I have written here before about the case for community outreach by our Party and cited amongst other statistics results from the Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (EMBES) which showed in the 2010 elections: 68% of ethnic minorities had voted Labour, 16% Conservatives and only 14% Liberal Democrats.
To encourage local parties to do more to promote support from diverse communities, we have of course implemented various initiatives. These range from the appointment of a National Diversity Advisor for the Party in Issan Ghazni (2007-2010) and permanent staff in the Party’s Diversity Unit, to the establishment of volunteer Regional Diversity Champions across the country.
One of the biggest challenges I believe is the scale of the task having to grapple with the different strands of diversity. On the question of race however, I think we might now be able to make real strides through the creation of a new Party Award: the Naoroji Award.
Dadabhai Naoroji is probably a familiar name to those of you who are well versed in Liberal History. He was the first Asian Member of Parliament across all parties, hailing back to the year 1892, and had successfully stood on Gladstone’s Liberal platform for the constituency of Central Finsbury. In memory of the late Naoroji, an award in his name was thought up by one Cllr Rabi Martins, Vice-Chair of Ethnic Minority Lib Dems and the idea approved by the EMLD executive, Federal Executive and our Party President.
The criteria for the Judging Panel to find the local party most deserving of this award (consisting of a cash prize, a mini-shield and a larger rotating shield) include the following:
- The extent to which the membership of the local party reflects the BME population of their local area and the nation as a whole
- Local Party outreach programmes to BME communities to encourage membership and active involvement with the Party
- The extent to which BME members are elected to the Party Executive
- The number of BME council candidates and Councillors, and the proportion of BME candidates in safe seats
- The extent to which local BME members are encouraged and assisted to apply for Assembly and Parliamentary seats
- The extent to which BME candidates are encouraged to apply for the Parliamentary seat in their constituency.
My personal reaction was to realise with dismay that as a Party we do not yet practice ethnic monitoring of our membership. Nevertheless this should not pose a monumental hurdle and will certainly help us focus more attention on the general profile of our own Party membership, be it with regard to gender, age, race/culture, disability or sexual orientation.
If you have read this far and are still interested, please note that applications are currently open, and the deadline is 31 July 2012. Submissions should be made to [email protected] at Lib Dem HQ with supporting evidence (no longer than 5 pages in length) including:
- Descriptions of campaigns in and appealing to ethnically diverse communities
- Case studies of individuals recruited or affected by these campaigns
- Positions created or used to support campaigning in ethnically diverse communities
- Testimonials or case studies from BME party members
- Evidence of encouragement of BME members to run for elected office inside the party
- Descriptions of support offered to BME members proposing to seek election / case studies with BME elected to public office
Applications are to be accompanied by a covering note from a Local Party executive member who will act as the point of contact.
I understand that decisions on successful applications will be made known to the relevant Local Party by 17th August 2012 and it is likely that presentation of the awards will take place immediately prior to the leader’s speech in the afternoon session on Wednesday 26th September 2012. All in full glare of the media.… an opportunity not to be missed?
* Merlene is Vice-Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and Chinese Liberal Democrats. She was London Assembly Candidate in 2012 and Parliamentary Candidate for Hammersmith in 2010.