Labour’s plans for a new race equality act were announced at a behind closed doors event that excluded equality campaigners who wanted to review the proposals, Sky News can reveal.

The party is pledging to be a government that would give stronger legal protections for equal pay for black, Asian, and minority ethnic workers.

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But ahead of today’s launch, stakeholders were emailed at 11pm last night to say the event was “postponed” after protests were due to take place at a venue they had originally chosen in north London.

An email sent to attendees ahead of Labour's launch event
An email sent to attendees ahead of Labour’s launch event

Sky News understands there was a separate event for a smaller group.

Those who attended this private event said Sir Keir Starmer set out the plan with Baroness Doreen Lawrence, though were “quite agitated” by what they saw and one thought the Labour leader came across as “quite cold and horrible” – they described the atmosphere as “jingoistic” with “union jacks everywhere.”

Some were also surprised that David Lammy, Labour’s most senior Black MP in the shadow cabinet, did not attend.

Labour has released pictures of the event, and a video will be released tomorrow on their social media.

One of the images was shared on Sir Keir Starmer’s X account and shows him talking to Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Sir Keir said: “Labour’s Race Equality Act will extend full equal pay rights to Black, Asian, ethnic minority and disabled workers for the first time. Great to chat through our mission-driven plan today.”

Shadow equalities minister Anneliese Dodds told Sky News she genuinely believes the act will make a huge difference and “throughout this process we’ve engaged with dozens of experts, with businesses, with trade unions, with people with lived experiences and what we’ve found is generally people are very supportive of the changes we’re setting out”.

She also confirmed Sir Keir and herself have undergone unconscious bias training – and it was “useful to understand how sometimes different patterns of behaviour can become entrenched”.

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Baroness Doreen Lawrence
Baroness Doreen Lawrence joined Sir Keir in setting out the plan

Plans will ‘deliver limited impact’

Labour announced its radical plans as draft proposals and said the race equality act will be in its manifesto to provide better protections for those who face “dual discrimination”, as well as mandatory ethnic minority pay reporting, tackling health disparities, and the introduction of a new Windrush commissioner.

But campaigners and some involved in drafting the plans are concerned immigration is not substantially mentioned.

Dr Shabna Begum, the interim chief executive of race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust, said: “Labour’s race equality act signals a much-needed pivot from the years of regressive and harmful policies we have seen under successive governments.

“However, the plans fall short of addressing the formidable scale of inequalities that shape the experiences and opportunities of people of colour.”

Timi Okuwa, chief executive of the Black Equity Organisation (where Mr Lammy is a trustee), said: “Labour’s attempt to address the inequalities that black people face daily will deliver limited impact.

“Although proposals like the Windrush commissioner, equal ethnicity pay protections and pay gap reporting are welcome, we need a more fundamental approach to dismantle the systemic nature of racism that continues to hold black people back.”

Windrush campaigners were also supportive of the changes to fully implementing the Wendy Williams review.

Professor Patrick Vernon OBE said: “The Windrush Scandal was a grave injustice which destroyed lives and tore families apart. We have still seen too many people waiting for compensation for their suffering.

“Today’s announcement of a Windrush Commissioner and re-establishing the Windrush Change Programme is an important step forward to make sure that victims receive the compensation they deserve and concrete steps are taken to ensure this injustice cannot happen again.”

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