Liberal Democrats in support of black lives and black livelihoods

An open letter to the candidates for Leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

3rd July 2020

Dear Leadership Candidate,

Though the espoused commitment of the Liberal project to achieve racial equality within the UK may indeed be sincere, a lack of diverse representation at all levels of the party betrays the fact that as liberals we have found it inexplicably difficult to practice what we preach.

In a post imperial, post-Brexit Britain, the rightful place for British Liberalism surely, should be at the vanguard of the fight for racial justice and equality. Yet on issues of race, we find ourselves perennially navel-gazing, apparently stuck in a holding pattern of our own making. The pace of change within the party, frustratingly glacial at best.

Martin Luther King taught that though legislation may be effective in restraining the heartless, it has little effect in changing a man’s heart and ridding him of his implicit biases.

If Grenfell, Windrush and Covid-19 have taught us anything post-Macpherson, it is that the cancer of racism is thriving in the UK; albeit, having evolved a degree of invisibility, metastasizing into aversive forms such as silence, stonewalling and political inertia, the manifestations of which continue to be largely ignored.

When Derek Chauvin placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck, hands in pockets, eyes devoid of empathy, emboldened by the wilful and negligent silence of his fellow officers, the cloak of invisibility slipped. The racial animus was evident to all who observed. And on this occasion, could not be hidden, ignored or explained away.

Should you become leader of the Liberal Democrats, what will you do to remove this cloak of invisibility, so even the most subtle forms of racism within the party become detectable, actionable and sanctionable?

As Leader, which keystone policies will you personally champion to address well documented systemic, structural, race inequities that persist in housing, household incomes, health, education, employment, immigration and the criminal justice system? – to mention but a few.

And finally, what steps do you deem necessary to make the party more diverse, more representative of ‘the entirety of the UK and consequently more electable?

We cordially and respectfully invite you to publish any response to Liberal Democrat Voice.

Yours truly,

Ashburn Holder
Julliet Makhapila
Pramod Subbaraman
Cllr. Rabi Martins
Cllr. Dr. Yukteshwar Kumar
Cllr. Tumi Hawkins
Paul E.M. Reynolds
Ukonu Obasi
Nancy Jirira
Cllr. William Houngbo
Lisa Brett
Glanville Williams
Dr. Turhan Ozen.

* Glanville Williams, on behalf of Black Liberal Democrats which is an affinity group of diverse individuals who want to improve the experience and representation of black people at all levels within the party

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12 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jul '20 - 1:21pm

    There is a real sense of analysis and frustrating expression in articles such as this from Glanville.

    We must not either be complacent, or give up.

    My adhering to the best in values we share as human beings, rather than worst , makes for realisation that as most in our country, especially this party, care and are aware, if informed and listening, means progress, which is needed, can and shall happen.

    We must realise that the history of this party, its successes or failures, in higher ethnic minority areas, is influenced by the fact, that two parties, with similar progressive views on matters that concern all, but appeal historically to BAME communities, and individual voters,are present. Most age old Liberals stuck with this party , most younger members of BAME communities saw Labour as their party. Things change, this party shall more. That does not make it a racist party. It makes it an unrepresentative one only in its being old and small and in areas especially where the old Liberal party had some chance.

    Glanville and colleagues herein, do not give up, but do reach out, as all of us must, ever.

  • Julliet Makhapila 3rd Jul '20 - 1:34pm

    We invite you all to help join us in to voice the issues of Blacks and especially the Africans and Carribeans (BME) in our Lib dem Party. This group feels marginalised in our political party. And it would be good to reflect upon hearing many of there stories for years and you would perharps be interested to understand why we have set up an action group which aims to specifically address issues faced upon BME . Thank you so much Lib dem voice for helping share this open Letter to inviting both Party Leadership Contestants to comment on improving issues of Blacks and a way forward. Thank you to all Volunteers who work to support issues of improving diversity and inclusion within the Lib dem Party. If anyone wishes to join our Action group, plz feel free to contact Administrator on 07742384052 Or +447742384052

  • It’s just a contrarian thought, but…….. I was looking on the Conservative Home site. I searched for the term “BAME”. The last article that had that term in it’s title was more than two years ago, and some of the contributions to the comments section weren’t very sympathetic. And yet they have Sunak, Zahawi, Patel, Kwartang, Javid, Badenock, Afridie, Cleverly and that’s just off the top of my head. Of course we had Sam, but we didn’t look after him very well.
    On the other hand we talk the talk…………. Can anyone explain that apparent paradox ?

  • Excellent questions, and ones that deserve a full article in response rather than just something here in the comments. I hear you, and will submit a full article to LDV on these shortly!

  • Pramod Subbaraman 4th Jul '20 - 7:06am

    Ah! Chris Cory, well observed. We are brilliant at talking the talk. As for walking the walk, that’s another story. Don’t forget that Sam came to us as an MP from another party. If he had started with us, he would never have been elected.

  • Paradox and contrarian views on issues appear to be the raison d’etre of liberal democracy. Show them a bandwagon and on it they will jump. For the few not the many. It is the Facebook and Twitter ‘we are their leaders we must follow them’party. I wouldn’t expect to find many similar people on Conservative Home, as generally they appear to be interested in policies for all without favour.

  • Peter Kenny 4th Jul '20 - 11:39pm

    The Windrush scandal followed directly from the 2014 Immigration Act, supported by almost all MPs – only 7 voted against, none of them Lib Dem’s.

    As Glanville says, racism is alive and well, as is hypocrisy and hapless hand wringing.

  • Rabi Martins 5th Jul '20 - 1:07am

    I am so pleased Ed Davey has committed to responding to our Open Letter with an article
    I know Ed is not one fir platitudes or idle promises
    As some of you know chaired the group which produced the Race Diversity and the Party which the late Charles Kennedy and Lord Dholakia launched in the House i’d Commons in 2003
    More recently Baroness Mersl Eve produced another report on Racial Equality Both contained practical recommendations And two years ago Lord Alderdice produced yet another report which called it as it is
    So whilst our Party engages in constant navel
    gazing the conservatives have become the Party of which is able to demonstrate that they can entrust individuals from BAME background with responsibility
    When will our Party do the same ?
    Creating one or two peers will no longer cut it although there are several BAME members who are probably well qualified to hold that office The problem is there appears to be no genuine desire to acknowledge that the Colour Blind approach our Party purports to advocate actually masks deep routed unconscious bias -although I sometimes wonder if it is all that unconscious – against BAME or more correctly Black and Asian talent As i long serving Lib Dem it hurts me to say thus But it needs to be said

  • Mr Williams, thank you for your letter and your co-signatories. Have we a group in the party that deals with inclusion, integration and progress in racial diversity? If not, would you and your co-signatories be willing to form one? I would be willing to join.
    We need perhaps to take a leaf out of the Labour Party’s book on this but push it further.
    Have you seen that their Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner left school aged 16 owing to pregnancy? I would like to see such things in our party. I am no advocate of teenage pregnancy nor stopping studies. Poverty and deprivation, which pregnancy at a young age can bring, ought to be no bar to social progress. It is especially true if we are to have a free, open, nurturing society we espouse as Liberal Democrats. Young parents make up a significant proportion of the Caribbean diaspora experience. We should be teaching them their social condition has nothing to do with their aspiration, parents or offspring. They too can rise to be deputy leader or leader of their political party regardless of their colour. Is that not the dream of Dr King? We should look to make it come true in our party.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-52127078

  • Chris Cory, I can explain the apparent paradox. Clearly, the Conservative Party fosters and mentors its BAME candidates. They don’t care where you are from as long as you conform to the values of Conservatism. Remember, they gave us the first woman Prime Minister who was famed for her gutsy, manly qualities that typified conformity to right-wing values. When she reached the end of her usefulness she was discarded. The Conservative Party recognises it must be diverse to be electable, as does Labour. We would do well to put our house in order on the point of diversity and representation.

  • Thanks Mr Davey for not only answering the open letter, but also going to the effort of giving a fuller, detailed response. It shows you, like your predecessor, Mr Farron, take the matter seriously. We are still waiting for the other leadership contender to comment.
    As a result of this thread some 30 members from the African and Caribbean Liberal Democrats are in discussion to form a group with the specific interest of discussing and profile raising on the issues that we feel ought to come to the attention of the leadership going forward. The invitation is open to all. Pls call Julliet Makhapila 07742 384052 if you are interested.

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