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.

I spoke about a research article published in the Western European Politics Journal, which sets out factors that clearly distinguish members from supporters (expressed in my own words):

  • Being male, better educated and coming from higher up the social hierarchy
  • Having a sense that their voice should and will be heard
  • Not being overly deterred by the time commitment of being a member.

Applied to BaME communities, these factors would go some way to explaining why there is less political engagement than we would like from BaME communities within politics as a whole and, by corollary, within our Party. 

I believe that a registered supporter’s scheme, with palpable benefits to being a supporter – balanced with the checks necessary to prevent abuse of any such scheme – is a key way to grow our BaME representation across the board. 

I support the broader argument that becoming a supporter can be a ‘soft way’ for someone to get involved with a political Party. Opening the doors to BaME supporters would naturally increase our vote share, membership and candidate representation from BaME communities. Hence I am pleased that we will be establishing a registered supporter’s scheme. 

Diversity – the way it should be

My final speaking contribution at Conference was at the LDCRE fringe event on diversity. I was seated next to Dr Mohsin Khan, the Vice Chair of LDCRE, who happens to be a forensic psychiatrist. Whilst listening intently to what he was saying, I was also wondering whether he was simultaneously reading my body language and pondered whether I was sending good or bad signals to him by the way I was sitting, blinking or tilting my head. 

Aside from those random musings, I was fascinated to hear his persuasive arguments setting out the background for a potential campaign in relation to airport security checks. He explained that statistics show that security checks are being disproportionately imposed upon members of BaME communities, thereby leading to disproportionate financial and other (unrecoverable) losses being incurred by BaME travellers. Knowing of a family that was kept in a holding pen at a UK airport on suspicion of trafficking their own children, I am grateful, on behalf of all of us, that Mohsin was able to extrapolate the figures to demonstrate why the wrong that felt wrong is actually wrong. 

I’m impressed by this and other creative and unusual angles being taken by the LDCRE in relation to potential campaigns. Their approach reflects my belief that, before we can share our politics with BaME voters, we need to show that we are relevant to them. And campaigns like these are one such way we can do this. 

In a forthcoming blog, I will tell you more about myself and my plans for my Vice Presidency over the next few years. In the meantime, thank you for contacting me with ideas and offers of support – please keep them coming.

 

* Isabelle Parasram is the Vice President of the Liberal Democrats.

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5 Comments

  • My comment about the registered supporters scheme is that the evidence in the paper presented from the Western European Politics Joutnal is the difference between members and those that the authors define as supporters. The real question is if the process of registering is the barrier. My guess is that it is.
    My memory of joining the Liberal Party was of the first discussion meeting I attended. It was a well attended meeting and the part that stuck in my mind was a discussion
    about sending the Irish back home. I did wonder what sort of a party I had joined. To declare my interest I am of Irish descent.
    I was told by someone of Indian descent who was born in England that he has to allow an extra hour to be questioned by officers when leaving the country. I didn’t ask for a list of the questions.
    I suggest that the party offer training to members on how to be welcoming to all. My belief is that the personal contact, whether at the door or at a meeting, is the most important. We all need personal development in this.

  • The early signs are pretty promising that the new registered supporters scheme will indeed improve our diversity as that’s been the experience with the first week of official sign-ups: https://www.markpack.org.uk/158035/a-week-in-the-early-signs-are-very-promising-from-the-lib-dem-registered-supporters-scheme/

  • The key thing with the new supporters scheme is that all local parties are ready, willing and able to engage with the new supporters and do so successfully.

    However looking at the information produced by the party that Mark has provided the link to, all that it includes is How to get the information on people who have registered as supporters from the party’s Salesforce system, and then says “Thinking of holding an event for members and supporters? You can promote it on the federal website.” Nothing more except for a cover all “If you need any support or guidance at all, please contact our Members and Supporters Services team.”

    There needs to be much more easily available guidance and advice on how to engage with new supporters, especially those coming from groups that individual local parties are not used to engaging with. Otherwise we will have a one off boost to diversity, followed by a tailing off a year later as people are not contacted, spoken to, met, welcomed and made to feel a part of the party.

    I would strongly urge Isabelle gives this her immediate attention.

  • What we need is a cultural change that will lead to racial equality. Until we view others as no different it will be an uphill struggle. Perhaps Brexit will help to foster this cohesiveness so that the colour of your skin or where you were born has no bearing on how we view others. Surprisingly, I think we are doing quite well regarding racial equality.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Mar '19 - 2:01pm

    Congratulations to Isabelle, in being able to do good work for the Liberal Democrats as VicePresident.

    A very comprehensive approach.

    I do think though, people are not as attracted to this party, from BAME communities, because it does not speak to the concerns of the mainstream enough, rather than only because it is regarded as not appealing to specific BAME concerns.

    People from communities effected by crime, are more, not in fact less, likely to relate to policies that are strict as well as understanding.

    Blair got this, he was genuinely tough on crime and the causes.

    Sir Ed Davey, as with Lord Paddick, does not give the impression of the same combination.

    Too much concern for the civil liberties of the underdog accused of crime or as a potential ow lever perpetrator, is not as a rule, necessarily at the expense of the victim, but it can seem thus.

    This party is for the victim. But it gives too much credence to the notion that you cannot have moral absolutism, even on criminality.

    The double standards are wrong. Even on a personal issue like the one in the media, relating to slapping a partner, double standards in the Liberal Democrat comments field.

    The party needs to stop gendering and minoritising and dividing, start unifying, and get with the main thrust of how most or many , very , many in fact, more people really respond to things such as , crimes, offenses, deviations from what is or is not, acceptable.

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