Posts Tagged ‘BAME’

Why the Labour Party still has a problem with black men (and it’s getting worse)

19/11/2020, 11:05:15 PM

by Paul Wheeler

Back in 2014 I wrote a comment piece for Labour List. I was criticised then for an ‘unhelpful contribution to the debate’. Well it wasn’t meant to be helpful it was a warning that without action the existing problem about black male representation in the Labour Party was likely to get worse.

The recent elections to the NEC are a classic example of how the last six years have been wasted. Terry Paul and Jermain Jackman were excellent candidates who would have added much needed experience and knowledge to our National Executive. Neither were elected. Whilst we rightly congratulate the progress of black women to become Labour MPs at the last General Election the applause is missing for any new black men in the PLP. It’s shameful to our party that we now have more black men as Conservative MPs than on the Labour benches. The position in Labour local government is even worse with precisely two black leaders of Labour councils. Recent events in Southwark where a talented black councillor was rejected as Leader shows that the situation is not likely to improve either. We can criticise the Conservative Party for its politics but it’s record of promoting black men to positions of influence in Parliament and the party organisation is one that that we conspicuously lack.

For a party that believes in planning and social justice we display a remarkably ‘laissiez-faire’ approach to candidate selections. As a consequence, we have a ruthless free market with considerable advantage to those of insider knowledge of the process and networks built up over years at University and within parliament and favoured think tanks. The problem has been compounded as our membership becomes more middle class and an implicit tendency for many members and councillors to select in their own image. The problem could have corrected in the last six years if the Trades Unions (many who have large numbers of black men as members) had made serious efforts to sponsor talented black male candidates but they haven’t. In fact over the last three General Elections several Trades Unions, including my own Unite, have made the situation worse by endorsing privileged white men as favoured candidates in safe Labour seats such as Ilford South and Leeds East.


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When it comes to minorities, woo, don’t appease

13/08/2014, 04:31:32 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How far should a political party go in trying to win over ethnic minority voters? Baroness Warsi is clear that the Conservatives can’t win next year’s general election without more of them, while senior Labour figures like Sadiq Khan and David Lammy have raised the prospect of all-minority shortlists for parliamentary selections.

If nothing else, demography suggests it is smart politics for all parties to win a commanding share of what is now a growing market. The 2011 Census shows that around eight million people – 14 per cent of the population – are now non-White, (with half of that total – 7.5 per cent – being Asian/ Asian British). Academics at Leeds University reckon this figure will rise to 20 per cent of the UK population by 2051 while the Policy Exchange think tank reckons the figure will be nearer to a third.

But politicians need to be clear that they don’t succumb to a conceptual fallacy. When they talk of “making politics look more like the electorate” they are speaking in code for promoting candidates because of their skin colour. This is hopelessly naïve and horribly tokenistic.

Minority ethnic communities are not simply ‘Black’ or ‘Asian’. Indeed, the impact of large-scale European immigration over the past decade makes that a nonsense. As does the growth in people from mixed-race backgrounds, who are now said to make up the second largest minority ethnic group.

Instead of descending into gesture politics with the promotion of ethnic-only shortlists, or treating minorities like electoral blocs, parties should focus on providing a fair and transparent policy offer to woo them instead.

Despite the diversity, there are often common issues of concern. Take public health. We know that South Asians have a higher propensity towards Type Two diabetes and that Afro-Carribbean people are three to five times more likely than any other group to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia. Meanwhile the Irish, a predominantly White ethnic group (and, arguably, the UK’s largest), suffer from a higher preponderance to genetic conditions like coeliac disease and haemochromatosis.


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The left should focus on the prejudice BAME Brits face instead of playing political football with Mandela’s death

12/12/2013, 12:11:05 PM

by Rene Anjeh

Tuesday was the day of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. World leaders, politicians, celebrities and ordinary South Africans gathered in Soweto’s FNB stadium.   It is worth remembering that over 37 years ago, in that very town, the Soweto riots took place.  It was not just a day of mourning but a day of celebrating the life of truly magnificent individual.

I remember when I heard the news of Mandela’s death.  I was playing pool with a friend but the game was interrupted by a text. “Apparently Nelson Mandela is dead,” my friend said in disbelief.  I put down the pool cue and checked the BBC website to see for myself.

Tears started to stream down my face as if a close relative, or even a grandfather, had passed away.  Nelson Mandela was a hero who personified the last great struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century.   Mandela set an example to the four black Labour MPs elected in 1987. Mandela arguably paved the way for Barack Obama to become president of the United States almost twenty years after his release.  Mandela reminds everyone – especially the BAME community – that many of the rights that we enjoy have been fought for and won.

Which is why it was saddening to see certain members of the Twitterati play political football with this great man’s death.

One prime example was from Michael Chessum. For those of you who don’t know, Chessum is the president of University of London Union (a fellow London Young Labour comrade too) who has recently been arrested for protesting against the closure of ULU in this academic year.  He tweeted:

Nelson Mandela was made honorary President of ULU when the British government said he was terrorist. He’d be on our side #copsoffcampus

Personally, I could not care less about Chessum’s protests, in fact I am completely unsympathetic as it was he who banned ULU student officials from wearing poppies or attending a remembrance day service.  However, it was his decision to use Mandela’s death to make a petty point that was really annoying.


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What Lord Ahmed’s suspension reveals about Labour’s relationship with minorities

17/04/2012, 11:36:15 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Lord Ahmed affair neatly encapsulates Labour’s problem with minority communities. It illustrates the dangers of a decades old neo-colonial deal that the central party has concluded with several so-called community leaders.

This isn’t just an issue for the Muslim community, a trip to Leicester, Southall or Harrow would reveal similar arrangements with the Hindu and Sikh communities.

The key to the deal is votes. This is what the community leader brings to the table.

Ahmed has long been one of Labour’s gatekeepers to the Pakistani community in the north. His position in the early 1990s as one of Labour’s leading Muslim councillors combined with his links to Mirpur in Pakistan (where the vast majority of Pakistani migrants to the northern mill towns originally came from) made him a kingmaker across northern parliamentary seats with large Pakistani communities, particularly when it came to Labour candidate selections.

He sat atop the pyramid of biraderi or clan based community politics which traditionally delivered result-swinging vote banks, happily doing the bidding of the central machine for several years.

In return for these votes, the party bestows two privileges on the community leader: establishment legitimacy that distinguishes them from other local leaders and a free hand within their community to do what they will – as long as nothing bad leaks out into the national news.

In Ahmed’s case, Tony Blair elevated him to the peerage. Lord Ahmed was the nation’s first Muslim peer. The party coddled and respected him and asked few questions about what he said or did within the community.

Until of course news of his offer of a “bounty” on President Obama’s head surfaced. Within hours of the story hitting the news, as per the deal, he was in trouble.

But the reality is that Ahmed has held and espoused similar views for several years. In this particular instance, whether he did or did not say what is claimed about Obama is irrelevant. He should have been suspended and potentially expelled because he was sharing a platform with and supporting Hafeez Saeed: an international terrorist who heads Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group which killed over 150 people in the terror attack on Mumbai.


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The Labour party’s double standards on all women short-lists

06/03/2012, 07:00:01 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Last week Ben Cobley wrote for Uncut about all women shortlists. It wasn’t a reactionary rant. He wasn’t dressed in a batman costume, sitting at the top of Big Ben when he wrote it. The tone was measured and the points reasoned.

While most comment, on both sides of the discussion was similarly nuanced, some of the responses were pavlovian, at best. Little effort to engage with what had been written, just a standard rehearsal of long established positions.

Yesterday, Luke Akehurst gave us one of the better versions of the conventional case for AWS over at Labour List.

In theory, I should support what Luke is saying.

I believe in all women shortlists. I see the logic of why AWS is needed – a second best solution in a third best world. And not enough has been achieved to achieve greater women’s representation. 81 female Labour MPs out of a parliamentary Labour party of 258 still leaves Labour nearly 50 MPs short of achieving equality.

But Luke and similar defenders of AWS lose me.

In his piece, Ben raises the rhetorical question – why only shortlists for women? Surely the same logic could be applied to other groups?

He’s right.

Ben is consistent in the way he draws his conclusions. All types of discrimination are wrong, therefore preferential shortlists should be ended.

If only the official party line, which backs positive action to tackle inequality, were similarly rigorous.

For of all those who manned (so to speak) the barricades in defence of AWS, equality seems to stop at gender.  Zero discussion about ethnic minority or disabled communities. Equality is a principle worth fighting for, but not worth applying equally.


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