Joint statement from LDCRE, BLAC, Lib Dem Muslim Forum and Chinese Lib Dems

More than a year has passed since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement stunned the world into vowing to take racism more seriously.

Tackling racism, however, always needs to begin at home, and both Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE) and Liberal Democrats Black Lives Action Committee (BLAC) had hoped BLM would propel the party into making faster progress to increase membership and electoral support from ethnic minorities.

LDCRE made a major submission, duly accepted, to the Thornhill Review. The Review’s recommendations included that the party fulfil the recommendations of the earlier Alderdice Review “in full, with urgency”. It added the party should:

  • revise targeting strategy to include the BAME electorate particularly in the most diverse areas,
  • Change the culture of the party to embed at all levels the concerns and interests of BAME communities and issues in all its activities, reaches out to the BAME communities and actively plan how it will achieve real integration at all levels.
  • Ensure resources – paid staff and investment – are in place to implement this.
  • Help local parties reflect the demographic of the electorate they represent.

Alderdice made crystal clear that the party has to make ethnic diversity – not diversity in general – its top priority. Alderdice said: ”In the Liberal Democrats the commitment to diversity and the campaigns to make diversity happen have brought significant changes and improvements for women and LGBT+ members and representation, but not for BaME members and representation.” He stated that ethnic diversity now had to be a “Number 1” priority issue for the party. “The party has a tendency to try to be inclusive of all issues at all times and that has an intellectual appeal, but it has not worked for BaME communities, because addressing everything means focussing on nothing.”

He added: “Every local association needs to compare the make-up of the population in their area with the make-up of the local party, the make-up of the officers in the local party, and whether their activities, leaflets and preoccupations are reflective of the local community.”

So it is incomprehensible that the leadership, who were given responsibility for carrying out the recommendations, are doing precisely the opposite of what Alderdice recommended. It has embarked on a general equality, diversity and inclusion policy that does not prioritise ethnic minorities, and has no plans to lead a campaign to help local parties reach out to local communities.

The party seem unable to comprehend what was accepted by the Thornhill Review: that ignoring ethnic minority communities is costing us seats and power. Tackling it is essential for our electoral success.

Electorally, if we ignore ethnic minority communities it will be impossible for us to gain significant numbers of seats. Ignoring BAME voters in diverse areas will leave us requiring impossibly large swings from the white electorate to win.

Our failure to reach out to ethnic minority voters is what allowed Labour to hold on to London and other areas despite the collapse of the “red wall”. The Conservatives have learned this, as have the Greens. Our party’s failure to do so is a key factor behind our shocking fourth place in London’s elections behind the Greens.

LDCRE has shown how reaching out to ethnic communities with multiracial canvassing teams brings huge electoral success. In Brent, Anton Georgiou achieved a 28% swing and won the council seat from Labour, the first Lib Dem on Brent Council in four years. But this needs to replicated in a sustainable way across the country by the party.

We have also heard of countless cases of activists and candidates finding their local party’s culture is discriminatory and exclusionary, and those found to be racist are not held to account. Those experiencing racism find that the party has not lived up to its ideals, that there is a perception of some going through the disciplinary process that it may remain discriminatory. Little changes as the years go by.

There is a clear need for action and for the party to provide meaningful resources to achieve this. It needs to be willing to also take political risks for diversity – for example, in pushing for a Rooney Rule for candidate shortlisting when it appears this can be legally possible. Furthermore BLAC have produced policy documents that could help make the necessary changes happen more quickly.

But our party is determined to ignore the recommendations of both the Alderdice and Thornhill reviews. LDCRE, BLAC, the Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum and Chinese Liberal Democrats  are standing together in condemning this failure. We are calling on all fellow members who want real action on race equity in this party, and who want our party to win power, to make clear that you, like LDCRE, BLAC, Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum and Chinese Liberal Democrats,  demand that the Alderdice and Thornhill recommendations are fulfilled.

Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality

Liberal Democrat Black Lives Action Committee

Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum

Chinese Liberal Democrats

* Janice Turner is Vice Chair of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality

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10 Comments

  • Paul Barker 9th Sep '21 - 10:46am

    I find this article very disturbing & I hope that someone from The Leadership will respond quickly – please don’t leave us hanging.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '21 - 1:50pm

    It seems , Janice, here, and Paul my fellow contributor, are correct to be very cross and anxious about the subject of race equality and poor efforts by the party. I am a member of LDCRE, and feel understanding is needed.

    Can I suggest two things. First, analysis is not just one way or none. It is possible that a liberal and democratic orientation considers everybody as individual and equal and thus does not emphasise characteristics as much as some who are progressive. If we are to think of people, as Martin Luther King suggested, and advocated, for, the content of their character, not the colour of their skin, some of that mind set, might find targeting on the basis of race, goes against these assertions and hopes for a colour blind or colour as just one aspect of an individual. That approach, can lead to complacency. Bad indeed, but not the equivalent of racism.

    Also, if the are examples of actual racism, we need to know more and these must be revealed and not ignored. I , again, perceive complacency. Some local parties are run by small executive committees. There is little that is exciting, liberal or democratic in that case. I think if, the my way or highway attitude is implemented, even suggestions that focus leaflets are dull and do not reach enough people, as on this website, are met with, no, that is not how we do things, we have to leaflet more!

    I believe we can and must change politics. Few listen and fewer therefore, learn.

  • Who has been found to be racist? Who decided this? What would be the responsibility of paid employees that you say the party has to employ?

  • Hilton Marlton 10th Sep '21 - 10:44am

    This article is really depressing because the party should, by now, know exactly what it needs to do, but somehow doesn’t have any sense of urgency or an ambitious strategy. On paper, the Lib Dems should be the natural home to diaspora communities but until the party steps out of its intellectual comfort zone and really starts finding out what the most important issues are for each community, then we will have little appeal or relevance. (We are succeeding in areas where this is already taking place). The party will become diverse if we take the lead and start to talk about the fundamental connection between legacy issues like empire and slavery and exactly how these issues underpin inequality, prejudice and entitlement today. Knife crime on the streets of London or Manchester hasn’t appeared out of nowhere. White privilege exists for a reason. Until there has been an honest, difficult debate about legacy issues, and a concrete programme of social/economic engineering to ameliorate arising inequalities, then I can’t see why anyone outside of a general liberal mindset would be vaguely attracted to the Lib Dems. We have little to offer other than our own agenda.

    Right now, there are no formal requirements for being a member of the Lib Dems, being a member is a pretty passive thing if you so choose, but we should be an interactive, aspirational organisation where members are continually questioning and bettering themselves. Should the party not require all members to undergo Unconscious Bias training and pass a basic liberal literacy test? Should the party not have a members continual development programme so we can all be on a journey of self improvement? Most Lib Dems seem to be decent but that simply isn’t enough. Being passively engaged doesn’t provide the impetus for the huge cultural change this party needs. We need high levels of self awareness, empathy and critical thinking to be able to actively transform this party into a relevant political force. Change will come need to come from members en mass but right now, we could collectively do with a big gear change.

  • Hilton Marlton, I don’t know whether to laugh out loud or be very scared by your suggestion, people say the tories are an authoritiarian party, what would be next? minimum IQ to vote?
    No, obviously no, to unconscious bias training or a liberal literacy test as a criteria for qualifying for membership.

    Yes to an interactive and aspirational membership.

    As for slavery legacy, during black history month a friend of my son mentioned to the class that slavery existed in Africa way before the white Europeans arrived, the class teacher denied this to the class. When challenged by the child’s father, an immigrant from Somalia, the school head said it was not useful to teach that black Africans enslaved black Africans prior to the arrival of the Europeans, not so much education in this case as indoctrination and promotion of guilt and self hate.
    By all means let’s face the truth….the whole truth.
    Not sure why, but I feel the need to end with-:
    ‘I love big brother🤣’
    ‘I love big brother

  • John Barrett 10th Sep '21 - 8:28pm

    Hilton Marlton says – “Right now, there are no formal requirements for being a member of the Lib Dems, …………..and, Should the party not require all members to undergo Unconscious Bias training and pass a basic liberal literacy test? ”

    The answer to this is simply – No.

    If someone wants to join the party, pay their membership fee and then do nothing, as the majority of members in all British political parties do, that should be fine, without them being made to feel that they need to pass a test or go on a “journey of self improvement.” Which, combined with the Unconscious Bias training and the liberal literacy test, sounds like something that, from a different perspective, might have come from the People’s Republic of China.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Sep '21 - 11:15pm

    Bringing truth and sense, Both, Justin and John!

    Hilton, on the other hand, unbelievable!

  • the leadership, who were given responsibility for carrying out the recommendations, are doing precisely the opposite of what Alderdice recommended. It has embarked on a general equality, diversity and inclusion policy that does not prioritise ethnic minorities, and has no plans to lead a campaign to help local parties reach out to local communities.

    If the text copied above is accurate (I say that only because I have not done any verification) then the situation is very concerning.

    There are many protected characteristics listed by the Equality Act 2010, all of which rightly need to be advanced by our Party. However we that does not require us to put equal emphasis and effort behind every protected characteristic.

    Historically, our Party has severely underperformed with ethnic minorities and with non-Christian religious groups. We need to prioritise rectifying that, not only because that would be just, but because it should be a vital political objective for our Party if we are going to increase our representation in Parliament and in local councils around the country.

  • Nancy (Soko) Jirira 13th Sep '21 - 8:53am

    Timely recap from the ethnic minorities groups in the Lib [email protected] Amin on Protected characteristics 2010 – thanks.
    As Lib Dems we should be directing more effort and engage others out there rather than spend energy looking to disagree with each other. Local parties can be embroiled in discussions about internal differences. This can lead to frustrations for everyone. Differences are a +ve.
    I would like the party to seek help from people who are turning to us as a political party and ask them how we can reach out effectively.
    Operation Black Vote, Every Vote Matters could help us with reaching out. Can the Liberal Reform also help us with strategy for this. We don’t have time to discuss. We must act 🎬 soon.

  • It might help to focus on institutional racism. Examine factors such as the rejection rate for parliamentary approvals. I mention that one because I knew two strong candidates who were rejected in 2019. Both appeared to have little idea of why they were rejected. I have raised this with a number of senior party people but never had any feedback even though I’m group leader in one of our most diverse cities. If you find an unusually high rejection rate, you have to dig around. You can tackle the problem from one direction – doing training on unconscious bias. But the party could also be seen to make an effort identify the weak spots rather than relying purely on individual experience. Similarly is there any statistical evidence about local party officers? How does the proportion of BAME reflect the proportion of BAME members and of the population at large?

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