Layla Moran writes…The change we need to move towards racial equality

Every week, LDV gives each leadership candidate the opportunity to write an article. This is Layla’s for this week. 

UPDATE: Since writing this response, sent to the original letter writers on Sunday 2 August and posted on LDV on  4 August)  I have been involved in discussions with members, and have added my support to the Abolish BAME campaign. It’s time to end the use of BAME as a catch-all term. We can all do better on this, including me, and I hope this is the start of the change that’s needed.

Thank you for writing to me about racial equality in our country and our party. This issue must be an absolute priority and I am glad it has received such significant attention throughout our leadership contest, thanks to the work of members such as yourselves.

I would also like to sincerely apologise for the delay in replying and hope you have had the opportunity to hear about my vision during the hustings so far.

As you so rightly point out, the Liberal Democrats need to be at the forefront of challenging racism and since becoming an MP I’ve put this at the heart of my work.

Whether that’s campaigning for companies that profited from slavery to pay out and support BAME communities, leading calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed, fighting to dismantle the Conservatives’ hostile environment, or shining a spotlight on systemic inequalities in our education system, which mean black pupils are so much more likely to be excluded than their white peers.

The events of recent months have shown us why this struggle is more important than ever. As chair of the only comprehensive cross-party inquiry into the government’s handling of coronavirus, I’m committed to ensuring that the appallingly disproportionate impact on BAME communities is properly addressed and never repeated.

However, we also need to go much further, in order to build a fairer society where opportunity for all is a reality not just a buzzword. Under my leadership, I want our party to harness the energy and passion shown by the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd and champion more ambitious policies that will deliver real change.

One of the biggest issues facing BAME communities today is inequality in the workplace, which is why I’ve reached out to the Confederation of British Industry, the British Retail Consortium, and the Trades Union Congress, to help draw up legislation that would require companies to publish data on their ethnicity pay gap for the first time.

As a former teacher, I also understand the paramount importance of education as a tool for change. So I’m calling for an urgent national review, led by BAME experts, to introduce a more diverse range of historical perspectives into our curriculum and examinations.

We also need to look at the specific issues that led to the BLM protests in the US and then here in the UK. Even a cursory look at the Stop and Search statistics to see that the approach of police forces is discriminatory.

Of course, to lead the way with these kinds of campaigns and develop progressive new polices on equality in health, housing and criminal justice, we also need to radically change ourselves.

I’m proud that as the UK’s first British-Palestinian MP I’m speaking from the Liberal Democrat benches, but we still have a shocking lack of diversity at all levels in our party and this simply cannot go on any longer.

The first point of my plan for leadership is making sure we look like the communities we want to represent.

That means implementing the Alderdice Review, along with the relevant parts of the Thornhill Review, listening to BAME members, setting clear diversity targets and getting every local party reaching out to minority communities in their area, asking people what they want to see from us and inviting them to get involved.

It is far too easy to keep recruiting more people like those already overrepresented in our party and in elected positions.

Because it’s only with a truly representative party that we can tackle the systemic and overt racism which still affects the lives of so many people across our country.

During the various hustings, where I am glad to say these issues have been discussed a lot, I’ve argued that we need much more effective unconscious bias training throughout the party. I am fed up of hearing black members tell me about some of the questions they keep being asked, and of candidates being told that they should go and get selected ‘somewhere more suitable’.

I believe that it is the responsibility of everyone in the party to reach out to every community and to actively encourage those from BAME communities to stand as candidates. Some work has been done to encourage this approach in the past, but it has been very limited, and needs to become mainstream.

We also need to look at the systematic issues that make it harder for BAME candidates to succeed and identify how the party can provide additional support, financial or otherwise, where it is needed. We need a strategy that supports more diverse candidates at every stage of the process.

One of the themes of my leadership campaign is that we have to live our values as a party. On this issue, we have fallen well short of that ideal.

Thank you again for getting in touch. I’m looking forward to hearing from you further during the Race Equality Hustings on Wednesday and working together as we move our party forward.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

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10 Comments

  • Nigel Jones 4th Aug '20 - 4:44pm

    Layla, you are right to say we cannot lead on this without acting within our party. As to Education, last Saturday I joined a North Staffordshire Campaign against Racism&Fascism meeting. David Kebede, vice-president of NEU, revealed his attempts at projects in schools (which need to be encouraged) he also presented information showing how humanities are much too narrowly taught, leaving out major stories about the achievements as well as struggles of black people around the world. We mentioned the need for greater freedom for teachers to engage with the backgrounds of their pupils, drawing on the ethnic mix in their classes. It was said that now is an opportunity to be more positive about overcoming racism. Last Sunday I watched Chineke, the orchestra of mainly BAME players, in their 2017 Prom concert; a wonderful example to all. We need to see the presence of black people in our schools as an opportunity to enrich the curriculum for everyone, not as a problem to be overcome.

  • Pramod Subbaraman 4th Aug '20 - 5:31pm

    Finally!!!

    I thought we were never going to get a response, and here it is, a month after our letter was published. Thank you for the response anyway and it’s good to see you address many of the issues that we are concerned about. All the best

  • This is what’s going on and it needs to be stopped. I don’t know how much the police hierarchy monitor it but it’s time they got a grip on it.

    BBC FOOTBALL

    England and Tottenham defender Danny Rose believes he has been racially targeted by police who stopped his car when driving.

    The 30-year-old said that he is regularly pulled over and questioned.

    “Each time it’s, ‘Is this car stolen? Where did you get this car from? What are you doing here? Can you prove that you bought this car?’,” he told the Second Captains podcast.

    “This has been happening since I was 18.”

    Rose also said he has been treated differently on public transport with train staff asking to see his ticket for a first-class carriage, while white passengers are left unchallenged.

  • @Nigel Jones

    I would never presume to speak on behalf of other people from BAME backgrounds, but I wanted to share with you something of what I feel, which was prompted by your comment about Chineke.

    I personally truly struggle with always having to or feeling as if I am required to do things ‘separately’ from the ‘general population’ of the UK. Layla’s Post touches on this when she talks about people being advised to stand in certain areas.

    Chineke are, as you say, excellent, but should it be the case that black classical musicians only get to play or are seen and valued in certain orchestras? Can black politicians only do a good job in areas that have larger numbers of people from minority communities? For me personally, it adds to the message that I don’t belong to British society, that I’m not part of its fabric and essence and that my place is on the fringes. This is the notion that I’m hoping that people like yourself and the Liberal Democrats can challenge.

  • Laurence Cox 5th Aug '20 - 2:28pm

    @krissib

    It is wrong to argue against BAME orchestras like Chineke. What they do is to give more opportunities for BAME people to play classical music at the highest level, and that in time will lead to more of them having the opportunity to play in other professional orchestras. I could also cite two other examples: Daniel Barenboim’s West Eastern Divan orchestra, which he co-founded with the late Edward Said for musicians from Middle Eastern countries and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, which dates back to 1978. In both cases they bring the opportunity to perform classical music for musicians from countries that do not have a long history of it.

    So you need to see Chineke as being equivalent to an all-BAME shortlist. Ideally, it should not be necessary, but if we are to get to that point we need enough BAME politicians, both good and bad, in Parliament that everyone understands that the quality of a politician does not depend on their skin colour. In music, at least, blind auditions, where the performer plays behind a screen, are now the norm.

  • “ … I am fed up of hearing black members tell me about some of the questions they keep being asked, and of candidates being told that they should go and get selected ‘somewhere more suitable’.”

    If this is sort of thing is happening anywhere within the Lib Dems, it is truly shocking and wholly unacceptable. Are the party’s internal complaints and disciplinary procedures working sufficiently effectively to root out such discriminatory behaviour by relevant Local Party members and/or officers?

  • @Laurence Cox

    Thank you for your comment.
    I wasn’t really trying to argue against the existence of Chineke, although I can see why it would appear that way.

    I was merely expressing my personal frustrations as a member of a BAME community – (I really do want to emphasise that it is just my own opinion and others would, I am sure, entirely disagree.)

    I find it alienating and excluding that the only way I, or others similar to myself, can access certain aspects of British society, is through some sort of ‘separate’ scheme first. I do not want to have to prove myself worthy before I am given a chance at doing something I am qualified to do.

    I suppose it is my equivalent of ‘go and stand somewhere suitable’. What I hear in situations such as this is, ‘are you sure *this* job/area/organisation wouldn’t be more up your street…?’, sadly often followed up with some sort of stereotyped assumption.

    My aim in commenting was to share my experiences and opinions as part of a discernment process that I hope will lead to an equal society.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Aug '20 - 12:08am

    As ever, Layla, intellectually mainstream, accessible, contributing her direct experience as well as views. I back her, in no sense against Ed, but for her positive approach.

    As a white man, I am not BAME, yet, as the son of an immigrant from Italy, with a wife born and bred in the States, who has a refugee mother from Poland, I here, and my wife in the States have experienced prejudice, in jokes or worse. I regularly heard jokes against the Italians”in the war,” as a kid in eighties London! She, my wife, has been attacked verbally on the streets of predominantly non white areas of New York, by black New Yorkers, in the same era!

    We can see prejudice everywhere. Layla knows this, as she is nuanced and aware.

    Krissib, is admirable here, sorry Laurence, you mistake his integration approach, that of a black individual person who does not want to be one word only, of those three, for hostility to an orchestra? I hear sensibility to being considered as able to be involved as any, in any context, and desires that for black musicians! Though I do like much else you write here Laurence

  • richard underhill 6th Aug '20 - 2:23pm

    The Liberal Party and the SDP had too many policies and lacked focus.
    So did the Liberal-SDP Alliance,
    the Alderdice review must be followed completely.

  • richard underhill 7th Aug '20 - 10:45am

    Layla Moran MP | Tue 4th August 2020 – 3:14 pm
    Everyone remembers a good teacher, I do, but not just the good ones.
    As a schoolboy I was horrified by slavery in Roman Empire. What we would nowadays call prisoners of war were enslaved. The Latin teacher said that they were generally well treated.
    Later we learned that if a slave had a baby it would be thrown into the Gloaca Maxima.

    The opposite has been argued for the transatlantic slave trade, that the enslaved would breed, so that transporting them across the ocean/s would become unnecessary.
    George Washington, the first US President, was a slave owner who transported slaves across state lines so that their status as slaves would not expire.
    https://www.biography.com/us-president/george-washington

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