Author Archives: Lester Holloway

Six Lib Dem policies to tackle racial inequality

The Lib Dem manifesto, launched earlier today, includes several ideas to make Britain a more racially-equal society.

Black and minority ethnic (BAME) people will be voting on all the main issues, like Europe, the economy, education and health. But polls show that BAME communities are more concerned about ‘security’ issues like unemployment, and about equality.

Our new manifesto offers some serious proposals to address some fundamental causes of racial unfairness in society. This shows that Lib Dems are keen to walk the walk on equality.

That we don’t just believe that everyone is equal, but we understand the challenges faced …

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In the mayoral election, why did Zac Goldsmith get such a low vote in his own backyard?

Zac Goldsmith’s bid to become London mayor was memorably described as a “dog whistle campaign in a city with no dogs.” And few places in the capital demonstrate that better than Richmond Park itself.

As the local MP you would have thought his personal vote would make it a walkover. First preference mayoral votes, a good indicator of popularity, in Richmond Park shows that Boris Johnson won his second term in 2012 by a greater share in all but one of the constituency’s eleven wards compared to Zac in 2016.

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Taking a stand against post-Brexit racism

Tim Farron has rightly taken a stand against the upsurge of race hate crimes post-Brexit, but as a party Liberal Democrats need to develop a coherent response that does more than state how repellent racism is or how much it jars with liberal values.

The issue is not likely to disappear soon. Just yesterday Scotland Yard’s deputy commissioner Craig Mackey reported that race crimes in the capital had doubled.

Posted in Op-eds | 25 Comments

Government needs to help push open boardroom doors to BAME talent

I welcome Vince Cable’s article in the London Evening Standard yesterday on the need for more ethnic diversity in Britain’s FTSE-100 boardrooms.

This is long overdue. British businesses are missing out on diverse talent that could take their companies, and the economy, forward.

In an increasingly competitive global economy we cannot afford to waste the talent that exists in BAME communities.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

Opinion: The Commonwealth and the EU


Pro-Europe supporters are heading to repeat the same mistake as the Fair Votes referendum campaign by ignoring multicultural Britain’s perspectives. Should the race become neck-and-neck this could well tip the balance in favour of ‘out’.

A key difference from the electoral reform vote is that the EU ‘out’ lobby can see the value of attracting diverse communities for the Euro poll. UKIP, in particular, are pushing a pro-Commonwealth argument by claiming that Britain’s trade relationships can be switched from Europe to Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: An embarrassing lack of diversity

The lack of Black and Asian members at federal conference was depressing and embarrassing.

Glasgow was the most racially undiverse Lib Dem conference since I joined in 2006. Every TV scan of the audience showed a sea of white faces, even for equality debates. The day I went was no different.

The message it sent Britain was that we are not a party that reflects modern multicultural society, and therefore probably don’t care much for it.

To add insult, the Federal Executive (FE) proposed committee quotas for women while ignoring BAME and other under-represented groups.

Under this system the three BAME men would all have lost their places to, in all probability, white women. The only ethnic minority left would be Pauline Pearce on Federal Conference Committee (FCC).

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Race equality survey of presidential candidates

Forms Diversity / SML.20121107.IPH5 / @lifecelebrates #diversityWhat do the candidates to be president of the Lib Dems think should be done to make the party more racially-diverse? I sent them a short six-question survey to find out.

The full survey results can be found on my blog here. Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne all agreed on many issues, with Sal and Linda proving the boldest in embracing new solutions to increase BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) diversity, Liz being the most cautious and Daisy somewhere in between. But there wasn’t a whole lot to pick between them.

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EMLD to discuss how party can better appeal to BAME communities

cropped EMLD logoThis Saturday, 23rd November, Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) will hold their Annual General Meeting. Speakers include Simon Woolley from Operation Black Vote and Tim Snowball, the Party’s director of communications.

Discussion will address how Lib Dems can better appeal to BAME communities. It promises to be a great debate, come along! All are welcome. You don’t have to be an EMLD member to attend but please bring your party membership card. Refreshments will be provided.

The event will be at 11.30am at Lib Dem HQ, 8-10 Great George Street, Westminster, SW1P 3AE.

We have just published our annual review which is also available here.

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Opinion: What Black History Month means to me

black history monthI was delighted by Nick Clegg’s excellent statement welcoming the start of Black History Month. As he says, this is an important aspect of British history whatever our background.

Black History Month exists because black history has long been overlooked. Large swathes of social history, the story of the working class and women battling for rights, have also been relatively absent from standard history taught in schools.

The two strands are often intertwined. The great abolitionist Thomas Clarkson led a grassroots movement against slavery in tandem with the likes of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 10 Comments

Opinion: Clegg’s rethink on immigration visa bonds needs a rethink

Plans to impose a blanket £3,000 ‘bail’ bond on all visitors from Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are on hold after Clegg refused to “sign them off”, according to the Guardian .

However speaking on the Andrew Marr show this this morning Clegg confirmed that a pilot scheme would go ahead. He suggested the bail bond becomes a general tool for border officials rather than a blanket policy covering all visitors irrespective of how genuine they appear.

The danger is that border staff could now have a new weapon in their armoury to disproportionately exercise against citizens of colour …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Race must be central to rebuilding and reorientating the party

Black, Asian and minority ethnic voters could help the Lib Dems could win seats from the Conservatives in 2015 if we improve our appeal to the BME community.

The Guardian ran a front page today based on a new study by Operation Black Vote which found 168 marginal seats where BME voters outnumber the majority of the sitting MP, far outnumbering the swing 100 seats that could change the government.

The study, which I authored, also reveals there are 13 marginal constituencies where Lib Dems are in second-place and where the BAME electorate is larger than the majority of the sitting …

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Opinion: Zimbabwe election

The ‘Grave concerns’ voiced by William Hague over Zimbabwe’s election make clear their displeasure at Robert Mugabe winning a seventh presidential term. But would the result be any different were it not for voter fraud? Britain has implied this but not even opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he really won.

The issue is not whether Mugabe stole the presidential election but whether he stole the all-important two-thirds majority in parliament which allows ZANU-PF to make constitutional changes. Tsvangirai lost because the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is a mess. There are two MDC’s, one run by Welshman Ncube, and many activists …

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Sarah Teather: Liberal Democrats must tell positive story on immigration because nobody else will

Ex-minister Sarah Teather made an impassioned plea to Liberal Democrats yesterday not to give in to fear of the Daily Mail on immigration but instead to “stand for something” on the issue.
Delivering the Gladstone Lecture in Westminster the MP for the heavily-diverse seat of Brent Central repeated her call in a recent Guardian article to bravely challenge popular language that “dehumanises and degrades” immigrations who make a positive contribution to British life and culture.
She accused the coalition government of splitting up thousands of families just so that David Cameron can boast about reducing numbers of immigrants at the next

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Ethnic Minorities Liberal Democrats react to Nick Clegg’s immigration speech

Reaction to Nick Clegg’s immigration speech  shows just how much our party values the cultural and economic contribution migration makes to Britain.

In fairness, Nick did say some positive things but the idea of bonds, thought to be for £1,000, on visitors from ‘high risk’ countries was inevitably going to write ‘tough-on-migrants’ headlines in the media.

No one wants overseas visitors to disappear into the unofficial economy or exploited by unscrupulous criminals, but we have a whole apparatus to deal with that already.

The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats welcome Nick’s desire to double fines for employing illegal workers, but our membership and BAME …

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Opinion: Nick Clegg and Scarman

We have grown used to politicians approaching the issue of ‘race’ in the context of immigration, crime, or the aftermath of a tragedy.

So it was enormously refreshing to hear Nick Clegg offer up a well-informed speech on the quest for true race equality, without a negative backdrop.

Delivering a Scarman Lecture on the 30th anniversary of the ground-breaking report into the 1981 Brixton riots, Clegg gave arguably the best speech on race equality by a Cabinet minister.

It was Liberal Democracy at its best, bravely shattering the conspiracy of silence on one of the biggest issues of the day – the …

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Opinion: If we fail to address the image of an all-white party our reputation alone will put off future black and Asian people from joining

The Liberal Democrats are showing signs of getting serious about tackling the chronic under-representation of black and Asian talent in elected positions – and about time too.

In a groundbreaking move that was sadly unreported, the London Region recently agreed to introduce positive action in a bid to get at least one BAME hopeful onto the London Assembly, a body that represents a city where over a third of the population is from an ethnic minority.

The decision to reserve places – quotas by another name – on the ‘top-up list’ means the Lib Dems have gone further than any other political …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 131 Comments

Opinion: The Defection Spiral

It’s a case of déjà-vu all over again. The defections of Chamali and Chandila Fernando seem to have produced carbon copy internal debates to the ones that greeted Norsheen Bhatti and Sajjad Karim’s walkouts.

As a party we really need to start learning some lessons from these regular blows because I, for one, am tired and frankly quite bored of witnessing the same depressing spiral of losing bright young BAME talent followed by a debate more notable for its heat than light, as the membership lob brickbats at the defectors.

All too often there is precious little by way of actual solutions to improve racial diversity in the party, but no shortage of insults. Arrogant, selfish and over-ambitious individuals who saw advancement in the party as their entitlement… good riddance to these jumped-up scumbags, I hear you say. Over and over again.

The trouble is, once we’ve stopped furiously kicking up sand there is virtually no energy left to tackle perhaps the biggest elephant in the room – our failure to look like a diverse party. Having made significant in-road in the inner cities, the lack of visible diversity is one crucial blockage we must clear in order to surge into Labour’s ‘territory’, where they have taken black and Asian votes for granted for so long.

Given the virtual collapse of Labour, I suspect if we had got serious about diversity earlier, then by now the whole party would be feeling the benefits of BAME communities supporting us in greater numbers. Let’s not forget a borough-by-borough breakdown of the European Elections in the capital seemed to indicate that neighbourhoods with the highest BAME populations continued to be wedded to Labour, despite everything.

Proportionally, BAME communities appear to be the last section of the electorate still prepared to vote Labour in any numbers, even though most indicators of race inequality have hardly improved over the past 13 years.

The sad fact is that we Lib Dems are still failing to convince enough black and Asian people that we are a diverse party which understands the multicultural society they are part of. This is especially true in the large chunks of London where we do not have a major local presence.

Polling by Operation Black Vote has shown just how highly BAME voters rate the issue of ‘Black political representation’ as a reason to support one party over another. If we are to properly respond to this we need to challenge gut instincts that reject ‘putting people in boxes’ or fret about a ‘silo’ approach, because the desire of people from ethnic minorities to be treated equally, and not to be pigeon-holed, is just one side of the coin.

Most of the same ethnic minorities also agree that institutional racism and unequal racial outcomes need to be challenged and, like it or not, this process requires us to see colour and analyse why discrimination happens on different levels. Quite often that means targeting BAME communities, where they are under-represented, or altering structures when attitudes of officials (or party members) are not changing fast enough.

After Bhatti’s defection I wrote on the Lib Dem Voice Members’ Forum that we cannot afford to sit back and wait for the next defection. Action not recrimination was the order of the day. This is exactly what Nick Clegg and Chris Fox, working with Ethnic Minority Lib Dems (EMLD), led by Meral Eçe, have been doing. The New Generation, launched earlier this month, aims to provide personal development and media training for BAME candidates. We also have a good diversity officer in Issan Ghazni.

After years of token moves and good intentions that don’t deliver, finally under the current leadership we have something approaching a solid programme. I am excited that this initiative is heading in the right direction, but even this is only half the battle. The other half is the party at large demonstrating a passion to provide BAME members with the same support and encouragement that is available to white young members born into Liberal households, for example.

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