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.

EMLD will also be launching our new website on the day with a new domain (www.EMLibDems.org.uk) which brings this into line with our social media. We can be found on Twitter @EMLibDems and Facebook groups/EMLibDems.

The office bearers and Executive for 2014 were elected unopposed and are as follows:

Chair – Issan Ghanzi

Secretary – Lester Holloway

Treasurer – Godfried Gyechie

Membership Secretary – Dr Turhan Ozen

Vice-Chair – James Jennings

Vice-Chair – Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

Vice-Chair – Merlene Emerson

Ordinary Executive Member – Tahir Maher

Ordinary Executive Member – Teena Lashmore

Ordinary Executive Member – Jacqueline Beckford

Ordinary Executive Member – Marisha Ray

Ordinary Executive Member – Samira Ahmed

Ordinary Executive Member – Kui MacKay

Ordinary Executive Member – Jonathan Hunt

If you need any more information, please email us on [email protected] or tweet us.


* Lester Holloway is a former councillor and member of the Equalities Policy Working Group, and a member of the Race Equality Taskforce

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  • Eddie Sammon 21st Nov '13 - 9:44pm

    I won’t be able to attend, I just want to say that I think it will be a worthy debate and I hope some good comes from it. I think we need to emphasise that ethnic minorities go beyond colour and I have thought for a while that a much needed solution is more “working class liberalism”.

    I’m not being patronising, I’m just saying when I first joined the party I was horrified at how out of touch it was with the lower paid and this is a huge proportion of the population. This is not all the fault of the present leader either – it is very much a cultural thing within the party and can be seen with prioritising things like civil liberties and the environment over the cost of living.

  • I hope the AGM goes well. I really enjoyed the race conference you jointly hosted with the SLF earlier in the year – great event. Your review is excellent – I hope more party SAOs, AOs and other organisations produce something like this.

  • Is there a reason for such a bloated executive?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 22nd Nov '13 - 10:08am

    Ryan, why do you say that we have a “bloated executive”? We are all immensely busy working for our Party as well as EMLD and this is reflected by the need for such a structure. The truth is that we do not have enough people to fulfill the demand.

    Why not come along to our AGM and hear what we are doing and what we are intending to do as we move toward the 2015 election.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Vice Chair

  • Richard Dean 22nd Nov '13 - 11:21am

    Chickens and eggs.
    Why not publicize “what you are doing” a bit more? Maybe that would attract more people to your meetings?

    Why vote LibDem?
    I cannot see a single reason why a BAME voter would vote LibDem, except on a basis of personal qualities of a candidate. The main conflicts in many people’s lives revolve around work – the conflict between boss and worker, between capitalist and wage-earner – and that conflict is symbolized and enacted through the conflict between Conservative and Labour. Both other parties have BAME MPs and realistic policies as regards equality and rights. Both have good chances of winning a next election, and LibDems’s chances are limited to whether they will be big enough to be a minor, overridable partner in a coalition. Why then would any BAME person be persuaded to vote LibDem?

  • I also regret that I will be unable to attend. On Saturday I’ll be canvassing for Jamie Matthews in the Splott by-election and going to a dinner with Lyn Featherstone in the evening, all in Cardiff. This brings me to Ryan’s point about the size of the exec and Ruan’s reply. I can’t comment on the size of the exec so I’m happy to accept Ruan’s response but I’m curious as to the geographical disrbution of the members. How London-centric is it?

    Turning to Richards point about why vote Lib Dem, people from ethnic minorities will vote Lib Dem or not for the same reasons as voters in the rest of the country. Suggesting that ethnic minority and other voters should vote on the basis of class identity is to prescribe a class identity which many voters of all stamps would reject. As regards voting only for a party on the basis of its candidate, I’m sure someone has crunched the numbers on who votes for whom as opposed to what. No reason to believe that ethnic minority voters would behave any differently.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Nov '13 - 2:01pm

    @Robin Lynn. Class identity can exist even if it is denied by those involved! What about suggesting that voters should vote on the basis of ethnic identity? Is this what EMLD is suggesting? Finding policies to attract BAME voters? A potentially racist agenda? Or is it about finding effective ways of communicating with BAME voters?

  • If one speaks to estate agents outside London , major causes for people leaving are youth crime and poor schools. This is far worse for the poor as they often cannot move to more affluent areas with better schools and low levels of youth crime.. Wealthier parents such as Dianne Abbott can afford to send her son to The City of London School.In Birmingham , a Jewish school has largely muslim children because the parents respect a rigorous, traditional and orderly education. David Lammy’s parents sent him to the King’s School, Peterborough on a scholarship.
    If the LDs can provide high standards of education and an absence of violence in poor areas , then I think we will attract the votes of everyone.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 24th Nov '13 - 5:42pm

    This was an excellent AGM where Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote introduced a reality check for the attendees and highlighted the responsibility on EMLD as the closest Race Equality Advocacy/Lobbying organisation to the Coalition Government to keep the pressure on to introduce a genuine Race Equality Strategy into all Government policies, procedures and practices for the benefit of all in society.

    The surprise but very welcome Simon Hughes MP spoke about the need for the Party to involve EMLD at all levels and Tim Snowball spoken about the mechanics as to how this could be done. Overall it was a thoroughly uplifting meeting.

    Special thanks goes to all of the outgoing Executive members and new intake who are eager to build upon the success of the past few years in which EMLD has become more externally focussed. EMLD looks forward to continuing the work with the Party and all of the other SAO’s and AO’s to achieve the ‘Fairer Society’ which is the core ethos of Liberal Democrat Party.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Vice Chair EMLD

  • Richard Dean 25th Nov '13 - 2:08pm

    Sounds like a real jolly.
    What was actually decided as to the main question, viz. how the party can better appeal to BAME communities?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 25th Nov '13 - 5:53pm

    Richard, the first step is to convince the Party leadership that there is a need for an explicit Race Equality Strategy for without this it is an uphill battle to convince anyone that we as a Party mean business.

    An excellent document that clearly lays out the business case for change is the Operation Black Vote report ‘Power of the Black Vote at the 2015 general election’ which you can view via http://www.scribd.com/doc/159511648/Power-of-the-Black-Vote-OBV. You will note that the author of the report is our very own Lester Holloway so we have a head start as to how we may resolve the hurdles that exist.

    This report highlights that there are 160 marginal seats where the BME communities could if they used their vote determine who is elected. Surely we as a Party should be trying our level best to positively influence these communities to realise that the Liberal Democrats are the best possible choice for them?

  • Richard Dean 25th Nov '13 - 6:22pm

    @R Uduwerage-Perera

    I think you are wrong, A first step might be for you to develop a draft Race Equality Strategy, so that the party has something tangible to consider. You would also need to set out reasons why an explicit strategy is needed. Without these two things, you are asking for a blank cheque, and no-one will give you that.

    I suggest that your strategy needs to be well founded in facts. The apparent fact about the 160 marginals is pretty well irrelevant, in my opinion, because this party tends to prefer to focus on what is right rather than what is large in numbers. I suggest that the facts that you need to found your draft on would likely include the following:

    > facts about who the BAME communities are, in terms of their cultural identity, demographics, cohesiveness; I expect you will find a whole range of different “communities”, some with no real idea of what voting means or how to vote, some with clear ideas that are correct, some with clear ideas that are flawed, etc etc
    > facts about how to communicate effectively with the people in these communities
    > facts about what these communities want in terms of political representation
    > facts/assessments about what these communities need in terms of leadership – because some of the things they want might not be things they should necessarily have (for instance Sharia Law cannot override English Law)
    > facts about how these communicate are lacking in comparison to others
    > facts that support the need for an explicit Race Equality Strategy. We already have anti-discrimination laws in this country, as well as general popular support for non-discrimination. Why is something new needed?

    There’s probably a lot more that you need to address too, perhaps someone else on LDV can make some suggestions? I suggest that your two documents – a draft strategy and a justification for it – need to be as succinct and clear as possible, because people won’t necessarily like to waste time on interpreting flowery language or colourful graphics that do not communicate. Also, keep to the subject, and avoid giving any impression that you’re only interested in your own status – that’s always something that puts people off.

    Hope this helps.

  • Richard Dean 25th Nov '13 - 6:48pm

    I’d also suggest that you need to backpedal a bit on Operation Black Vote. My reaction to it is perhaps tainted by a history that included support for the Black Power and Black Panther movements in the US. My impression is that Operation Black Vote looks like something approaching a disaster for BAME communities.

    Would you like to be the target of an “operation”? Is this a medical operation, or a military one? Anyone with much actual contact with BAME communities knows that not all of them are “black”, and that some communities have issues or habits that would make them feel offended by being grouped together in something called a “black” vote. So the name of the operation can offend many of the people it targets.

    Also, look at the idea of 160 marginal and the title “Power of the Black Vote”, from the point of view of a non-racist white voter. This can give the rather strong impression that the political life of the country is under threat of takeover from mysterious “BAME communities”. That impression is the exact opposite of what many BAME communities want – they want to feel integrated into and part of a British nation. They don’t want to be painted as a threat.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 25th Nov '13 - 11:32pm

    Richard you have managed to baffled me again with nonsense, sorry there are no other words for what you are saying. If Moses had come down from the mountain with a tablet with the perfect race equality strategy etched on one I suspect that you would find fault.

    Thankfully many in the Party do not require the ‘business case’ that you outline to realise that something needs to be done and soon.

    As for aligning OBV to the Black Power movement including the Black Panthers (whose manifesto is well worth reading) this is plain silly. OBV exists to encourage and empower BME communities to realise their potential so that they may have a genuine opportunity to influence governance at all levels in this country. Just for my own education, in your opinion what was so wrong with the rationale behind the establishment of the Black Power movement in the USA?

    One of the reasons why we trail behind the USA on these matters is possibly because we have never really had a civil rights movement.

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 12:00am

    @R Uduwerage-Perera
    Nothing in what I have written here is hard to understand, nor should any of it have led to the confusion you express, nor is any of it irrelevant. You had a jolly weekend at which you said you would address the question of how the party can better appeal to BAME communities. You have not been able to say anything about that discussion. Why should the party continue to support a group that appears to be incapable of delivering anything at all?

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 2:30am

    @R Uduwerage-Perera

    Let me put it another way. If I have offended you, I apologise. In return, please will you answer my question, which is as follows. Lester wrote that the meeting you had was to “discuss how the party can better appeal to BAME communities”. What was the result of this discussion?

    To put my question in context, I observe that the word “equality” is written on my membership card, and the concept of equality pervades the party’s constitution and many discussions. Even so, the ethnic makeup of our MPs does not see to properly represent the population. Is it a cultural thing – as per Eddie Sammon’s excellent comment in this thread? Many people in the party recognize this and want to improve the situation, so the question that Lester mentioned is probably of great interest to many party members.

    We need more members from BAME communities, as well as more votes, so that some of the BAME members will put themselves forward as candidates and so that, in the natural way of things, some will be the best candidates and so be selected. An answer to Lester’s question might be particularly interesting to those members who knock on doors – how can they appeal better so that more BAME people sign up as new members?

    In this very thread, you can read excellent contributions from Robin Lynn and from Charlie, who are at pains to point out that, since we regard everyone as equal, it follows that policies that attract everyone will also attract BAME communities. It also follows that we might be going against our principles of equality if we were to develop special, different policies for BAME communities compared to others. It may also follow that a special Race Equality Strategy is necessary itself needs, at a minimum, some kind of evidence-based justification and explanation. Bearing in mind the word Democrat in our name, it’s not just the leadership that needs to be persuaded, it’s the voting reps at conferences, and ultimately it’s the ordinary party members, like me.

    So a bit of careful thinking is needed, and not everyone has the time to do this. My hope was that some clarity would come from your meeting, and this hope motivates my question, which I repeat is: what were your findings as regards how the party can better appeal to BAME communities?

  • James Jennings 26th Nov '13 - 9:39am

    @Richard Dean

    I was at the meeting and it was thought provoking but what’s more, EMLD is punching above its weight and making an impact on the wider Race Equality Debate. As someone who has a professional background in equality monitoring of all the protected characteristics as highlighted in the 2010 Equality Act, then it is in the party’s interest to have a strategy in each of those areas if we are passionate about developing a equal and just society. That’s all the ‘business case’ you require in undertaking a race equality strategy.

    You also mention about our principles of equality as a barrier to developing a Race Equality Strategy. I point you to Fifth Republic France where that principle of ‘Equality’ is functioning and since everybody is termed French, there are no protections to BAMEs against racial discrimination, especially in the jobs market and limited protections against racial harassment ( take for example the current Justice Minister Christiane Taubira likened to a monkey in her actions in guiding the same sex marriage laws through Parliament).

    I too agree that everybody should be equal under the law, but the reality is different and that is why EMLD and the other equality SAOs exists.

    James Jennings
    Vice Chair

  • @James Jennings
    As you were at the meeting, your failure to address Richard’s totally relevant question, like others who were also present and have commented here is very telling… I conclude from the lack of responses, the meeting was just full of feel good rhetoric…

    I’m not interested in bland statements of the obvious such as “it is in the party’s interest to have a strategy in each of those areas if we are passionate about developing a equal and just society.” I, like others are interested in the content of such strategies, it is in the content that you will convince me to let you be my guide to an equal and just society.

    So my challenge to all and every one who was present is to answer Richard’s question:

    What were your findings as regards how the party can better appeal to BAME communities?

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 1:09pm

    Thank you for taking the time to understand what I was asking, and for supporting the question.

    @James Jennings.
    Proposals for changes to the party’s approach to equality will likely need frank and open explanation, justification, and discussion, and will likely NOT be helped by top-down, fait-accompli announcements by the party leadership, or by assertions like “we are experts so you must do what we say”. Equality does mean something important.

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 1:37pm

    @Sean Ash.

    I agree with your first sentence. Having lived in Black and Indian communities for a long time, I know that sticking up for equality is something that people there approve of. So, I expect that many Black and Indian people reading this thread would be very much attracted to the party, owing to our strong defence against what is beginning to appear to be an attempt to introduce inequality as a strategy.

    The EMLD might be refreshing and energetic and well-meaning, but it looks like they are making mistakes. One appears to be to introduce this strategy of inequality without really giving the membership much of a chance to debate it. Many people agree with your motivation too, Sean, so, I ask anyone who was at the meeting: What were the findings as regards how the party can better appeal to BAME communities?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 26th Nov '13 - 1:49pm

    Richard and Roland,

    Although I have no intention of wasting my time trying to convince yourselves as to why there is a need for an explicit Race as well as other issue based Equality Strategies, I am more than happy to continue to work with others who are genuinely interested in progressing equality and diversity and embedding these positive principles throughout the Party in its policies, procedures and practices.

    You may though wish to read the OBV report which I highlighted as well as the EMLD Race Equality Task Force report ‘Towards Race Equality: A Liberal Democrat Approach’ both of which outline the need for change.

    I am immensely pleased to say that the latter EMLD report resulted in a motion that was unanimously accepted at the Autumn Conference and will form part of the future 2015 Manifesto. This is an achievement, but it is only in reality a starting point.

    In the 21st Century neither EMLD nor any other SAO working within the equality arena should have to present a ‘business case’ to justify why change is needed because the results of inequality are all too apparent, and we as a political Party claiming to embrace and reflect equality and diversity matters should be far more knowledgeable than we are if we wish to progress and become even more influential post-2015.

    Thankfully the vast majority of Liberal Democrats who I meet and work with on these matters, although they do not necessarily understand the how to do, at least they recognise a need and have a desire for change, and I will save my energies for these people rather than continue in dialogue with people who apparently have an alternative agenda which frankly I have not worked out what it is yet.

    As Lester has highlighted your responses do not do the Party any favours what-so-ever and I for one wish to highlight to those people who are reading this thread that neither of you are representative of the majority ‘liberal’ and ‘democrat’ opinion that exists in the Party.

    As for the questions asked by Richard, if people genuinely wish the answers and wish to progress matters in their own areas of influence and responsibility then please feel free to contact either EMLD via the General Secretary Lester Holloway, or myself as one of its Vice Chairs and/or as the English Party Diversity Champion.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    [email protected]
    07886 799 256

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 1:57pm

    @R Uduwerage-Perera

    Astonishing – still no answer to the question: What were the findings as regards how the party can better appeal to BAME communities? Instead, insults and barricades. Worse still, a refusal to even contemplate making any kind of persuasive argument “to justify why change is needed”. Are we just going to have to accept being told what to do?

    That does not seem in any way consistent with the values of a party that has the word “Democrat” in its name.

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '13 - 3:30pm

    @Lester Holloway

    I am really not being unreasonable at all. If your conference had been about, say, what to do about a particular derelict inner city area, people would be bubbling over with ideas. No-one would have any hesitation at all about explaining what the conference had discussed or concluded.

    Similarly, on almost every imaginable policy area, a meeting or conference might often discuss many different approaches, many different objectives, and many different ways to achieve objectives. People would be keen to explain afterwards what had been concluded or agreed and also what they disagreed with.

    As Sean Ash has indicated, there has to be something that the party as a whole is doing wrong, because there is no other feasible explanation for the mismatch between the ethnic balances in and outside the party. Ideas are needed on how to correct things, but none seem to be coming from your Saturday meeting.

    Ok, so not every meeting ends as the people want. My guess is that your meeting didn’t come up with anything much, that’s ok, lots of meetings do that. It doesn’t need the kind of defensiveness that R Uduwerage-Perera produces – that defensiveness just encourages the idea that some dastardly, underhand move is under way.

    And you do need to understand, in my view, that equality is something that this party takes very seriously. It is not something that anyone is going to override at will.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Nov '13 - 5:09pm

    Richard, thanks for the praise.

    On this debate I just hope that people moderate their opinions a bit, or be a bit more polite.

  • @R Uduwerage-Perera
    I did not and have not asked for you to be “wasting my time trying to convince yourselves as to why there is a need for an explicit Race as well as other issue based Equality Strategies”. Please kindly reread my comment (
    26th Nov ’13 – 11:41am) as you will see the question I asked was effectively what answers did the EMLD meeting generate to Lester’s question/challenge “How Lib Dems can better appeal to BAME communities”.

    If asking for EMLD’s answers to Lester’s question “do not do the Party any favours what-so-eve” then I have to question why Lester posed his question and why EMLD even discussed it…

    I suspect from the quality of responses that EMLD has two major challenges ahead of it:
    1. How to get out of lobbying/strategy mode and into expert advisor/delivery mode.
    2. How to communicate to the party at large.

    As you noted “the vast majority of Liberal Democrats … recognise a need and have a desire for change”, but then in the same sentence you also note “the vast majority of Liberal Democrats … do not necessarily understand the how to do”. So I deduce that vast majority get the business imperative/need for change, the business case and the need for strategy, but what is obviously missing is the HOW to improve engagement with BAME voters, something they would naturally expect EMLD to provide direction and guidance on.

    This may be due to a breakdown or lack of communications between EMLD and the party. I suspect that part of the problem maybe that EMLD see’s itself more of a lobbying group (because it has ways had to fight to have it’s voice heard), whereas the party is wanting them to provide direction and guidance (hence reason for challenge ‘1’ above). So as a lobbying group it has been successful in getting strategy idea’s across, now it needs to support delivery of those strategy objectives, which requires a different set of communication skills (hence reason for challenge ‘2’).

    I suggest, given the quality of responses from EMLD representatives on this article, you need to focus on improving your responses to questions concerning delivery. To me acceptable answers to Richard’s question “What were your findings as regards how the party can better appeal to BAME communities?” include: these will be included in the report from the meeting, these will be covered in a LDV article currently being prepared, a number of specific activities were discussed and we are now working these up into more generally applicable guidance, etc. and even the exact details are privileged information!

    Turning to the OBV report you reference. Yes this does make the case for the business imperative/need for change to engage with ‘black’ voters, but it contains practically nothing on the ‘how’. Within the LibDems, I would expect having accepted the principle that the ‘black’ vote needs to be courted, the EMLD role would be to begin converting this into LibDem strategy and delivery initiatives for local parties to take to market, so that they can begin to tap the BAME vote for local, national and EU election campaigns. (Just to clarify the point I’m making: the OBV report lists 160 constituencies where the BAME vote could be highly influential on the outcome, of these 56 are highly significant to the LibDem’s, however, the report focuses on national/Westminster elections, whereas political parties such as the LibDems are active across all three tiers of government, hence the need to translate the OBV findings into LibDem specific policies and strategies for local, national and EU engagement.)

    Which brings me back to challenge ‘2’. EMLD will fail to deliver to the party if it thinks that it is acceptable to respond to enquiries for further information with a generic “let us talk” response. Why will it fail? simple numbers! there are too many constituencies etc. for the EMLD committee members to talk to individually ina reasonable timeframe, namely between now and the 2015 election! Therefore EMLD needs to improve it’s communications, both to it’s members so that they can become local ‘evangelists’ using EMLD materials to assist their local party and to the party at large about what is going on and what they can do to help. In this respect you may wish to take a look at the various publications on campaigning that Mark Pack has released in recent years via the ALDC.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Nov '13 - 9:07pm

    The problem with Ethnic Minority Lib Dems and Operation Black Vote is that a more accurate description would be “Left Wing Ethnic Minority Lib Dems” and “Operation Left Wing Black Voters”.

    The idea of recruiting and promoting people based on their race fills most people with horror, but these two organisations seem to want it by the bucket load. They need to moderate otherwise they’ll go for the same way as feminism and put off the very people they are trying to attract.

    With respect.

  • As an outsider peeking in, I’m totally baffled. Why such evasiveness in fairly simple questions (mainly from Richard (in his usual combative style) and Roland)? At first I thought it may have been impatience as people weren’t going to look up answers themselves. However, the website itself doesn’t seem to have much information on things that were discussed either.

    Roland states that he thinks you have communication issues, now as it happens I was reading your minutes (I thought they were from this meeting, but they were actually from Feb) and I came across this:

    “Jemima Jefferson (JeJ) introduced herself as the Head of Diversity for the party, maternity cover for Vicky Booth. She said that EMLD needed to change its’ behaviour and that there had been a breakdown in communication between EMLD and the party.”

    The response was:
    “MHE responded that we are part of the party not an afterthought and that Clegg is passionate about the issues EMLD were championing. MHE said if people were not happy it was up to them to approach EMLD. There was general support for this. Other members said that EMLD’s ‘behaviour’ was fine and if there was a problem it lay with others.”

    So you are now being approached and being told the same thing, is the best policy really “shoot the messenger”?

  • Jonathan Brown 27th Nov '13 - 12:59am

    Richard, Roland, Eddie, etc. I wasn’t at the EMLD AGM, although I am a member, and though I can’t say exactly what was discussed or concluded, I can at least talk about what has been discussed at previous EMLD-run/sponsored events, and make a couple of points cutting to the heart of your question regarding ‘what do EMLD suggest Lib Dems can do to attract BAME votes?’.

    Firstly, the party could make much more strenuous attempts to implement the proposals contained within the very readable race equality taskforce report (see http://ethnic-minority.libdems.org/en/article/2013/692886/clegg-welcomes-race-equality-report-launch). Accepting that we’re swimming against the tide generated by our Tory coalition partners, it would still be good to have more public and more strenuous defence of the principles of racial equality in the face of Tory attacks. The report can be read here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/145293306/Lib-Dem-Race-Equality-Task-Force-Report

    The second thing that the party could do, is put its money where its mouth is and demonstrate that it takes race, race equality and BAME representation within the party seriously. I don’t believe there are many out and out racists within the party, but given (generalising here) our geographic and political roots I think we do as a party struggle to understand many of the issues affecting BAME voters. Which is not to say that there aren’t some excellent activists and MPs who are thoroughly immersed in BAME communities (BAME and white), but the party as a whole gives off the impression to many minorities that it is not interested in their concerns.

    To elaborate on this a bit; there is much truth in the statement that ‘good policies will attract votes regardless of ethnicity’. But if we leave it at that, we fail. (The evidence quite clearly being that we attract fewer BAME votes even that the Tories.) Just because good policies should be popular with all doesn’t mean that there aren’t also specific issues of interest to particular minority groups. This applies not just to ethnic minorities, but to all kinds of interest groups. No on wants to be defined by others by their characteristics / disability / gender, etc. But most people don’t want their specific needs and concerns ignored either.

    Furthermore, while no one has a problem with white politicians addressing ethnic minorities, it would certainly help if we weren’t exclusively getting white politicians to do it. Or indeed, addressing any group of voters and by any medium. Obviously we can’t put up black/asian/etc. MPs, but we do have some very talented ethnic minority politicians, and we ought to be making more use of them.

    So: implement/pursue the recommendations contained within the task force’s report, publically defend the principles of racial equality, accept that there are race-related issues affecting voters in the UK, engage with these issues, and make more of our BAME talent within the party.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 3:43am

    All a bit vague, Jonathan Brown.

    I can’t afford the report. What people need is more than “accept that there are race-related issues, and engage”. We all know some of the issues, and probably not know some others. What does “engage” mean, that we don’t do already?

    Please think carefully about what your phrase “make more use of” implies. Or how it might be interpreted. A boss makes use of various factors of production, but often doesn’t want those factors to become equal bosses too. Is that the sort of thing you mean?

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 4:45am

    Jonathan Brown, you make some good points. It took me a while to come to terms with positive discrimination, which pretty much all equality measures require, so I think there should be some when candidates are hard to split, because the present diversity situation is somewhat of an emergency, but we’d find ourselves in a greater emergency if we ended up disregarding merit and recruiting incompetent MPs.

    So I think equality measures are fine, but there needs to be a genuine respect for merit, which some people seem to lack and that disrespects the job of an MP and creates problems not only for the party but for the country too.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 5:17am

    We’ve also got to respect other under-represented groups such as the poor, women, disabled, LGBT, possibly younger generations too. This is why people get defensive when people or groups seem to prioritise one over the other.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 5:19am

    So in summary, issues I think EMDL leaders need to recognise more are:

    1. merit
    2. other under-represented groups.

    I know the people asking for the all female shortlists are the worst for disregarding merit and other under-represented groups, but the criticism applies to everyone.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 5:23am

    In summary I will also say others need to recognise the importance of diversity more. I know I post a lot, but in this instance it is the desire not to be misunderstood and express my point clearly!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Nov '13 - 9:37am

    I always find the word “merit” interesting used in the context of positive discrimination. It’s as if we are saying that the candidates we select are always the best people for the job without it. By the time you’ve got yourself on to the approved list and are able to apply for seats, you have already demonstrated significant qualities and competencies. I have always thought that there are barriers in the selection process to women and I am convinced the same is true for other under-represented groups.

    For me, though, it’s not just about positive discrimination in selecting candidates, it’s about how we look to outsiders as a party and what we say. Are the photos we publish full of white men – that can be a barrier itself. If you don’t think an organisation includes you, why would you bother with it?

    I always think we need to be very careful to listen to the organisations who speak for those under-represented groups because they tend to know better than anyone else about the barriers that they face. It’s up to us to listen and do what we can to remove those barriers and show willing.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 11:22am

    Caron, I’m not saying everyone at the moment is selected on merit alone. The right are always going to ask for merit and the left are always going to ask for equality and I fail to see how this conflict can be rectified besides taking a centrist position. The flaws in both are obvious.

  • Thanks Chris_sh for your supporting research and troubling discovery. I would be interested in knowing what the LibDems gained from having someone as talented, motivated, experienced and connected as Jemima in the organisation.

    Thanks also to Jonathan for providing some more information (Richard the report on Scribd is free to read online).

    I think trying to get “the party” to do something, is causing much frustration and sense of dis-empowerment, whereas I suggest a better approach would be to start doing something and get some real positive results (in May 2014 ?) that can be communicated back and so create a desire in the party for more of the same in 2015. Obviously “doing something” with little official \backing means starting small and focused ie. 3~5 constituencies that are important, but not high profile, to the LibDems (selected from those highlighted in the OBV report) and going out and engaging with the the local party members. Chosen well, the local parties will know they have a significant BAME electorate and will probably take the hands off any one who offers real help in improving their standing in those communities… As for the details of the on-the-streets interventions and initiatives I’m sure the EMLD membership have many ideas.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 12:28pm

    “Merit” is not a bias-free term.

    In the case of women, the criteria for assessing a candidate are likely to be dominated by masculine considerations of what merit is. A lot of the resistance to women having the vote, a century ago, was on the grounds that women did not have the right kind of merit – no experience of what men thought was “real life” – manual work, office work, running factories, and fighting, etc. More-or-less the same arguments are used by the Taliban today.

    In the case of ethnic minorities, the criteria which a largely or wholly white selection group judge an ethnic minority candidate are likely to dominated by what largely or wholly white people consider to be “merit”. From what I hear about the LibDem selection process it’s all about visits to the selector’s homes. It doesn’t seem to include relevant things like whether a candidate is able to communicate with an electorate.

    It is this kind of thing that EMLD should have been focussing on – how to help LibDems identify and correct the unconscious biasses in the ways we do things. Such biases can be very hard to recognize, but they are really the only possible reason for our poor ethnic balance.

    Identifying minority-friendly policies can help a little, but every policy has to be debated – presenting a take-it-or-leave-it list looks too much like what Eddie seem to see – a left wing pressure group. Anyway, Scribd asks me for money before I can read the report, so I won’t bother thanks. Just another barrier that EMLD seem to have pit in place in what is beginning to look like a typical left-wing dominance strategy.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Nov '13 - 12:33pm

    Richard, I’m not sure why you are having problems accessing the OBV report. I clicked on the link and was able to read it straight away without being asked for money. It’s a free to use platform which allows people to embed reports in their websites so I would be surprised if there wasn’t a way to skip through any request for money.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 12:56pm

    I am in Spain, Perhaps that’s why Scribd asks me for money in US dollars. It’s not a lot, but I object on principle.

    What the EMLD should really have been focussing on, in my view, is the unconscious biases that everyone has as a result of learned culture. We are all equal as human beings, but the cultures we learn make us react differently, so that what can seem normal and nice to one culture can be offensive to another. What seems to be the right way of doing things, or the right criteria to apply, can be quite different in different cultures.

    The facts say quite clearly that the culture of the LibDem party is racist – there is no other reasonable explanation. What EMLD should have been trying to work out was (a) what aspects of our culture need changing, and (b) how to tell us in a way that allows us to accept it. Of course, as this is a cross-cultural process, the EMLD can misunderstand things too, and there will need to be flexibility on both/all sides.

  • OK – Which one is the real Eddie Sammon ?

    Is it ? –
    Eddie Sammon 26th Nov ’13 – 5:09pm
    On this debate I just hope that people moderate their opinions a bit, or be a bit more polite.

    Or is it ? –
    Eddie Sammon 26th Nov ’13 – 9:07pm
    The problem with Ethnic Minority Lib Dems and Operation Black Vote is that a more accurate description would be “Left Wing Ethnic Minority Lib Dems” and “Operation Left Wing Black Voters”.
    The idea of recruiting and promoting people based on their race fills most people with horror, but these two organisations seem to want it by the bucket load.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 1:05pm

    … and (c) not to simply replace one set of cultural biases with another equally biased set.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 1:08pm

    @John Tilley.

    Like Eddie, I reserve my right to have multiple, mutually inconsistent opinions. Even in a single sentence. It’s a cultural thing, ok?

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Nov ’13 – 9:07pm
    The idea of recruiting and promoting people based on their race fills most people with horror,

    Three quick questions for Eddie –
    Ever wonder how you get to be Head of State n the UK ?
    Does the present system fill you with horror?
    If not, why not?

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 1:12pm

    @John Tilley.
    Could you please provide the answers? It seems very difficult to know what you are trying to say.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 27th Nov '13 - 1:37pm

    I have only just taken a look at this page, and the comments. Firstly, I would like to congratulate EMLD on a successful AGM, and the ability to attract such a high calibre, and diverse Executive. As for the ‘comments’ – It doesnt make edifying reading.. It seems voluntary groups, an SAO, like EMLD can be vilifed so casually by a few vociferous individuals, for doing what many groups in other mainstream political groups, have been doing for years. That is, working hard to address the lack of people from BME backgrounds who are elected as MPs, councillors, and within the federal committees. If critics have a problem with this valuable work, then they are hardly liberal or believe in diversity and a plural society. What is liberal about having 7 women MPs / no BME MPs, and a Parliamentary Party in the Commons where 40% went to public school? Do we think this represent modern Britain? I dont. Just as Lib Dem Women, and Liberal Youth, and the LGBT Group, are working hard in their own areas to address these inequalites, so is EMLD. Why is this a problem for the few people who have taken to attack them?

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 1:47pm

    @Meral Hussein Ece

    Look at your own post, You are saying take-it-or-leave-it. This is a democratic party. It doesn’t do things that way. Many minority ethnic communities don’t do it that way either.

    The EMLD may be working hard, but it looks like they’ve been focussing on the wrong kinds of work.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 27th Nov '13 - 1:53pm

    @RichardDean – that is your opinion.I dont recall you being involved in the work of EMLD, and what basis you are qualified to say that.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 1:58pm

    @Meral Hussein Ece

    I am qualified because I am a human being, and a member of this party. Please don’t forget that. I am perfectly entitled to have an opinion, and to express it in accessible and acceptable language.

    Equality means what it says. No group in this party is immune from well-founded criticism, no matter how well-meaning and hard it may work. No group should feel free to reject opposing opinions out of hand.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '13 - 3:17pm

    John Tilley,

    You make an amusing and relevant point when you ask: “which one is the real Eddie Sammon”, after I ask for politeness and then later resort to firmness. I made my first point because I feel that sometimes Ruwan and my friend Richard are a bit too rude in the way they put their points across. I later resorted to what I would call “firmness” after reading the full transcript and getting frustrated with the on-going argument left versus right argument and receiving no recognition for my suggestion for improving race equality, I gather because it wasn’t a left wing suggestion. I did add “with respect” though, and mean it.

    To answer your other three questions:

    1. I’m instinctively a republican, but respect the monarchy has the consent of the people.
    2. It used to actually really wind me up, but I’ve calmed down about it.
    3. I don’t understand why the monarchy is so popular, but I don’t think it is worth getting really worked up about. I respect that they risk their lives for the country.

    What I’m trying to do at the moment, with my small contributions, is to unite the centre right and the centre left into one mass movement against extremism. I know this is an extremely ambitious goal, but I don’t think our internal divides are actually that great and the groundwork to point this out needs to be put in. So I still get frustrated with the far left and the far right.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 3:41pm

    … and all this heat because of a reluctance by the EMLD to address the question that Lester originally raised, which was:

    >>>>> How can the party better appeal to BAME communites? <<<<<

    Would anyone like to try answering it?

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '13 - 3:58pm

    communities, even.


  • jonathan Hunt 28th Nov '13 - 12:41am

    I am amazed that so many people who call themselves Liberal Democrats seem to live in a different world to the one I inhabit in south London. Black and ethnic minority people form a majority in Camberwell and Peckham, and we all live in relative harmony and find the diversity contributes enormously to the quality of life.

    But it is still only too obvious that Black people continue to get the worst jobs, justice, education and housing, whatever their abilities and qualities. Once upon a time, that would have acted as a spur to all true Liberals to seek equality, and create greater opportunities.

    However, our coalition with the Tories seems to infect the party with Tory attitudes of opposition to equality even more than in the Nasty Party itself. And too many prepared to air their ignorance in public.

    Positive discrimination is quite properly illegal. I don’t know anyone in EMLD who advocates its use. However, positive action, used by thousands of organisations and employers to ensure they make the most of the talents of their people, is legal and fully supported by our party. It includes measures to fast-track training so that everyone starts from a similar position.

    It also allows bodies that have been discriminatory in the past to act to correct those errors and catch up on civilised behaviour.

    We want BAME people to vote for us to demonstrate that most members of the party care deeply about racial justice, and the party has always advocated policies of fairness and bringing about positive change; it dates from the Levellers and Radicals though to Lloyd George introducing the origins of the Welfare State, Keynes showing us how to overcome economic recession and unemployment and Beveridge with a massive extension of the Welfare State.

    Our tradition has been on the progressive, often radical, non-socialist Left of the political spectrum, and that includes policies designed to bring greater equality and justice to all our people, overcoming racial discrimination and enhancing basic human rights . The aberration we have experienced over the past 3.5 years will hopefully soon pass.

    EMLD seeks to do two things: Work within the party to show that we still need to do a lot more to persuade BAME people to listen to us, and show why too many don’t; and to campaign among minority communities to show why the party should appeal to them as individuals as well as members of disadvantaged group. And to obtain their support and participation.

    The face that we have no elected BAME member of any of the parliaments or assemblies where we stand for election shows the enormity of that task, and the need for all members to recruit those from ethnic groups. Even if the EMLD executive were increased a thousand-fold, it would remain a huge task.

    But he scale of the task would be greatly reduced if the sceptics would join EMLD so we may all work together to achieve such worthy goals.

  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '13 - 1:55am

    @jonathan Hunt
    (I am trying to be nice here). If everything is wonderful in Camberwell and Peckham, why is it that Columba Blango did not win last time? He’s not an unimpressive candidate. I’ll grant that he did well, but Harriet Harman got almost three times as many votes as Columba. What are you doing wrong in Camberwell and Peckham?

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '13 - 9:44am

    Are ethnic minority Conservative Party modernisers welcome to join? Is the colour of someone’s skin more important than the content of your character? It’s all going a bit backwards.

  • People who are considered to be BAME and who consider themselves to be BAME are under represented in politics in general and in other walks of life where it’s perceived that power and the strategic decisions about all our future are made. Vociferous contributions suggesting that this is not a matter that need be addressed do not increase the chance that we address this imbalance, nor do they increase the likelihood that other under represented groups will participate. The tone of our debate, the way in which we address each other and our visible attempts to understand each others point of view will determine whether politics is welcoming or unwelcoming to those who are not yet involved. You yourselves need to decide whether the way in which you address this issue is more or less likely to encourage participation, it is not something that any one person can judge so it is something we each have to work on for ourselves. That said there is no need to shy away from any of the issues raised. For the few who are active already there is much to be done both to involve and mobilise others and to bring the issues of the under represented to those who may not be aware of them. If you are not aware of the link below, I’m posting it here http://www.libdems.org.uk/latest_news_detail.aspx?title=A_New_Liberal_Democrat_Approach_to_Race_Equality&pPK=846bcd70-b0db-4109-8de7-59e54e69249c Anyone who wants to publicise what we are doing more is welcome to join us and do so too, we will do as much as we can and would like your help in doing more. On the question of work- many BAME people have no choice but to be self employed for a variety of reasons, they are therefore natural liberals. We can learn from all the organisations which have already been tackling these issues without necessarily taking on their core political beliefs and values, I for one still subscribe to our party’s constitution and particularly its preamble. There is a difference between listening to someone else who has been tackling the issues we deal with for decades and sharing all their values and ideologies. I would say there is more of a cause for EMLD to exist than many SAO’s because its main aim is to address a longstanding unfairness which goes unrecognised by many who do not suffer it and is not readily separated from the results of selecting by merit when we look at individual cases. Only when we look at the population as a whole can we be entirely certain that there is a problem and I strongly recommend that you read the entirety of the document below before you come to a conclusion about whether or not our country has a serious issue. http://www.scribd.com/doc/145293306/Lib-Dem-Race-Equality-Task-Force-Report

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '13 - 10:39am

    This is the kind of debate that puts off newcomers from joining. I want it to be clear that the tensions within this debate are not racial, but between left and right.

    My advice would be that EMLDs needs to broaden itself so it speaks for all ethnic minorities, because at the moment it sounds too much like a left-wing pressure group.

    Best wishes

  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '13 - 11:16am

    I agree with Eddie about the impression of a small pressure group tending to look like it wants to issue commands rather than work to clarify and persuade. I also wonder whether it is tending to focus on some ethnic minorities instead of all. There are many and varied minorities. For example the UK Chinese population is one, and the UK Pakistani is another, and the UK Somali is another, and …. and many of these minorities are not so cohesive, not so easy to lump together as “a minority”. They are all composed of individuals.

    The EMLD group’s task seems essentially to be to gather information and to guide a process of organizational learning. Organizational learning is a well researched process in management. Unless the organization is very small, it does not happen by the kind of one-to-one discussions that some in the EMLD and their supporters seem to want. It also does not happen very effectively by people being told to read some document as if it was a bible.

    I am certainly no expert on organization learning. But from a long-lost management course, I seem to recall that it happens through public happenings, not private ones. Public discussions and happenings at which many people can participate and many more can observe, where people can make public mistakes without fear, and so that many people learn freely from what goes down. Some of it is a bit like theatre. Public happenings that include decisions at leadership level made for symbolic as well as practical reasons. Public happenings that may also be supported by group learning sessions.

    Given the size of the EMLD, not all of this will be possible immediately, so the EMLD also has to work out a strategy of how to achieve the same objective with severely limited resources. Small size is also a very familiar issue in management theory, and there are ways around it. Don’t ask me what they are though! 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Nov ’13 – 3:17pm

    Thanks Eddie – that was a very civilised response. I don’t agree with you on many things but it was nice to get a polite response.
    I also look forward to the time when you follow your republican instincts .
    After all, monarchy is an extreme form of feudal power and oppression.

  • Jonathan Hunt 28th Nov '13 - 12:47pm

    Richard Dean: I was actually writing about Camberwell (and Peckham) as places to live, and not about the constituency party, or Columba’s stirling efforts in further biting into HH’s considerable majority.

    However, you ask a reasonable question and I feel it deserves a fuller answer.

    Up to six or seven years ago, C&P loc al party had made great progress in recruiting in the local BME community; some 40 per cent-plus of its 130-odd members were black or ethnic minority, and all five officers were non-white. It became the local party that many ethnic minority Liberals chose to join.

    We had enthisiastic audiences of 60+ for speakers such as Supt Leroy Logan and Simon Wooley. Then we heard suddenly from the regional party that it was going to suspend C&P local party for failing to submit monthly political party donation forms.

    But our black treasurer, a much respected local teacher, was able to produce copies of nil returns. We were also accused of “financial irregularities”, but as much as they inquired, they failed to find any. Accusations wre made against individual officers, with then had to be withdrawn for lack of any evidence.

    Finally the only charge they could make stick was one of “weak management structure” without being able to explain when challenged by experts, including the editor of the FT’s special reports on management. That accusation could well apply to some 75 per cent of local parties throught the country.

    They then put C&P under “special measures” which meant bringing in outsiders who continued to insult some of the leading black members and council candidates. As a result most of our BME members left the party in disgust, and few have returned.

    It was hardly London region’s finest hour, although most of the right-wingers involved are no longer involved.

    But it has been an uphill battle to return to that level of support. Columba did magnificantly in gaining support from the West African community in 2010, but the council group has since taken against him.

  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '13 - 2:00pm

    @Jonathan Hunt

    That’s very interesting, thanks for sharing it. Precisely this kind of sharing is what is needed in order that many people in the party can understand some of the difficulties, and can try to learn how to avoid past mistakes. Encouraging the sharing of experiences, both ad-hoc like here, or in an organized way, is one of the things the EMLD should be doing.

    In your case I suppose that the general learning experience is that things go wrong when there is unresolved conflict between a local party and a regional body, or if the process of attempting to resolve the conflict itself causes damage in terms of membership numbers.

    It sounds like your conflict was never resolved. Not resolving a conflict is another reason why members will tend to disappear. Unfortunately in your case the disappearance of members can look like evidence that you have been running a racket, which is essentially what the regional body claimed. Also, if members believe they are being ripped off, either by discovery or by being told by a regional body, they will naturally fight you or leave you.

    So it sounds like the party needs a process by which this kind of conflict can be managed properly, without causing damage in the process, and can be resolved without leaving important questions unaddressed. I hope that you will consider this, and consider bringing this particular matter to the attention of someone at a higher level that regional, so that you can go through appeals and healing processes.

    This is a good thing to learn, though obviously the cost of learning needs to be reduced for future learning experiences. More generally I hope that the EMLD can see value in this type of learning by sharing of experiences. Thanks again!

  • Jonathan Hunt 28th Nov '13 - 3:33pm

    @Richard Dean:

    BME members left because they believed the “Party” did not want people like them running a local party like Camberwell & Peckham. There is no appeal process, or other ways of protesting against a decision by a region to suspend the local party and re-allocate members to another local party.

    Members had no locus to protest against decisions; just to accept what what decided by region. All very stalinist.

    Let us hope that we can learn lessons from over-zealous activists intend on enforcing disciplinary measures on others to demoimnsterate their own sense of importance. But some of us remmber and will shout loud and earl;y if a similar move is ever attempted again.

    Lib Dems are also alone among the major parties in having no appeal process for individual councillors to proest their innocence against stalinist council groups that suspend them, often for actions like speaking out against racial discrimination or corruption by their council.

    We are also the only

  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '13 - 5:02pm

    @Jonathan Hunt
    @Meral Hussein Ece
    The process you describe, Jonathan, doesn’t seem right for a party that ostensibly prides itself on a sense of justice and rights. Perhaps a high flyer like Meral Hussein Ece could arrange for someone to look into the matter?

  • Jonathan Hunt 28th Nov '13 - 5:28pm

    @Richard Dean

    It is far too late now, except to make sure it is not allowed to happen again. But we could table a motion at English Council to ensure appeal processes are available. Meral is very able and symnpathetic but her powers are limited.

  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '13 - 6:34pm

    The only “powers” that Meral should need, in a liberal and democratic party, is the power of rational argument.

  • Jonathan Brown 29th Nov '13 - 2:13am


    “My advice would be that EMLDs needs to broaden itself so it speaks for all ethnic minorities, because at the moment it sounds too much like a left-wing pressure group.”

    Obviously EMLD as an organisation is growing and having to start from somewhere but (at risk of generalising) simply by looking at the names of the members of the exec you can see (i.e. make an educated guess) that the organisation does indeed represent a wide variety of under-represented minorities.

    We have recently been picking up more central and eastern European members, inspired to join the party by the UKIP-lead vilification of them and by our party’s pro-Europeanism. I hope and expect that we’ll see these members of EMLD playing a significant role within the organisation – and the party as a hole – and that EMLD will be supporting them too.

    The (free) report on race equality specifically discusses problems faced by Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities in the UK. The EMLD also acts as an umbrella for the Chinese Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Friends of Turkey, British United Indian Liberal Democrats (and possibly others I don’t know about). The point being; EMLD exists to serve all ethnic minorities, promote the principle of racial equality within the party and the country, and assist the party in engaging with ethnic minority voters and issues.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Nov '13 - 6:37am

    Jonathan, I was more talking about representing more centrist and right leaning ethnic minorities as well as left leaning ones. Having said that, I am glad the group is attracting people from a wide range of backgrounds and I think some party’s in the future will regret being so nasty to eastern Europeans…

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Nov '13 - 6:40am

    Parties, not party’s, in this instance. Excuse my horrible spelling mistake!

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