Author Archives: Marisha Ray

Vice President Election: Elect a VP for inclusion, Elect Marisha Ray

Editor’s Note: Liberal Democrat Voice has invited all six candidates for Vice President to submit an article in support of their candidacy. They are allowed to include two photos and video content. You can find out more details about the candidates and election, including the hustings tonight (Wednesday 8 December), here. Votes must be cast by 12 pm on Friday 10th December. 

This article is by Marisha Ray

Are you a Liberal Democrat member? There was never a better time to join than now, just before the North Shropshire by-election.

If you are, please vote in the election for a Vice President for minority communities and give me, Marisha Ray, your first preference?

I work to end the exclusion of people from all sorts of minority communities from many areas of UK life. We need your contribution to tackling this within our communities and also within our party.

Simply being from a minority community, and I am, does not make a person able to tackle these issues.

A person who has the grit to tackle these issues as a private individual, which I have, and a person who has successfully worked on equalities in other sectors has the experience to tackle the issues here.

I successfully campaigned for the Alderdice inquiry on barriers to people from minority communities in the party and worked at board level in the NHS and local government on this in one of the UK’s most diverse areas.

Starting young, I have worked on board level governance for over three decades, and have stood as a candidate for parliament three times, including at a by-election, and the London Assembly also three times including this year. For eight years, I was a leading councillor in the UK’s fastest improving council reaching out to many communities in an area with great diversity, in addition to being a party returning officer for almost two decades, and a member of the Federal Policy Committee advising on diversity.

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Standing up for Race Equality is a multi generational task

Last week I wrote of my own emerging awareness of ethnicity and discrimination, awareness from childhood.

This immediately elicited a parody on social media, which I personally found hilarious – imitation, even parody is a form of flattery; however, I did wonder whether any other contributions to Lib Dem Voice would be met with such a response, so swiftly were they written by someone from a well represented or powerful group, though you might well believe that this is more likely in that case. I leave it to you to speculate on whether this is part of the a great British tradition or whether it too is a manifestation of structural discrimination, intended to put people from under represented groups off. While you could say that it hasn’t put me off, are the very people who would be put off, the ones whom we wish to include?

While of course I could write about the statistics of race equality, I’m a physicist by training and while I have done many different things one of which was to track and latterly direct 800 performance (statistical) indicators for 6 years in order to work with others to turn one of the worst councils in the UK into one of the best, that would not give you a feel for the lived experience of being in a minority group and it is precisely the view that the experience doesn’t count, it is simply the statistics which matter which is a part of the issue.

Childhood is in so many ways an important time, if not the most important time of our lives, and it is important in forming our ideas on race equality too. I will stick with the theme of race equality in childhood and write about my mother and my aunt’s early life.

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Identity and ethnicity, how we come to use and need the different ways which we describe ourselves

You’re about to read about my ethnic or racial identity; it’s personal and I expect it to be treated with respect. If you cannot oblige, please try to stop reading now.

For too many any discussion of identity provokes an immediate authoritarian, polarised reaction and that reaction, that thoughtless, immediate, instinctive response is a part and parcel of the kernel of racism. So, please take this opportunity to watch your own reactions as though they were someone else’s and reflect on your own reactions too, allowing those with a sense of a minority identity a degree of flexibility and control.

For me my earliest ideas of identity formed very early in life and were exciting, something special and to be open about, I was aware by the age of three that I spoke and understood both Bengali – a language without gendered pronouns – and English, with its greater focus on gender. By the time I was four, I described myself as “Bengali”, though born in south west London to a professional, middle class family which lived in north and central London since the late 1920’s, however I am still asked where I am really from. I had at the time never been to Bangladesh or India, but I am a part of my global family and its global identity is Bengali or, in Bengali, Bangali. The language has a surprising amount in common with Russian, both grammar and vocabulary. Our family was from the parts of Bangladesh nearest India, and I was told that 400 years previously had relocated from Rajasthan. The family tree was in the Jagannath Mandir (temple) in Puri, and when I first went there, aged 11, my existence also was recorded. Hindus are prohibited, I was told, from marrying any blood relative who was directly related within seven generations on that tree.

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How do we each make 2017 a better year for race equality in the UK?

2016 has been one of the worst years for race equality which I have lived through in the UK. It is quite frankly a stain on our country’s record which every liberal, whether a member of the Liberal Democrats or not, would not wish to see repeated ever.

It is up to us to create a better future, up to each of us personally. We need our political parties to be fit for purpose for race equality campaigners of all backgrounds. Imagine my surprise when I read Roy Lilley’s words below on the NHS (in an email from and saw how well they apply to our party and increasing the involvement of a wider range of people in politics.

As we nudge our way out of what, by any standards, has not been the health and care services’ finest year, there’s some stuff we would do well to leave behind.

The first is a word.

The ugliest word in the NHS lexicon… ‘engagement’. I don’t want to ‘engage’ with people, do you? I want to talk to them. Better still; listen to them. I want to hear their views, have a conversation, ask what they think.

Engage is what gear boxes do, to drive an engine and what old telephones sound like when someone else is talking. People who are interested in other people’s ideas don’t ‘engage’. They have a chat.

If they have something to explain, clarify, demonstrate, make a case for… they do it, face to face, eyeball to eyeball. Politely, with passion and purpose.

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During Black History Month, take some time to learn from the injustices of the past

I first realised that people from different ethnic groups could have very different attitudes to the same death, the same violent deaths- the same killings, when I went to see the film Gandhi for the third time in the cinema at the age of 14. It is something David Cameron would do well to remember.

I first went to a glitzy showing of the film in Leicester Square, London with my whole family, including my aunt and uncle who had come over from India, where some of the people involved with the film had met them at their home in Delhi while it was being made; then with a school friend to see it at Marble Arch, London and finally with cousins and friends in Calcutta. (The owner of the petrol station in Southern Avenue had over a dozen tickets spare and gave them to our uncle- our great favourite, my father’s youngest brother, and I was part of a big group.)

Watching General Dyer, in the film, order the troops to turn their guns on the crowds of unarmed people, children, women and men in Amritsar, and to start the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was an entirely different experience in Gariahat, Calcutta to that in either Leicester Square or Marble Arch. There was a sharp intake of breathe in the audience, a feeling that the general had ordered that he turn his guns on us, us personally and then complete dismay. Where in London it was one more scene of violence in one more film, in Gariahat, Calcutta it was something taken personally. My own reaction to the scene and its horror was entirely different in Calcutta and London. In Calcutta the scene was one of pure evil, and in London there was no reaction, no sound and it was just a film.

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Opinion: Be ambitious for London – end child poverty, improve child wellbeing


While you know London has a booming economy, and is a centre of job and wealth creation, the largest city of one of the world’s largest economies, you may be less aware of the issue of child poverty; it is also a city where significant numbers (over six hundred thousand children, around two fifths of the total) grow up in poverty.

As a political party we need to continue to become more well known for committing to improving children’s lives in our capital and I believe that by drawing attention to this issue we will improve life for all. The present situation has developed, persisted and augmented on the watch of successive London Mayors, whether Labour, Conservative or sometime independent. As a matter of strategic importance to London, there is no question that the issue is the responsibility of the Mayor.

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Opinion: Just remember we’re all human

antony Gormley statue by kungfugenWhen young adults, who may even at the time have been members of prestigious universities and their more infamous clubs, became intoxicated and indulged in aggressive or loud and disturbing speech, violent actions or were simply careless and destructive, did we automatically assume that when they matured they would behave that way for the rest of their lives? We did not. Indeed some may still be thought fit to take part in the running of our country.

When young adults or older youths indulge in isolated incidents of unwise pyromania, do we say that they will be pyromaniacs for life? We do not, and in general they are not.

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Opinion: Who’s phoning who? (with apologies to Aretha Franklin)

A year ago I heard that six degrees of separation are now down to four courtesy of the internet and social media. Some, if not most, in politics are “connectors”, people who know many and who like introducing them to each other, who make friends fast, keep them for life and remember all about them; that’s not just true of politics, but of successful people in most walks of life.

Will there be any point in let’s say 12 years time, in keeping information on who has been in touch with whom during the previous year? I choose 12 to match …

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Recent Comments

  • Thelma Davies
    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @David Raw - yes, you can register as an online member and vote for £20. I did it last time and it worked well. And anyone can watch it for free on the Lib Dem...
  • Simon Atkinson
    Thank you so much for these wonderful comments everyone, and for the smashing tribute, Mary. He would have been so chuffed to read your kind words. Max wasn't a...