Author Archives: Isabelle Parasram

Isabelle Parasram is the Head of a barristers' Chambers based in London and Newcastle. She previously worked as an in-house lawyer in the public, private and charitable sectors. She was formerly a Trustee of two educational charities and a school Governor, holding roles such as Link Governor for Safeguarding and Child Protection and Chair of Disciplinary Appeals. Prior to being elected as Vice President of the Party, Isabelle was the Vice Chair of Lib Dem Women and the London Region. She was also the Spokesperson on Brexit for the West Midlands and a PPC in Walsall North. She is most widely known for her investigation into the handling of sexual impropriety complaints within the Party, which culminated in The Parasram Report. Her recommendations - which call for wide-ranging and meaningful change to the disciplinary process - are currently being implemented. Isabelle was born in the East End of London to Indo-Caribbean immigrant parents and is married with four young children.

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 | 4 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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarTony Greaves 19th May - 10:09pm
    Thanks for posting this - it's reminded me to put it in my diary!
  • User AvatarMichael 1 19th May - 10:04pm
    @Jayne Mansfield Jenkins made, as one would expect from him made a very elegant argument for his system and there have been top-up systems introduced...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 19th May - 9:04pm
    @John Marriott Heseltine did mention standing as a "Conservative and National Liberal", I think, in a recent interview but it was I think more a...
  • User AvatarGlenn 19th May - 9:02pm
    The second one isn't me
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 19th May - 8:39pm
    @ Glenn, Have you started talking to yourself?
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 19th May - 8:25pm
    Good points Katharine. We should only promise what we are certain we can deliver. At the same time there has to a vision of a...