The problem with Labour’s ‘BAME manifesto’ – and its approach to understanding minority communities more generally – boils down to this: In the Labour lexicon, BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) is simply a question of skin colour.
The term is exclusively meant to denote non-White groups. It’s an approach that makes as much sense as assuming you need to be a wheelchair user to be a disabled person.
The party shows a poor grasp of the complexity of the UK’s contemporary racial and ethnic mix and the often very specific and nuanced issues they face.
As a result, the document falls back on 1980s norms. Hence, all the photos in the document show group shots of smiling Black and Asian people. So far, so clichéd.
The manifesto shows little understanding of just how fluid it is to be a member of, say, the Afro-Caribbean or Muslim communities these days, while seeming utterly oblivious to the concept that there may be White ethnic minorities out there and they, too, may have needs.
For instance, the numbers of Polish-born people living in the UK have increased 10-fold in a decade, from around 60,000 in 2001 to 580,000 at the time of the 2011 census. To this we can add a further 200,000 ethnically Polish children and grandchildren.
Nearly a million-strong. Yet, the manifesto utters not a single word about their particular needs.
At the very least, the manifesto could have included promises to crackdown on unscrupulous gangmasters and tighten regulation of the casual labour market, an issue that disproportionately affects migrant eastern Europeans coming here in large numbers to work.
Neither is there any mention about Gypsies and Travellers. This is especially remiss given the massive cultural and social disadvantages they face, including a level of overt public ridicule and discrimination for their lifestyles and customs that would (rightly) be beyond the pale if targeted against any other minority group.