General election 2019: Labour plans to teach British Empire injustice in schools

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Jeremy CorbynImage source, Getty Images

Children will be taught about injustice and the role of the British Empire as part of the national curriculum under Labour, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

At the launch of his race and faith manifesto on Tuesday, the Labour leader said a new trust will educate on how to address the legacy of slavery.

He also set out policies on how to combat anti-Semitism in Britain.

The Tories said it was "staggering" to see Labour "lecture people" during a probe over claims of anti-Semitism.

But National Education Union joint general secretary Mary Bousted welcomed Labour's "set of joined-up proposals to proactively tackle racism".

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Times, Ephraim Mirvis, the Orthodox chief rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has attacked the "utterly inadequate" response of the Labour leadership in dealing with anti-Semitism allegations.

He said there was anxiety in the Jewish community over a Labour government and he called on the public to "vote with their conscience".

Speaking at an event in Tottenham, north London, Mr Corbyn said: "Anti-Semitism in any form is vile and wrong, it is an evil within our society".

"There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever," he added.

Mr Corbyn made the comments while launching - with shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott - the party's race and faith manifesto with pledges to improve social justice and human rights.

If Labour wins the 12 December election, the party says an "emancipation educational trust" would be formed "to ensure historical injustice, colonialism and role of the British Empire is taught in the national curriculum".

Mr Corbyn said the history of colonialism - including the "unbelievable levels of brutality" of the slave trade - should be "part and parcel of what our children learn all year round" and "not just in Black History Month".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Labour wants to review the national curriculum

The trust would educate on migration and how to address the legacy of slavery and teach how it "interrupted a rich and powerful black history".

The national curriculum will also be reviewed by the party to ensure it teaches children about racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and black history, and to continue education about the Holocaust.

Also, the party says it wants to extend pay gap reporting to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) groups for businesses with 250 employees or more.

Labour's other proposals include:

  • Creating a race equality unit within the Treasury, which will review major spending announcements for its impact on BAME communities
  • Review "rip-off" charges for passports, visas and tests from the Home Office, with a view to lower the cost
  • Review the under-representation of BAME teachers in schools
  • An independent review of far-right extremism

On guaranteeing the security of the Jewish community, Labour says it will amend the law to include attacks on places of worship as a specific aggravated offence.

Labour has also pledged to work with social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook "to combat the rise of anti-Semitism online".

"Labour has already been working with Facebook to take action against groups and individuals which have hijacked Labour's name to share anti-Semitic content," the party said.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal investigation in May into the Labour Party over allegations of anti-Semitism.

It is formally looking into whether Labour has "unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish".

At the time, Labour said the party was "anti-racist" and would "fully co-operate" with the investigation.

'Tackle barriers head-on'

Ahead of his speech at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Mr Corbyn said Labour "will do everything necessary to guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend the Jewish way of life and the right to live it freely, and to combat rising anti-Semitism in our country and across Europe".

Mr Corbyn called Labour "the party of equality and human rights" and said it would "tackle head-on the barriers that have unfairly held back so many people and communities".

Ms Butler said: "Only by acknowledging the historical injustices faced by our communities can we work towards a better future that is prosperous for all, that isn't blighted by austerity and the politics of fear."

Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was "staggering" that Labour "sees fit to lecture people about race and faith" during the anti-Semitism investigation.

Dr Bousted said the National Education Union welcomed the proposal for a "new emancipation educational trust".

"All young people benefit from learning about how human rights were won and about the struggle against colonialism and racial injustice," she said.