Author Archives: Isabelle Parasram

Stephen Lawrence Day

Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime

On 22nd April 2020, we commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence – a black British teenager who, in 1993, was killed in an unprovoked racist attack by a gang of white men.

Stephen had been waiting for a bus with his friend, Duwayne Brooks (who later went on to become a Lib Dem Councillor). Duwayne escaped unhurt, but Stephen died of his injuries.

Five suspects were initially arrested, but the charges were dropped, and a private prosecution by The Lawrence family of three of the suspects failed. At Stephen’s inquest, a verdict of unlawful killing ‘…in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five youths’ was delivered by Sir Montague Levine.

The day after this, The Daily Mail newspaper used its front page to name the five men it says killed Stephen Lawrence. It invited them to sue if they were wrong.

Posted in Interviews and Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Corona Virus Emergency Powers Bill – what are your views?

I’m reviewing the Government’s plans for dealing with the Corona Virus.

Do you agree with the new emergency powers contained within the Corona Virus Bill? Do they alarm you? Are you from a minority group with observations on how this will impact you either positively or negatively?

Here’s an example of some of the proposals:

  • It will be easier to section people into mental health facilities, and to keep them detained there for longer periods.
  • There will be a temporary removal of the legal duty on councils to provide social care to vulnerable older people, disabled people etc.
  • The process for funerals will be

Posted in News | Tagged and | 13 Comments

The Windrush Learned Lessons Review

The Windrush Learned Lessons Review has been published and the issues raised highlight the fact that The Windrush Scandal was and is a true scandal.

Wendy Williams – the Independent Adviser conducting the review – was tasked with providing an independent assessment of the events leading up to the Windrush Scandal and to identify the key lessons for the Home Office.

This is what she had to say:

Members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country. They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net. The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families. However, despite the scandal taking the Home Office by surprise, my report sets out that what happened to those affected by the Windrush scandal was foreseeable and avoidable.

Over time those in power forgot about them and their circumstances, which meant that when successive governments wanted to demonstrate that they were being tough on immigration by tightening immigration control and passing laws creating, and then expanding the hostile environment, this was done with a complete disregard for the Windrush generation.

A range of warning signs from inside and outside the Home Office were simply not heeded by officials and ministers. Even when stories of members of the Windrush generation being affected by immigration control started to emerge in the media from 2017 onwards, the department was too slow to react.

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Isabelle Parasram writes….Restoring the Rights of the Windrush Generation

This is a second chance to read this post, coinciding with today’s special event (see below)

As a child of the Windrush generation, Windrush Day is hugely important to me. I’m so glad that we, as a society, are marking it.

The term ‘the Windrush Generation’ stems from the arrival, on June 22, 1948, of the ship The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, just east of London, bringing with it the first immigrants from the Caribbean.

It denotes the large-scale influx of Caribbean immigrants during the years that followed.There’s been a lot of Press about the terrible treatment of people who came here from the Caribbean in the late 1940s and onwards, who now find that their very official existence has been denied.There’s also much discussion about the poor treatment of those Caribbean immigrants upon their arrival in the UK to date.

But there are also some positive stories and memories mixed in with those experiences.

I’ve recorded an 8-minute audio interview with someone who came to this country in 1962. She shared with me some of her memories and they were both good and bad. You can listen to the interview here via Soundcloud:

The memories shared in the interview are such as these:

I came to the UK after a one month journey from Trinidad by ship with my young stepson and my new baby boy. When we arrived it was the coldest winter they’d had in a long time and we only had summer clothes.

I remember having no furniture, no heating, no washing machine, no fridge, no winter clothes. We had to try to stay warm in one roomusing a paraffin burner. Then, on Christmas Day, someone gave us a bed for my stepson. I was so happy!

It was hard to find a job because no black people were allowed. The British people didn’t want immigrants –“…no black people”, they said.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Isabelle Parasram writes….Celebrating Windrush Day

As a child of the Windrush generation, Windrush Day is hugely important to me. I’m so glad that we, as a society, are marking it.

The term ‘the Windrush Generation’ stems from the arrival, on June 22, 1948, of the ship The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, just east of London, bringing with it the first immigrants from the Caribbean.

It denotes the large-scale influx of Caribbean immigrants during the years that followed.There’s been a lot of Press about the terrible treatment of people who came here from the Caribbean in the late 1940s and onwards, who now find that their very official existence has been denied.There’s also much discussion about the poor treatment of those Caribbean immigrants upon their arrival in the UK to date.

But there are also some positive stories and memories mixed in with those experiences.

I’ve recorded an 8-minute audio interview with someone who came to this country in 1962. She shared with me some of her memories and they were both good and bad. You can listen to the interview here via Soundcloud:

The memories shared in the interview are such as these:

I came to the UK after a one month journey from Trinidad by ship with my young stepson and my new baby boy. When we arrived it was the coldest winter they’d had in a long time and we only had summer clothes.

I remember having no furniture, no heating, no washing machine, no fridge, no winter clothes. We had to try to stay warm in one roomusing a paraffin burner. Then, on Christmas Day, someone gave us a bed for my stepson. I was so happy!

It was hard to find a job because no black people were allowed. The British people didn’t want immigrants –“…no black people”, they said.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Isabelle Parasram writes…How proud am I?

How proud am I of being Vice President of a party that’s sending no less than 16 MEPs to Brussels!

I look forward to working with them all on increasing the diversity of our Party.

We now have 2 BAME MEPs – Dinesh Dhamija and Shaffaq Mohammed – brilliant role models for all and particularly for the candidates who’ll benefit from the new Racial Diversity Campaign mentoring and training currently being set up by Sarah Yong, Arfan Bhatti and Anood Al-Samerai.

I have no doubt that Roderick Lynch, Chair of the LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality) will also soon be in touch about how our new MEPs can support its work.

Women also make up over 50% of our MEPs – something that the Chair of the Campaign for Gender Balance, Candy Piercy and the Chair of Lib Dem Women, Flo Clucas, will, no doubt, be thrilled with.

In the meantime, many congratulations to:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Isabelle Parasram writes…Shall we talk about race equality?

When is it a good time to talk about race equality? 

In political organisations, as with many others, that time can often be ‘tomorrow’

With the number of fires that any organisation has to fight every day – more so with political parties – diversity issues are often last on the agenda. 

But they can’t be the last on our agenda. 

As a barrister, I was recently asked, during an interview, to name the biggest legal issues likely to impact large organisations. 

My answer surprised the interviewer. 

It wasn’t breaches of data, financial misconduct or cyber crime. 

It was: ‘…diversity and sexual impropriety…’. 

The latter is, perhaps, down to my role as Special Investigation Counsel and similar work that I carry out elsewhere. 

The former is because I believe diversity to be one of the foundational markers of a successful organisation. 

But it seems that it will always be an issue that will remain on the back burner unless it becomes a fire to fight. 

Thankfully, that is already the case with many corporate institutions who have either embraced diversity because of the enormous benefits it brings or, disappointingly, have had to do so just to meet targets. 

Either way, it has made a difference.

The reality is this. 

Take a look at how we are perceived externally (quotes taken from The Operation Black Vote BaME Local Political Representation Audit, 2019):

‘Our findings raise some fundamental questions in general about belonging, having a voice, and how political parties are failing to understand their role to ensure inclusive representative democracy. Specifically both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are both in a really poor place when it comes to their BAME councillor representation. The percentage breakdown of BAME councillors presently is: Labour 84%, Conservatives 11%, Liberal Democrats 3% and 2% other affiliations.

BAME Councillors are disproportionately affiliated with the Labour Party at 84.2%, followed by the Conservative Party at 10.9%, the Liberal Democrats at 3.1%, and 1.8% are affiliated with other parties or independents.’

I have no doubt that almost everyone in the Lib Dems sees race equality as a key issue. Perhaps some even see it as a top priority. 

This is certainly the view of Lord Alderdice, who, in his 2018 Report entitled Race, Ethnic Minorities and the Culture of the Liberal Democrats stated: 

‘… if there is to be positive change, the approach to race and ethnic minorities has to become a top priority.’

What I doubt is that we know quite what to do about it. 

I’ve spoken to local Party Chairs who have said they don’t want to get it wrong, they don’t know where to start, they don’t want to appoint a Diversity Officer out of tokenism, they don’t have the resources…

All of these comments come from people who, at their core, want to do so good a job that they aren’t actually doing it. This isn’t because they don’t care or they don’t want to care. It’s because they are hesitant to make a start and then fail at something that – broadly speaking – they really want to do well.

I’ve been asked if it’s obligatory to appoint a Local Party Diversity Officer as per my recent email to Local Party Chairs. No, it isn’t. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Learning about knife crime and gang violence issues facing local communities

Knife crime and gang wars were the reason for me taking this photo (above) in a windy parking lot in Hertfordshire. I met with Kevin who gave me the lowdown on the issues facing his community and what he’d like the Lib Dems to do about it.

Kevin has grown up in an area affected by gang violence and has managed to navigate his way around it sufficiently to have avoided much conflict and to establish a good life for himself and his family.

But he’s the exception, it seems.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Eradicating race inequality

At Conference last weekend, my maiden speech as Vice President was in support of a Motion on a race equality policy paper: Eradicating Race Inequality produced by Merlene Emerson, Baroness Hussein-Ece and the Race Equality – Policy Working Group. 

I talked about my experience, as a young barrister, of seeking to comfort a Caribbean grandma who couldn’t bear to watch her young, black grandson being sentenced for possession of a knife. 

A knife he’d felt forced to carry to protect himself from gangs. 

I assured her then that her grandson would be treated fairly, but had no idea that my words were as hollow then as they would be if I said them now, some twenty years later. 

The statistics are shocking:

  • BaME people are the most likely in our society to become a victim of crime or to fear becoming a victim* (leading to disproportionate numbers of BaME people feeling forced to carry a knife for protection)
  • rates of prosecution and sentencing for black people are three times higher than for white people **

It is clear that our criminal justice system, like politics, is broken.

I am glad that the Motion was passed and that there was such overwhelming support for it. It provides an excellent blueprint for our policy work in this area going forward. 

Registered supporters’ scheme

I later had the chance to speak in support of a registered supporters’ scheme. 

I acknowledge that there were many aspects of the Motion that were controversial and I will leave it to those better qualified to address those particular points. 

My viewpoint was in relation to attracting more BaME voters, members and candidates to our Party.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 5 Comments

Publication of Report on Sexual Impropriety Complaints Handling – an update from Special Investigation Counsel, Isabelle Parasram

In November 2017, I was appointed by the Federal Board of the Liberal Democrats as Special Investigation Counsel to conduct an investigation and produce a Report on the handling of sexual impropriety complaints within the Party.

I am pleased that, after a period of being embargoed, the report has now been published and you can access it here.

My appointment was one of a number of steps taken by the Federal Board in response to concerns expressed by members of the party towards the end of last year. These concerns related to allegations of sexual impropriety that were, at that time, …

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 2 Comments

We’ve already won – in so many ways

Our candidate in Walsall North, Isabelle Parasram, has written this letter to her supporters and we are pleased to share it with you.

Hello!

I’m writing to thank you for supporting me in my first campaign to stand for Parliament on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

Though I didn’t win a seat in Walsall North this time ‘round, my campaign wasn’t all about gaining a seat for myself. Of course I gave it everything I had, but I wanted to see others win too.

My heart goes out to those candidates whom I campaigned for in one way or another, but who didn’t gain a seat: Ade Adeyemo (Solihull), Daisy Cooper (St Albans), Amna Ahmad (Sutton and Cheam), Ben Sims (Leyton/Wanstead) and Sarah Olney (Richmond).

Their constituencies have missed out on having a great MP…

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments
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