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.

If you would like to see a wider range of people from a greater range of backgrounds involved in politics, please start those conversations. There’s no need to think of grand strategies for involving people, just monitor the number of meaningful conversations which you have with people from a variety of ethnic groups, where you are able to really listen and spot not only where they agree with your liberal view, but where they differ too. Agree with the people you’re speaking with whether you should be taking action on the basis of those conversations.

Listening goes much further than one to one conversations- monitor your local party, regional party and other Liberal Democrat organisations you might belong to. How much opportunity do you have to listen to people from diverse backgrounds of all gender identities at meetings? Look up on the Office for National Statistics website the ethnic diversity of your ward and its neighbours, your parliamentary constituency and your region and make sure that your local, regional and national Liberal Democrat organisations, give you the chance to really listen to the wide variety of people we have in our country. I’m asking you to root out the race bias in your own local party and to start asking for speakers who represent all the groups in the UK.

It is only by listening to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, by choosing to give people our attention no matter who they are and no matter where they are from and by truly enjoying that experience and taking action where necessary, that our party can lead the way to race equality in the UK. We all have to start by listening and to do that you need to start inviting people to speak to us all and ensuring that your representatives issuing the invitations are doing so too.

* Marisha Ray is vice-chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and PPC for Chipping Barnet, in north London. From 2002 to 2010 Marisha was a councillor in an inner London ward, and she was a London Assembly list candidate in 2012 and 2016.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jan '17 - 10:15pm

    It is important to listen carefully to ethnic minorities for race equality, otherwise you end up like the Green Party: supposedly left wing and progressive, but very white. Of course, this is not to say the Lib Dems and other parties don’t have problems too.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jan '17 - 1:59am

    Marisha talks sense , but can anyone really say the word engage is a substitute for talking and listening ? Say what you like , please , but just as couples get engaged , so too , we can all see it as a broad word for connect . Semantics aside . The article means we must get involved with each other , meaning all of us feeling welcomed and represented. It is important . But recent articles , one or more , and a few comments , show not everyone gets it .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jan '17 - 2:01am


    We need more people like Marisha , active BAME members and speakers, both , to be seen and heard .

  • Simon Freeman 3rd Jan '17 - 6:39am

    For me we all just need to get along together. Be Fair, be friendly, be reasonable.

  • Mary beever 3rd Jan '17 - 4:13pm

    My experience with regard to ethnic minorities is that when I meet them in a shop or in a taxi Idont have a problem talking to them.
    However I am very happy in my own skin and with my own culture,Ido not need to be educated by other cultures or have their culture frequently pushed in front of me.
    I feel that too many times we are asked to change our culture and beliefs to appease other minority groups.
    I live in a rural community and am very happy to continue to have a representative council-even if that means all white.There is nothing wrong with all white councils if they represent a white community.This is reversed in places like Tower Hamlets in London.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jan '17 - 5:49pm

    @ Mary beever,
    I too am white, and if your local council is tory, I doubt it represents me.

  • Simon Banks 3rd Jan '17 - 10:29pm

    I’m not quite sure who is asking Mary to change her culture and beliefs. As she accepts, respecting other people’s culture and beliefs does not require you to change your own. That’s basic Liberalism. She is of course right that the make-up of a council or a workforce should be seen in the light of the make-up of the local community. But my experience working in multi-cultural, multiracial areas (not the very white area I’m in now) is that the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors did and do have a widespread problem turning a reasonable number of Black or Asian votes into members – and if people aren’t members, they won’t be Liberal Democrat councillors.

  • As for engage v chat, for a professional,that would be semantics. Speak to people in a way that is appropriate to the time, place and situation and they might just speak to you, before you know it a conversation might take place, to the benefit of all.

  • Whilst always hoping to move towards greater equality for all, we might also want to celebrate what has been achieved over along period of time in this country. We do by and large have a desire to support equal rights for all in this country,something which crosses the vast majority of politics parties and opinion. We do have recourse to the law if discrimination, direct or indirect takes place. We do have protected characteristics of race,sexuality,gender identity,disability etc. Groups and individuals have the right to campaign for further recognition, and protection by the law. Governments of all parties as well of private individuals have encouraged and supported moves for greater equality in various countries around the world. We should always act to eliminate any remaining discrimination and inequality, but overall we should celebrate success there are far worse places in the world when it comes to oppression, discrimination and inequality.

  • But do any of ‘you’ know any of ‘them’ could you say “oh but some of my best friends are racist”….”I don’t agree with them but…”.
    If you don’t know these people, if you recoil in horror when they speak,how can you ever truly speak to them?
    Whatever happened to the idea – we must not be enemies but friends?

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