes to hear what she and Greater Manchester Police are doing to address the situation. A working group has been established with a number of the big supermarket chains represented; it was suggested at the meeting that small shops and convenience stores should be part of the group too, and I am pleased Bev agreed. We also discussed what can be done to encourage shop staff to report incidents to the police, and the need to ensure the police have the resources to respond. There was also a lot of support for legislation to treat assaults on shopworkers as aggravated offences attracting tougher sentences. My colleague Alex Norris MP has been working on proposals for this, but the Conservative government has rejected the idea.
I’d be really interested to hear the views of my constituents about this subject, especially if you’re a retail worker. As home to the Trafford Centre and to a growing number of local shops in Stretford and Urmston town centres, many of my constituents are employed in the sector, and I would be very pleased to hear your experiences and ideas.
In Westminster this week, I have been working with colleagues on the recent report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, also called The Sewell Report after its chair, Tony Sewell. In my opinion, the report is totally flawed, its rejection of institutional and structural racism would be laughable given the unequal outcomes people from ethnic minority backgrounds experience in health, education, employment, criminal justice and financial security - if it weren’t so shocking to see the injustices they suffer dismissed in this way. The report has caused a huge amount of anger, entirely understandably, not least for its attempt to put a positive spin on our country’s colonial history and involvement in the slave trade. On Wednesday, my colleague Marsha de Cordova led Labour’s response to a truly appalling statement in parliament by the government minister, who welcomed the report in a highly provocative manner, and attacked the many legitimate and well informed criticisms of it that have been made. I’ve been contacted by and met constituents who are also rightly angry about it, and I’d encourage anyone who shares the concerns to sign a petition calling for a full investigation of the matter by parliament, which has been set up by Trafford resident Dr Jacqui Stanford - you can do so at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/582842.
Poignantly, I am writing this on 22 April, Stephen Lawrence Day, the anniversary of his death as a result of a racist attack on him in 1993. Remembering his murder, and institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police that prevented its proper investigation, really brings home the reason for the anger and dismay at The Sewell Report. As we honour Stephen’s life and legacy, Labour pledges that we will never give up on campaigning for justice and equality for all.