Opinion: If we fail to address the image of an all-white party our reputation alone will put off future black and Asian people from joining

The Liberal Democrats are showing signs of getting serious about tackling the chronic under-representation of black and Asian talent in elected positions – and about time too.

In a groundbreaking move that was sadly unreported, the London Region recently agreed to introduce positive action in a bid to get at least one BAME hopeful onto the London Assembly, a body that represents a city where over a third of the population is from an ethnic minority.

The decision to reserve places – quotas by another name – on the ‘top-up list’ means the Lib Dems have gone further than any other political party in this area. There is no doubt that we, more than any other, needed to take concrete measures to tackle the current woeful lack of BAME representation.

I believe the London Region is establishing an important principle: that drastic situations call for brave measures. If we fail to address the image of an all-white party our reputation alone will put off future black and Asian people from joining, and the vicious cycle will continue. It’s what happened to the Conservatives until David Cameron broke the chain by taking unofficial positive action by stealth.

Let’s not kid ourselves about exactly how big the elephant in the room has grown. Just the mention of ‘Liberal Democrat’ to many black and Asian people now frequently brings a retort about how unrepresentative we are.

That’s why we need change now, because while the backroom measures put in place by Nick Clegg, such as the Diversity Unit and the New Generation initiative, are welcome they are aiming at the medium to long term. We cannot afford to wait that long; our brand will become too toxified.

That is why I am pleased the London Executive of the party has agreed to designate one place in the top four spots for someone from a BAME background, and two in the top six. Two of the top four places will be for women.

Although the party currently has just three seats in City Hall there used to be five, so while these changes don’t exactly guarantee a BAME Lib Dem assembly member, it is nevertheless one giant leap away from the status quo. Under the existing selection system I would have bet my house on seeing another all-white London team in 2012. Now there is more than an evens chance it won’t be.

I hope the action taken in London encourages other areas of the party to embrace changes needed to bring about a genuinely representative party. It needs to be a springboard for further action elsewhere.

Not only do we lack a single BAME Member of Parliament, but also any Euro MEPs, Welsh or London assembly members, and Scottish MSPs. And there’s a serious issue at local council level too, including some boroughs with a high proportion of BAME residents.

As Ben Moody noted recently on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free, objections from Lib Dem members to positive action often places a greater value on the rights those who are excluded – mainly white, middle-class men – than the need to reflect the diversity of society.

At a time when we have had to swallow a good number of sometimes unpalatable Tory policies for the greater good of Britain it would be perverse it we then drew the wagons around protecting internal selection procedures which continue to produce results that make us the most unrepresentative party.

The embarrassment of having an all-white Commons team before the election was intensified by Labour and the Conservatives almost doubling the number of BAME MPs at the poll – up from 14 to 27. We have now failed to elect any MP of colour at a general election since 1892, when Dadabhai Naoroji made history as the first.

Individually we may believe our intentions are good but the bigger picture tells us that exclusion is going on. The outcome is illiberal, and reluctance to do what is necessary to improve the situation deeply conservative.

As a party founded by Methodists who were at the forefront of the struggle to abolish slavery in the 19th Century I see no reason why we cannot today be a party that is fully representative of society – including race and gender. We should also lead the debate nationally on equality, yet how can we be expected to be taken seriously when we do not practice what we preach.

Addressing an Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors conference recently, deputy leader Simon Hughes urged those present to consider reserved places for BAMEs, and added he was not opposed in principle to all-BAME shortlists. Encouragingly there was no opposition from the floor, hopefully a sign that we have now turned a corner.

Before the general election, Clegg said that if all-BAME shortlists were legal he would consider adopting them for “the election after next” if other programmes did not deliver results. That’s now the forthcoming election. I support the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference, in particular the call for enabling legislation to give parties the option of introducing all-BAME shortlists if they wish.

It is no longer acceptable to simply raise objections about measures being ‘illiberal’. We need to hear what alternatives are on offer that will equally deliver the results needed.

As a member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, I can reveal that we are proposing a motion to Annual Conference that calls for a reserved place for at least one BAME member on the shortlist whenever a sitting Liberal Democrat MP retires, any by-elections where a Liberal Democrat MP resigns, and seats which require a five percent or less swing.

EMLD is also calling for reserved places for all multi-member ‘constituencies’ for selecting candidates for MEPs, MSPs, AMs and local council candidates, based on Office of National Statistics populations in each area.

The old nostrum that “we want them but they just aren’t coming forward” is not quite true. We already have a good deal of the excellent emerging BAME members, and positive action measures will allow their talents to shine. I confidently predict that local members will be impressed by many hopefuls who, at present, are just not getting to selection contests.

As a party we need to grasp the nettle in order to promote the talent we currently have and attract the next generation. But we need to act fast before the legion of future MPs, who were inspired first by Barack Obama and then by Nick Clegg, are not lost to politics, or at least to us.

To miss out on this huge pool of talent doesn’t make business sense. But it’s not just about getting black and brown faces elected, it’s about what they can contribute. People from BAME backgrounds bring experiences and perspectives that can enrich politics, contributing to ‘mainstream’ issues and bringing expertise on how to tackle the entrenched unequal racial outcomes.

Lester Holloway is a councillor in Sutton, an Executive member of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and ‘race champion’ for the London Region

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131 Comments

  • “A reserved place for at least one BAME member on the shortlist whenever a sitting Liberal Democrat MP retires, any by-elections where a Liberal Democrat MP resigns, and seats which require a five percent or less swing.”

    I agree.

    I do not agree with all-BAME shortlists though. This would be unfairly discriminatory.

  • “A reserved place for at least one BAME member on the shortlist whenever a sitting Liberal Democrat MP retires, any by-elections where a Liberal Democrat MP resigns, and seats which require a five percent or less swing.”

    Setting aside my opposition to any form of discrimination (which any proposal for any sort of ‘protected’ seat would be) how would this work in, for example, our rural, Scottish seats, where the population is approximately 95 – 99% white? You’d end up with a token candidate – possibly from Glasgow, possibly from England – who wouldn’t have a cat’s chance in hell of being selected. Not exactly a promising situation for any candidate to find themselves in.

  • Well, I suppose this saves me worrying about how to pay for conference…

  • @KL I take your point. It can be modelled to areas with a high proportion of BAME residents, and as long as this additional guarantee was not at the expense of another person, then there is certainly no discrimination directly against someone. [I didn’t get Jennie’s comment?]

  • I have always said that should the party adopt any form of positive discrimination, I would resign my membership. As a woman, I find the whole concept patronising and offensive. I am not anybody’s token. So, Lester has saved me worrying about how to pay for a conference ticket.

  • I’m really disappointed, we’re not New Labour and shouldn’t try and emulate their controversial and patronising selections process where identity and appearance is more important than ideas.

    It just saddens me to think that a Liberal party is organising candidates based upon criteria other than ideas, passion for the job or concern for the area.

    We don’t need all-women shortlists – we have plenty of brilliant female candidates, and through bad luck many of them didnt win – Derby North, Watford, York, Cornwall, Devon, Durham and plenty more all could’ve returned Lib Dem female MPs had the Clegg bounce held up on polling day.

    This kind of centralised control on selections is not what this party is about.

  • Andrea Gill 30th Jun '10 - 2:43pm

    @Mike “We don’t need all-women shortlists – we have plenty of brilliant female candidates, and through bad luck many of them didnt win – Derby North, Watford, York, Cornwall, Devon, Durham and plenty more all could’ve returned Lib Dem female MPs had the Clegg bounce held up on polling day.”

    Same for Colne Valley. Mind you at least our white, male Tory MP stood as a Lib Dem last time 😉

  • Lester, I agree that increasing our BAME representation on councils and in the commons is a worthwhile ideal, but I think some of the self-criticism is misplaced and the methods you propose too extreme. The ‘unrepresentative’ label has also been levelled at our party in terms of gender split and discussed at length on LDV.

    You say that ‘we failed to elect an MP of colour’. Of course the truth is that the electorate failed to elect any of our BAME PPCs. I campaigned my arse off for Columba Blango in Peckham Rye and he made a big gain in votes, but ultimately, the problem is that Labour are still very strong in areas with large BAME communities. As KL mentioned, to parachute strong BAME candidates into areas where we are strong like Scotland and the South West looks like tokenism.

    We need to make sure that we foster strong links with BAME community groups and encourage members from those groups to become involved in Liberal politics and stand as councillors and PPCs; I am even in favour of representative quotas at the shortlist level for gender (nationwide) and for ethnicity in key areas but I think that once you demand all-female, all-black or all-asian shortlists then you are sacrificing fairness in order to engineer equality.

    Another approach could be to try and give more of a platform to our BAME party members and activists, encouraging them to contribute here and on other blogs and creating opportunities for them to speak in public more often.

  • @Jennie: “I have always said that should the party adopt any form of positive discrimination, I would resign my membership” Only if you are a member of the London Region. And only then if you believe that you should not campaign internally to halt this move.

    This should not have saved you a conference ticket but rather encouraged you to run a campaign to get as many people-who-agree-with-you to conference as possible and persuade people that any kind of posiitve discrimination is a bad idea in the national party.

  • “Just the mention of ‘Liberal Democrat’ to many black and Asian people now frequently brings a retort about how unrepresentative we are.”

    I suspect the frequency of such comments is linked to the support the mentioner of Liberal Democrats has for BAME shortlists.

    Can someone from London region answer the question about how being from a BAME category will be defined? Depending on the defintion used we have had Assembly members from a BAME background in 1999-2005 (Lynne Featherstone – Jewish). I’ve also seen it posted here that Dee Doocey is from an Irish background, if correct then on a very wide defintion of BAME the “one of three” criteria was met in 2009.

    If the issue is to address us appearing as an all-white party then that is a decision for London region – but they need to get their definitions right from the start.

  • I did not join the Liberal party 30 years ago because I was in favour of racial discrimination. I am still not.
    Surely this is illegal?

  • I sometimes think our liberalism shoots us in the foot… 

    I wholeheartedly support the liberal argument that any form of discrimination is wrong. But the important word is *any* discrimination – not just overt, institutional or deliberate discrimination such as all-women / all-BAME shortlists. Latent, subtle, inadvertant discrimination – the sort that keeps our BAME candidate count so low – is equally wrong. 

    I know two wrongs don’t make a right etc, but that’s not an excuse for doing nothing about the original wrong. So for those who flinch at the thought of any kind of positive action/discrimination (even the fairly mild form proposed in the upcoming motion) – do you have an alternative suggestion?

    It’s not good enough for us to say that our female/BAME candidates just “didn’t happen to get elected” or that our female/BAME members just don’t put themselves forward. Why don’t they? Are we saying women and ethnic minorities are just naturally timid, or inarticulate, or lack self-confidence, or that there’s something about Lib Dem policies or values that repels them? I doubt it.

    The other alternative is that there’s something in our party structure that holds these demographics back. And that the absence of women and ethnic minorities at the top of our party becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    We have to fix this, as a matter of urgency. The current situation shames us. Yes, all-BAME shortlists are illiberal – but not nearly as illiberal as lacking even a single BAME MP in what we like to believe is the most progressive party in Britain.

  • @Lester

    I know there is a lot of work on the definition onf BAME – however that sort of underlines my point that people aren’t clear what they mean when they use that phrase.

    The report you refer to refers to using the non-white census definitions. That would certainly provide clarity of who was and wasn’t included but wouldn’t really provide an answer to (say) the Turkish community of why we don’t consider their community underrepresented enough to merit affirmative action.

    From what Benjamin said above it doesn’t seem that London region we clear what they were voting for – other than “something must be done, this is something”

    In the grubby cut throat world of selectoral politics I’m cynical enough to see someone getting much more open about their BAME background than had previously been supposed to get an electoral advantage. That’s why the objectives and the rules need to be clearly defined.

  • @Lester

    Sorry, I don’t mean to support the “BAME candidates for BAME seats” argument. We should encourage BAME candidates to stand for PPC selection in all seats. However, I think that candidates should have a link to the area and it would be strange to take a strong London candidate and encourage them to stand in Cornwall.

    I can see that Labour have made “progress” on equality by adopting all-women shortlists. It is unavoidable if that tactic is used. However, I don’t think it’s democratic or, necessarily, more representative to do so.

    In Peckham Rye, where I campaigned for Columba, none of the black constituents I spoke to criticised the Lib Dems for not representing them ethnically. The biggest complaints I heard were about the asylum “amnesty” and Nick Clegg’s atheism. And, in the end, the community decided that they were best represented by a white candidate anyway (Harriet Harman).

    Likewise, in Bermondsey, the support from the black community is overwhelmingly behind Simon Hughes and Val Shawcross (both white) and the black candidate for the Conservatives received little support from them.

    I think it’s worthwhile to address under-representation in gender, race and religious groupings but it’s patronising to minority groups to imply that their concerns cannot be represented to someone who does not come from their group.

  • Andrew Suffield 30th Jun '10 - 6:36pm

    objections from Lib Dem members to positive action often places a greater value on the rights those who are excluded

    No it doesn’t. You can’t create equality by introducing inequality. That does not work.

    The worst part is that we’ve been over this dozens of times, and your proposal does absolutely nothing to address the reason why we don’t have people with different colour makeup standing as candidates: none of them bother to apply. In fact, very often nobody bothers to apply, and we get no candidates standing for winnable seats.

    In terms of whether a candidate gets on the final shortlist, the ability to be a great elected representative is, of course, core

    That would be nice, but in reality far too many seats at all levels of government have a shortlist of one, which was also the number of applicants.

  • Bob Roberts 30th Jun '10 - 7:04pm

    Well I remember the GLA selection last time – Meral Ece stormed off when she realised she didn’t get selected high enough up the list (I was there) so I suppose it would stop that from happening again, but to be honest it is tokenistic rubbish which this party should be ashamed of.

  • @Mark

    In a ballot of our members across a Region, those who participate are much more likely to vote for someone they know, and all the evidence of three Regional selections for the GLA and the European Parliament over thirteen years supports my contention. The power of incumbency, for example, makes breaking into the upper echelons of a regional list very difficult – they have that ‘profile’ that you denigrate too lightly.

    I’m sure you’re absolutely right, but I’m very far from convinced that this returns the most talented candidates. Sadly, without naming names, Lester’s description of people with no lives ceaslessly pounding the rubber chicken circuit rings very true. And then once they’ve achieved elected office they’re almost impossible to shift dud to the incumbency factor.

    Of course, this isn’t just a BAME issue – it applies (and I believd holds back a lot of real talent) across the board. I know this would probably cause other problems, but one solution might be to limit voting for candidates to members who attend the hustings. I’ve been at hustings where nearly everyone in the room voted for one candidate – and nearly all the postal votes were for a different candidate, who either had name recognition or looked good on paper but couldn’t perform in reality. 

    After all, we wouldn’t dream of setting party policy by all-member postal ballot and selecting candidates is just as important, arguably more so.

  • paul barker 30th Jun '10 - 9:18pm

    Lester, great article but a bit too moderate & understanding. This should have been sorted 20 years ago, its way too late for considering long-term measures & gradual changes unfortunately.
    The changes in London are agood start.
    PS anybody else got a letter inviting them to join The Labour Party ?

  • @Andrew

    The worst part is that we’ve been over this dozens of times, and your proposal does absolutely nothing to address the reason why we don’t have people with different colour makeup standing as candidates: none of them bother to apply.

    Agreed, but one of the main reasons they don’t apply is because we have so few elected representatives from their ethnic backgrounds, so they assume – consciously or subconsciously – that they’re not wanted.

    It’s unfortunately a pretty stubborn part of human nature that most people need rolemodels, especially before putting themselves forward for something new that they have no prior experience of. Basically, people tend to do what other people who look or sound like them have done before them. That’s what puts off a lot of non-public school students from applying to Oxbridge – most of the other students sound like toffs so they assume they wouldn’t fit in.

    And I ask again of all those opposed to positive action/discrimination – what are your alternative suggestions? Or are you happy/resigned to the way things are?  

  • Jonathan Hunt 30th Jun '10 - 11:19pm

    These comments are, unlike our MPs, probably truly representative.

    But we should be sure of the terms we are using. Positive discrimination is unlawful in Britain. Positive action is legal, and practised by rousands of employers. I list the definitions at the end. Positive action includes measures to counter the effects of past discrimination.

    That is why we need such radical measures now, because of discrimination against non-white members in being elected to publc office, and to show the increasing numbers of black voters that we go further than the other parties in our polices, and in our efforts to make sure they have better opportunities to partipate and be elected.

    The census next year will show that the proportion of the non-white population may be as high as one-in-seven of the total. No mainstream party can afford to alienate so many voters.

    I hope that most members will support measures that discriminate against no one, and practice real Liberal values principles and values in giving a helping hand up to those who deserve it most.
    JH

    What is positive action?
    The term ‘positive action’ refers to a number of methods designed to counteract the effects of past discrimination and to help abolish stereotyping.
    Action can be taken to encourage people from particular groups to take advantage of opportunities for work and training. This can be done when under¬representation of particular groups has been identified in the previous year.
    Under this broad meaning positive action may include initiatives such as the introduction of non-discriminatory selection procedures, training programmes or policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment.

  • “Well I remember the GLA selection last time – Meral Ece stormed off when she realised she didn’t get selected high enough up the list (I was there) so I suppose it would stop that from happening again,”

    Surely that would depend on whether the minority ethnic group she self-defines as was included in the groups to be prioritised. That isn’t clear from the reports above of the motion passed by London region.

  • We’ll have more bme mps when we win more seats, let’s get campaigning. Secondly, if this will still requiree self defining as so championed by labour leaning, publicly funded pressure groups, what is to stop me self defining as BME (I’m not) and getting an automatic shortlisting?

  • From the Lib Dem constitution:
    “we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.”
    This is discrimination based on race – it is quite possible that a white person will be lower on the list despite having more votes than a person from a minority.

    have we gone mad? You can’t have good discrimination.

  • @Mohammed
    We had a dual selection here in Merton one for each seat. We only has 1 candidate for each, 1 of whom Shas Sheehan was an excellent candidate from an ethnic minority. I suspect she would have been selected even if there had been more candidates because she was very good.
    Are you suggsteting that more people from minorities are not selected becuase of racism? So your answer is more racism.?

  • The Lib-Dems should try to enrole as many Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims as possible.Their expertise in scams such as multiple voting and postal vote fraud would ensure a massive increase in the Lib-Dem vote. After all, it works for Labour.
    Perhaps to that end, Simon Hughes should try a bit more of the cowardly, shameless grovelling to the Muslims that made him look so pathetic on Youtube. (Not seen it? Well you are missing a treat!)

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '10 - 3:00pm

    I have not myself seen any examples of cases where someone with a dark skin has not been put forward for election despite wanting to. In local elections, it is almost always the case we struggle to find enough candidates and to find people willing to take on the task of being a councillor. Anyone who wants to be a council candidate can do so, anyone who wants to be a councillor can do so providing they are willing to put the necessary work into it. All that is needed is that the person fulfills the requirements of at least being reasonably in accord with the party politically and not to have any gross character defects.

    What I have seen more than once, unfortunately, is someone with a dark skin coming forward, and the party so eager to be seen not to be all-white, that the requirements for putting in the necessary work, being in accord with the party politically and not to have any gross character defects are ignored. The result is someone who is actually unsuitable for being a candidate or councillor gets the role, and because they are unsuitable causes us severe embarrassment when they do something which shows their unsuitability.

    There is something about our party which appeals to a certain sort of character trait more common amongst English people than others. Perhaps we are reluctant to admit that, but if no such things exist as character traits found more in some ethnic groups than others, the case for being concerned over ethnic balance diminishes anyway. The trait I am thinking of is a rather eccentric bloody-mindedness which is attracted to lost causes and will carry on fighting for them even when it seems hard work for no reward.

    Now, when it comes to PPCs leading to MPs, I think our party does have a bias in the mechanisms by which they come into existence, but it’s a more subtle one than just a gender or race bias. It is a bias in favour of a certain sort of confident character type which, yes, is found more amongst white people than non-white people in the UK, but also AND EVEN MORE SO more amongst people from a privileged social class background than amongst people from a working class or lower middle class background. The capitals are there because actually I am getting more and more annoyed that these huge bias never gets talked about, and yet our party, especially with Clegg who typifies this bias leading it, does badly because of it. We don’t like the idea of social class being a factor, so we pretend it does not exist and won’t talk about it. Well, that is like saying that as we don’t believe race is a factor, we will not talk about our lack of non-white MPs or about any problems that might lead to that, let alone see if there are ways of overcoming them.

    If we do not correct the bias in favour of certain character traits, then any positive discrimination measures on race or gender will just mean a massive bias in favour of the few non-white or female people putting themselves forward who have those traits, and it will not solve the underlying problem.

  • Munira Wilson 1st Jul '10 - 3:59pm

    My strong views on positive discrimination are well-known within the party (as a result of which I am persona non grata with leading members of EMLD and our Deputy Leader). I am not going to rehearse the full arguments here yet again but suffice to say, as a BME candidate, I find the idea of being short-listed or selected because I am brown offensive and insulting. I would like to be elected as a Liberal Democrat MP because I am good enough to do the job and because the residents of my chosen constituency believe I will be a strong representative for their interests, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, etc. As well as all the arguments around the principle, there are a whole host of practical arguments against quotas and all BME/women shortlists, which Mark V articulates very well above. Dinti Batstone and CGB have also explained how the huge gender imbalance in the parliamentary party is largely down to the electoral system and our disappointing result on 6 May. Positive action in selections for this general election may have had little or no impact on the outcome, given that we lost handover seats and marginal seats that we expected to win (many of which had women as PPCs, thanks to CGB’s excellent work). On the other hand, there were surprise gains, where if we had been using positive discrimination methods, those seats may not even have qualified at the time they selected. Short of saying that all selections henceforth (other than where a sitting MP wishes to continue) should only be contested by women or BME candidates, there is no way of guaranteeing outcomes in terms of people sitting on green benches, such are the vagaries of our electoral system and the uncertainty of the political climate in five years’ time.

    Adam Afriyie (Tory MP for Windsor) has today posted an excellent article on the issue of positive discrimination on Conservative Home. This is not a website of which I am a fan and I am loathed to promote it, but I feel this piece merits some promotion in the above debate: http://tinyurl.com/3x8st8w

  • Paul McKeown 1st Jul '10 - 5:00pm

    Look, I live in a constituency where the LDs did put forward an ethnic minority parliamentary candidate. Unfortunately there was absolutely no campaigning, just one, ONE, crummy leaflet with a terrible photograph. At least the local rag had a better picture of the candidate than the leaflet. And the result was abysmal, even though the constituency has a high level of immigration.

    The real issue is funding. Until the Lib Dems can attract better funding, their worthy ideals will never be fully implemented.

    Pounds, shillings and pence. Get them and everything else is solved.

  • Paul McKeown 1st Jul '10 - 5:03pm

    I believe the comment by “Dave N” posted at 2:01 pm is racially abusive and should be deleted by the moderators.

  • Rabi Martins 1st Jul '10 - 6:02pm

    @Benjamin “Now, when it comes to PPCs leading to MPs, I think our party does have a bias in the mechanisms by which they come into existence, but it’s a more subtle one than just a gender or race bias.”
    The fact is this bias works disproportionately against candidates from BAME backgrounds particularly those from Asian, African and Caribbean – visible ethnic minorities That is why we need the Party to adopt the measures proposed in the EMLD measures. Personally I would have gone further and asked for all BAME shortlists untill we have three BAME MPs
    I respect Munira Wilson’s right to oppose such positive action, but I am firmly of the opinion that if we do not take significant positive action we will be waiting a long time – possibly another 100 years – before we see a BAME Liberal Democrats MP
    Mark V is right – the approval process has not been a barrier to building up a pool of BAME PPCs. In fact in 1997 fielded more BAME candidates than either Labour or the Conservatives.
    Many of these same candidates were available for selection in 2005 and I know a number who tried unsucessfully to get selected in good winnable seats. That was a good election year for Lib Dems but none of the BAME candidates were in good winnable seats and so we ended up with No BAME MPs. The Party even failed to defend Leicester South where we had won our first BAME MP in a hundred years !
    In this last general election we had 44 Parliamentary candidates only 2 on whom were in remotely wiinable seats. I doubt they would have won even if the elections had gone much better for the Party than they did.
    I do not for a moment suggest that the Party is racist – I would not have stayed a member, let alone as active a member as I have been for the past 20 years if I thought it was
    However it is fact that there is a reluctance on the part of a large number of our local parties to promote BAME members no matter how able and experienced they are. Even in local council elections it is a rare to see BAME candidates offered first refusal in “winnable” seats
    I have heard it said by some senior Liberal Democrats who should know better that putting a BAME candidate in a safe seat could render that seat a marginal.
    We simply cannot continue in this vane and claim to be a Party of Equality and Fairness
    Liberal Democrats in Governemnt cannot claim to be a Party that represents the whole country while its Parliamentary Party remains so patently unrepresentative of the communities it serves

  • I know that this is a trivial point in the context of a very seriously conducted discussion, but I hope I am not the only person in the party who refuses to assign themselves to an ethnic background category at censuses and on other official forms.

  • @Mark Valladares – thanks, yes that explains a lot of the problems the hustings idea would entail. I don’t really have a viable solution I guess, but I do feel strongly that the current system is too biased in favour of a) incumbents and b) retired / financially independent people who have endless time to visit local parties and ingratiate themselves. b) in particular isn’t a good test of talent or suitability for public office (as sometimes evidenced when the candidate progresses to incumbency). 

    @Matthew Huntbach

    Perhaps we are reluctant to admit that, but if no such things exist as character traits found more in some ethnic groups than others, the case for being concerned over ethnic balance diminishes anyway. The trait I am thinking of is a rather eccentric bloody-mindedness which is attracted to lost causes and will carry on fighting for them even when it seems hard work for no reward.

    Yes, Ghandi knew he was going to win right from the start and didn’t put in any hard work or sacrifices.

    And the reason for more balance isn’t hypothetical “character differences” but a desire to ensure that anyone, of any ethnicity, gender or financial background, has an equal chance of becoming a member of the body that sets the laws we – and they – have to live by.

    However, I think you make a very good point about confidence. It’s probably one of the most valuable attributes that gets candidates both selected and elected, but is very biased towards white, public-school educated men, because ethnic minorities, women and people from poorer backgrounds have historically (and sometimes even today) been told by society that they are less valuable. I believe it is naive to think this bias has been eradicated by a couple of decades of nominal equality. 

    Therefore contrary to the charge of tokenism, I would argue that in the current situation, any white, male, middle-class MP is in parliament partly because society has made it easier for him to get elected than for others. If I were an MP in that demographic, I wouldn’t be able to feel that I’d been elected purely on my own merits, because the field of competitors would’ve been shrunk to my advantage.  It’s not just minority groups that can feel victims of tokenism – the current situation means the majority of MPs are tokens to some extent.

    @mohammed shafiq – Just because this site is intended for Lib Dems doesn’t mean others don’t comment here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that commenter is indeed a BNP member (if not, he should be and I believe their website is now accepting new membership inquiries again). 

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '10 - 7:40pm

    Catherine, the correct spelling is “Gandhi”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '10 - 7:44pm

    @Paul McKeown

    Look, I live in a constituency where the LDs did put forward an ethnic minority parliamentary candidate. Unfortunately there was absolutely no campaigning, just one, ONE, crummy leaflet with a terrible photograph. At least the local rag had a better picture of the candidate than the leaflet.

    Yes, I live in a constituency where the LDs put forward a white candidate, with just one small leaflet.

    That’s how we work, it has paid off well – we concentrate our resources, and it has paid off, it’s why we got many more MPs in the last and previous general elections than we did with more votes in the 1983 election.

  • Bob Roberts 1st Jul '10 - 7:48pm

    There is a difference between positive action and positive discrimination. I am not in favour of positive discrimination, although I am definitely in favour of positive action.

    Why this debate is limited to BAME candidates is beyond me. If Lester and EMLD are in favour of discrimination toward BAME candidates, then surely they should be in favour of positive discrimination toward other groups. Is Parliament representative when it comes to disabilities, sexuality or dog owners? Is our party representative in the same way? I find it particularly troubling when people say ‘oh well, you’re a predominantly white party so I’m not joining you’. I find it particularly troubling that Lib Dems state this as a reason to change our selection criteria. Principle does not have a ‘colour’.

    I don’t care who represents me as long as it is a person or a group of people who share the same political principles. If they don’t I will go out and campaign for people who do.

    We need positive action to help more GOOD candidates to stand for election. I don’t really want a party full of duff candidates (and the current list could do with serious culling). If we encourage every Tom, Dick and Hameed to stand for the party regardless of their ability then we will end up with bad representatives. Positive discrimiation does nothing to ensure GOOD representatives. Positive action on the other hand does.

    I’m sorry but EMLD have been dreadful for a very long time. A group of people who are more interested in promoting their own personal agenda rather than seriously tackling a real issue in the party. If EMLD want to see more BAME candidates then why don’t they use the summer to recruit new people. Yes, that means turnng the computer off, going outside and knocking on doors. Then if they are good, encourage them to go through the many hours of training the party provides and, if they are still interested, go through the approval process. Once they are approved candidates you can help them to get selected for a seat or a list. Once selected you can then work to get them elected.

    I was one of many people who helped Parmjit Singh Gill get elected in Leicester South back in 2004. I don’t feel aggrieved that the party did not do enough to help him get re-elected in 2005. He was in a Labour facing seat with an unpopular war fresh in the minds of voters. He didn’t win again because he didn’t do enough to get re-elected. That was his fault.

    Yes, before you say these are the arguments of a white middle class man, so do I have anything to offer to this debate?

    I am ashamed that our party is predominantly white and male, but I am more ashamed of the dreadful candidates that get selected and blow any chance of holding or winning a seat (this year was a prime example). I am more ashamed of Liberal Democrats who don’t believe in getting good candidates but would rather have a ‘face job’ just so that we look more representative.

    We should all do more to help good candidates get elected. That is our responsibility, but I don’t care if they are white, male, female, BAME, gay, straight, transgendered, young, old or those with disabilities or any other trait. They just have to be good and our selection criteria should be based on that fact alone.

  • No, I’m not a BNP member. I am a member of no political party and though I voted UKIP in May, I have voted Lib-Dem in the past. By all means have my comments deleted – after all, censorship of the truth in the name of Political Correctness is what we’ve come to expect from you dhimmified so-called liberals. Come on, have you all seen that fine display of grovelling by Simon Hughes that I mentioned? He should be ashamed of himself and you should be ashamed of him. Funny he never mentions to the Muslim audience that he is gay! I wonder why.
    Now, to those who claim that my previous posting came over as “racially abusive” I would say that it was religiously abusive not racially abusive and I make no apology for that.
    I have no evidence of Christian or Hindu Pakistanis and Bangladeshis taking part in electoral fraud and therefore would not accuse them of malpractice. Muslims, though? Just do the research. The evidence is overwhelming and make no mistake about it, this type of fraud cost both the Lib-Dems and the Tories a number of seats in the last election. 80 cases being investigated by the police, I believe – including a vicious assault on a reporter from the “Indie” who was looking into it in Tower Hamlets.
    OK, now you can all put your heads back into the sand.

  • @ Dave N

    I think what many people disagree with in the tenor of your post, it is certainly my opinion, is that you seem to suggest that because they are Muslims they are involved in this sort of thing. Is that your position? Are you saying that Islam has some embedded defects that makes its followers engage in electoral fraud? If so, is this a practice of all sects of Islam? For example, do the Sufis also engage in this sort of thing too?

  • Paul McKeown 1st Jul '10 - 8:59pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “That’s how we work, it has paid off well – we concentrate our resources, and it has paid off, it’s why we got many more MPs in the last and previous general elections than we did with more votes in the 1983 election.”

    Yes, I am aware of that. However, the poverty of ambition is fundamentally due to the poverty of finance.

  • Rabi Martins 1st Jul '10 - 9:28pm

    @Bob

    I can assure you that EMLD subscribes fully to the broader diveristy and equality agenda However EMLD stands for Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and its key objective are to promote the role of BAMES within the Party and to sell the Party and its values to ethnic minority communities

    The best way to do the latter as Labour and Conservatives have demonstrated is to have individuals from various BAME backgrounds in poistions of influence and authority within the Party.
    But sadly such role models are lacking within the Party
    The EMLD motion is designed to address this specific problem and hence the focus on BAMEs
    But for the motion to get through conference and more importantly for the Party to look as representative as the people it serves we need all Libral Democrats not just EMLD members to accept the need for short term postive action

  • Excellent article Lester!

    @Hywel

    I beg to differ: at the 3rd attempt to get selected onto the GLA list in 2008, I dropped out when I was elected 9th on the list. Rather than”storming off”, I decided to withdraw and stood as candidate for North East London, and worked very hard on my campaign, and together with Brian Paddick, had the highest vote in North London.
    I suppose this must be more lazy stereotyping that us ethnics don’t work hard enough…?

    @Bob Roberts said:
    “I’m sorry but EMLD have been dreadful for a very long time. A group of people who are more interested in promoting their own personal agenda rather than seriously tackling a real issue in the party”

    As chair of EMLD I can report that I’ve never seen you at a single EMLD meeting, nor any involvement in our work, demonstrated by your apparent ignorance of our activities. We operate on a shoestring, but with enormous amounts of commitment, goodwill, and determination. We are volunteers. The majority stood for council seats and as PPCs, and worked extemely hard.
    Fact: We now have the largest, most dynamic, and diverse Executive Committee of 14 strong, since EMLD was founded.
    Fact: EMLD has worked hard over the past year with the Diversity Unit, and I have personally led on the ‘New Generation Programme” to recruit, develop, support and invest in over 60 people from BME communities, some of whom stood as PPCs/ Cllrs a few weeks ago. Many are young and will make excellent PPCs at the nest general election.
    Fact: EMLD members were out campaigning for BME candidates, eg. Walthamstow & Luton South, doing all we could to elect a BME MP, and yes we even knocked on hundreds of doors!
    Please refrain from casting casual insults around about people and work you clearly know nothing about.

    Others have already made the point that we cannot carry on with the purist stance that we should preserve the status quo, at the risk of being ‘discriminatory’ against white men. What is liberal about being grossly unrepresentative? With only 7 women MPs, and no BME MPs, clearly the staus quo is unacceptable.
    If we look at the 25 countries who have made real progress on reaching the critical number of more than 30% women parliamentarians, 22 have done this by using quotas. Finland and Denmark have now stopped using quotas having reached 46% and 38% respectively. Quotas work!
    I believe we need to examine temporary measures to create a level playing field. We need positive action to address the complete lack of diversity amongst MPs and Assembly members. The London Assembly has been in place for 10 years now, and we are the only main Party which has failed in the most diverse city in Europe to elect a single BME Assembly Member. London Region are to be congratulated for taking positve action measures for the next election.
    For those who say they don’t support any measures, what are the alternatives?
    None have been put forward. Lets have the debate at conference.
    Lets terminate the argument that we don’t need more/ any, BME/ women candidates, only those ‘who are the best’
    We have many excellent BME/ women who would make fantastic PPCs and MPs, if only there was a level playing field. If the Tories can and have taken urgent action to address their previous lack of diversity, then I see no reason why we, the natural Party of Equality and non -conformism, cannot grasp this particular nettle and put our house on order.

  • Sven Griesenbeck 2nd Jul '10 - 12:02am

    With interest have I followed the different opinions expressed in this discussion. At this point I want to put something in as well.

    Fact is that the LibDems in Parliament are white (perceived) upper/middle class, well educated people.
    Fact as well is that it does not represent Britain in regards of ethnicity and in most cases socially.
    Fact is that non-white non-European ethnicities tend to vote for Labour (and now starting to vote for the Torries) because they can show that these parties seems to be more representative of Britain, as they have a more ethnic diversity (the Torry president is of Asian decent). Why is es possible that a party like the Torries who are apparently the backward looking suddenly give a more diverse picture than the LibDems?

    The LibDems have certainly a deficit in this area. While on local level, we are able to convince black and ethnic minorities to stand for Council, on national level it is hard to concinve BAME to stand, not to talk about get these candidates into parliament. Where they stand, they become very successfull in some areas, but they come successfull second place. And second place mean they have lost. Even candidates who had the support of Cowley Street (like in Walthampsow) have not been successfull – despite fullfilling all the requirements of Forward-plans.

    Lester has made a suggestion how to address the ethnical deficit of the parliamentary group. So far, I have seen in most comments that his article is highly contested.

    However, something has to be done to address this deficit. We have to look back into history for a long long long time to find a non-white non-European Liberal or Liberal-Democratic MP. Disappointingly, Lester’s motion has been slagged off by most of the participants.

    Over the last years,, certainly since I am member of the party, all party leaders have pleged their support to make the Parliamentary Group more representative of the British society – from Charles to Ming to Nick. We have to move on from shere vocal committment and step up the campaign to get a more diverse Group.

    How do we get there? Not in the way it has been over the last years and decades. Lester’s article is one step in the right direction, and by the reaction, he certainly ‘upset the system’. Great. That is what we need. But by slagging off his motion without offering something better is not the way to do it. If you do not agree with him is one way, a better way would be to suggest a better way to get diversity on all levels of politics, not just on local level.

    Some participants pointed out how hard it is to find BAME candidates who are willing to stand as PPCs. Sure it is hard, because it is quite off-putting to any candidate of BAME background if there is no track record of a successfull campaign.

    So, please, get away from slagging off this motion, when there is no other alternative pathway suggested. If you think that Lester’s views expressed is crap (which I think it isn’t) come forward and suggest a better way how to get diversity and better representation of the British society on all levels of politics. We need positive action to remain credible in this divers society, and we need it very soon, if not now. A softly-softly approach to the problem has not worked so far, so we have to step up the campaign and try another approach.

  • Munira Wilson 2nd Jul '10 - 12:03am

    @Meral:
    Please could you explain to me in practical terms, with examples and statistics to back up your argument, how the playing field is not level for BAME candidates in selections?

  • @ Munira – Vast majority of our held seats are not in areas with any significant BME communities, therefore are less likely to have any local BME party members who would have a greater chance of being selected. The Party is very white at every level. We need more BME members/ women represented at every level of the Party.
    We already know that its extremely hard for most women who have children/ caring responsibilities, to up sticks and move to constituencies where they have a better chance of being elected. Lester has set this out: most parties select local well known candidates, and those who have the ability to contribute towards their campaign. This discriminates against BME people who may want to go for selection in say, Truro, but would find it very hard going up against a local (almost certainly white) list of candidates and selection panel.
    It would be like rural councils advertising for a job, but giving preference to a local candidate, rather than the most qualified for the job. How can an outsider compete with a ‘local candidate?’

  • Munira Wilson 2nd Jul '10 - 12:50am

    @Meral
    I completely agree with your sentiments of needing better representation from women and BAMEs at every level of the party. However, your point about BAMEs being disadvantaged when they are not a “local” candidate applies equally to non-BAMEs. A white London-based candidate, for example, would face just the same difficulties as a London-based BAME in going for selection in Cornwall or the Highlands because they have no connection to the local area. Ensuring that the local party ticks a box by having at least one non-local BAME on the shortlist is unlikely to do much to secure that candidate’s selection as the members who vote are likely to go for one of the local candidates. Unfortunately Lib Dem selections tend to be very parochial in their nature. Unless we as members are prepared to tolerate entire shortlists imposed from on high, you will find it very hard to get a non-local BAME candidate selected in a held parliamentary seat using the measures in this motion, particularly a rural seat I think.

    The CGB model of mentoring, coaching and supporting excellent women candidates in selections for target and held seats has proved successful in ensuring women are in seats where they can win. As my post above explains, the electoral system and weird swings on 6 May meant the outcomes were not achieved in terms of Commons seats. I really believe that EMLD/New Generation need to fully replicate this model instead of a quota system.

    We do have some new fantastic BAME talent coming through (I can think of one or two examples in Feltham & Heston where I ran as a PPC in the recent election) but, make no mistake, some do get scared off when they get pounced on overtly because they are BAME and talented. Those who are used to being educated in and working in a meritocratic environment find these measures and the approaches made to them by the party due to their ethnicity really off-putting and somewhat offensive. We should be promoting and supporting these people because they are talented, believe in our values and principles and have a lot to contribute to the party. Yes, the fact that they are BAME is important, given our dearth of diversity, but dwelling on the colour of their skin achieves little except to give the impression (whether true or not) of tokenism. I hope that we are all equally supportive of new talent in the party whether BAME, white, female, male, gay, straight, diasbled, able-bodied etc etc. We need it!

  • Bob Roberts 2nd Jul '10 - 1:08am

    @ Meral Ece

    First of all let me remind you of the Saturday when the selection for the GLA was announced. You found yourself at 9th on the list and asked for your name to be removed and left without any further word or consideration how your removal would impact on the overall selection results. I don’t know why being 9th on the GLA list prevented you from fighting a constituency seat at the GLA but I’m sure you will be able to tell us?

    The problem with list elections is that if you are in a position where you may win you will work, but if you find yourself in a position where you know you will not win you either don’t work or ‘storm off’. There are a few exceptions to the rule, those people who work for the party rather than for themselves.

    Ah yes, your new Generation List. Well, I know one or two ethnic minitority candidates and people who were not invited to join. What process and procedures did you have in place to make sure all ethnic minority candidates were invited to join?

    I would also like to say that I have helped a number of ethnic minority members at different stages. I have given advice about possibly standing as a candidate, I have helped elect a number of ethnic minority candidates and I have encoraged and helped some ethnic candidates through the selection process. You may not have seen me at one of your meetings, but that does not mean I have not done my bit to try and help improve the diversity of candidates across the party.

    I personally am not worried about being discriminatory toward white men, I am worried about having second rate candidates across the country. I have now seen the motion EMLD propose and it is not only contradictory in places, repeats itself but it doesn’t actually tackle the real problem. It also subverts the democratic nature of our party. Why stop at target seat selection? What about the Chief Executive? What about the FCC? What about the future leadership of the party? Our leader is a white heterosexual man….how on earth can any women be a member of the party? He is married to a woman….how on earth can any gay, bisexual or transgender person be members of the party?

    If Lester wants to tackle discrimination then maybe he should tackle it across the board, not just for the people he obviously feels comfortable fighting for.

    I don’t live in Truro, but if I went for selection I would face the same problems as any non-local BAME would face, unless you are suggesting that the Truro members are inherently racist and therefore would select a white non-local candidate over a non-local BAME candidate.

    Sven’s argument is with the electoral system. We could have had a BAME candidate in Harrogate at this election but they could still have lost the election. I use Harrogate as an example as it was a woman taking over from a male MP with a 10k LD majority and they lost. I don’t suppose they lost because they were a woman.

    If we take positive discrimination for BAME candidates (and I am not sure how you define who fits into that category) then why don’t we have positive discrimination for disabled people, for young candidates, for transgender candidates? The list is endless. Lester’s original post started with the headline that the colour of the party will put people off joining it. The colour of the party should not be the primary factor in why someone joins our party, it should be for the beliefs and principles it stands for. If Lester or Meral cannot sell our party based on the beliefs rather than the colour, gender or any other trait, then maybe they should ask themselves what they are trying to sell to people..

    I absolutely believe in positive action for all good potential candidates. More training, more mentoring and even financial support for good candidates. Quotas don’t tackle this and fixed selection criteria don’t tackle this.

  • Reading these posts one would think there was something unusual about the Lib Dems that we do not have many people from ethnic minorities involved.
    In fact this is the case not only for most parties but for most organisation in the UK, white middle class people dominate, no because of discrimination but because they are the people with the time, confidence and interest to get involved.
    If you really want to look at an under represented group look at the white working class. Not many of them at the top of any party

  • William Gladstone 2nd Jul '10 - 8:03am

    @merel – you really have a cheek positing about LD discrimination in the week you have been admitted to the Lords.
    Do you really think if you had been white and done the same things you have done that you would be in the Lords now.?

  • @Munira

    Yes other non-local would be candidates also find it hard to break through, but thats my point: BME candidiates are doubly disadvantaged, as the majority don’t even bother applying. They say “what would be the point?” So they end up applying for seats with large BME communities, where local parties are under the impression that thats the best place for them, and they end up taking on established BME (usually Labour) MP. We are in fact on danger of being ghettoised. See Lesters point as to how the Tories have overcome this, Yes, this was often done by ensuring these held and safe seats inncluded BME people of high calibre, who had no previous connection witrh the area. There was also a change in mind set by local Tory associations (Maidstone, Stratford-on-Avon, etc) to actually SELECT a BME candidate, because they were clear that if they wanted to win credibility and win a greater share of the electorate, they HAD to be more representative. We need to lift our eyes from the ‘local- parochial-we-must-follow-rules-mustnt-take-any-risks-offend-our-liberal-senstivities’, arguments, and look at the bigger picture, ie. what our party looks like. It looks male, pale and totally unrepresentative to the wider public. I for one never ‘pounce on’ indivudals. I offer support and ask if they’d like to join EMLD and the New Generation Programme, as in my experience, new BME party members can find themselves isolated. No-one is under any obligation to join.

    @Bob Roberts
    I did not ‘storm off’ – I informed the RO that I wished to withdraw, and as a result another person who came 12th, came on the list. She sent me a note thanking me! I’m not sure why you think this is such an issue. It was and is the democratic prerogative of anyone to withdraw from any list/election.
    New Generation Programme: FYI, this is open to any BME member to join. We encourage younger BME members, who are committed to sticking with us for the long haul, and who will stand as PPCs/ cllrs in the next election, and receive the training andf support they require. The Diversity Unit has the remit on this.

    @Mark

    Many thanks.
    I think the point that both myself and Lester are making is that we want to move away from the tradtion that we only have BME candidates in urban areas with BME communities. You rightly point put that it is difficult for non-local people to get selected in areas where we have a strong presence. This situtation is even more difficult for BME candidates who will have even less local connection. It means we will continue to select BME candidates in mainly urban seats and up against a (usually BME) established sitting MP. Unless positive action is applied to make a breakthrough, we will never make any progress. The Tories ensured that their now BME MPs, were selected in mainly white constituencies, and in safe seats. We do not have many safe seats, but we must take some urgent action to address this democratic deficit, and it may mean having a one off process that will upset some people. But we would all gain from a Party that is more representative.
    What are the alternatives? No-one who seems to object has put forward an acceptable alternative.
    I don’t want to go into individual instances here. The National Diversity Adviser is compiling a report based on the experiences of all our BME PPCs, which I hope will inform any action we wish to take to improve the situation for future elections.

  • @ Meral – I was quoting what someone else said in order to take issue with it

    I think your comment is valid but not aimed at the right person and I hope you’ll acknowledge that.

  • @Hywel – yes, just noticed that, point taken.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '10 - 1:13pm

    @Paul McKeown

    Yes, I am aware of that. However, the poverty of ambition is fundamentally due to the poverty of finance.

    When I was first elected as a councillor in LB Lewisham, we had activity and councillors in just one ward. By careful use of targetting, we expanded that, taking on extra wards in each election. As it happens, a councillor for one of the wards taken on later has posted in this thread. The careful planning of all this has led our party now to be the main opposition across LB Lewisham whereas historically it was a Labour-Tory marginal place with the LibDems and their predecessors squeezed out.

    I now live in LB Greenwich. In LB Greenwich there was not such careful targetting. One may note that LB Greenwich, particularly Eltham constituency where I live is STILL a Labour-Tory marginal place with the LibDems squeezed out. Targetting most definitely is not “poverty of ambition”. I can tell you certainly my ambition on being elected as a councillor in LB Lewisham from the start was to make our party the main opposition there and to move to it campaigning across the borough.

    My concern is that over-promotion of BAME candidates just because of the colour of their face leads to people who would not be there for good reason had they white faces, and being there cause us embarrassment. I have seen this happen three times in my own close experience. Most unfortunately, it gives a bad image to decent BAME candidates and councillors, because there will alway be the thought “only there because of the colour of the skin”.

    One of the most difficult jobs in the LibDems is to be a “paper candidate” – you have to pretend to the public you are out to win, while acknowledging no resources will come your way. Several of the cases I am aware of BME candidates embarrassing us are where they were paper candidates and then made accusations of “racism” because they did not get resources. This is poor preparation or poor personality – anyone taken on as a paper candidate should know from the start that is what they are and what that entails.

    I was facetious to Catherine because she deserved it. We will not get anywhere if we cannot discuss these things honestly, even if it embarrasses us at times. When my wife (who is not white) describes someone as “very English” we know just what she means, especially if that person is also not white. It’s not meant to be rude like “coconut”, just a statement recognising there are some traits which seem more common amongst the English than amongst others. I happen to think these traits are particularly common amongst Liberal Democrats. It’s a bit like why there are so few non-male trainspotters (don’t think there are many BME trainspotters either).

    I remember an acquaintance of mine, a senior politician in Ghana though then in exile, musing on why it was that so many Ghanaians who were members of Liberal-Conservative wing of politics in Ghana (as he was – underneath Ghana has had basically a two party system based on the Nkrumah-Danquah split since independence) nevertheless joined or voted for the Labour Party in the UK. The answer was something to do with the African mentality, but a white English man like myself couldn’t get away with saying it.

    I mean what I say about class discrimination in our party. I have seen good working class people walk out of the party in disgust because of it. But no-one here seems to care about that, maybe they do think “Good riddance, we don’t want chavs like you in our party”.

  • Jonathan Hunt 2nd Jul '10 - 3:10pm

    Some of these personal attacks, direct and indirect, on Meral and others are disgraceful. They only serve to show just how illiberal a so-called Liberal party can be. And looking at others, just how liberal, tolerant and principled they can be. Or just nitpicking, irrelevant, trivial and self-serving.

    The essential questions, stripped from the ridiculous levels of detail, spite and prejudice is: Do we want the party to have the support of people of different colours and beliefs? Do we believe that our definitions of fairness should apply to everyone?

    If you think not, or are indifferent to the whole concept, you should say No to the motion and the values that underpin it.

    Others should look at the package as a whole. It has a discernible cohesion, leading to logical solutions.

    It seems strange, given the thousands of organisations that practice positive action, how few LibDems appear to have any experience of what it entails. Positive action requires measures and methods to rectify past discrimination. That covers much of the need for a person from a black and visibly ethnic minority background to be included on shortlists where there has never, or rarely, been one before, and the other quota-type measures in the motion. Hopefully, the need will be only short-term, as a representative number of elected BAME candidates becomes the norm.

    But we also need to ensure there are suitably qualified and aproved BAME candidates available in the short-term to adequately serve on these shortlists. Most of us white males and females obtain that experience while serving as officers of local parties and other roles.

    If you are BAME, you will probably not have received much encouragement to take part in party affairs, and certainly little tuition and support judging from the proven under-representation of particular groups. That is something else we have to do to rapidly fill those places, and why we need such initiatives as fast-tracking, mentoring, special training, non-discriminatory selection procedures and policies aimed at preventing harassment.

    Discrimination can be against something or someone; or for them. Just as freedom can be from or to. I don’t believe all-BAME shortlists are discriminatory one way or the other. However, such feelings can force us into odd actions, like my only standing down late from a PPC to allow members to choose from an all-black list.

    It is high time we warmly embrace diversity in all its forms.

    Jonathan Hunt

  • Bob Roberts 2nd Jul '10 - 7:42pm

    @Mohammed

    I love the fact that you think you speak for all BAME candidate and members (apart from Munira Wilson obviously). You don’t seem to think that other people may have a different point of view to your own, of if they do then a BAME candidate is somehow spreading anti-muslim feeling. I also take offence that you think I am prejudiced because my views are not the same as yours. As I have said I have helped a number of BAME candidates get elected, get selected and encourgaed them to stand as a candidate. Or do you think in my actions I am actually holding them back?

    Could we look at the 2008 GLA list selection? There were 3 incumbents standing again. They finished 1,2 and 5. Caroline Pidgeon who worked the selection for a long period of time came third and a long standing candidate who works incredibly hard in London (Jeremy Ambache) came fourth. Incumbent Geoff Pope who had only served a short period of time as GLAM came fifth. There was no reason or discouragement for a BAME candidate to have worked as hard as Caroline did in the run up to the GLA selection. If they or EMLD had worked hard enough they or one of their candidates could have got selected high up the list. The only BAME candidate who came from a standing start was the excellent Shas Sheehan and she came a very good and credible seventh. This is testament to the hard work she put in despite starting her campaign quite late.

    I am sure if Shas stands again for the selection she will have a good chance of coming higher up the list, with a realistic chance of getting elected, without the necessity of the rules being changed.

    Mohammed also neglects to answer the point about Parmjit. A sitting MP who had the by-election machine put into his campaign but went on to lose his seat. Why?

    I’d love to know if Mohammed or Meral think a poor BAME candidate would be better or worse than a good white/disabled/young/transgender candidate? As long as we look more representative though!

    I absoultely believe in positive action for BAME candidates. I also believe strongly in good candidates. Mohammed, Lester and Meral all fall into the same trap – because there are no BAME MPs, people from those communities a)won’t join our party and b) think we are racist. It doesn’t matter about the principles we stand for, just as long as we look the right colour? All three of you then go on to say anybody who opposes positive discrimination is racist or prejudiced.

    But let’s also look at the the seven seats where MPs stood down – Edinburgh West, Cornwall South East, Cambridge, Hereford, Winchester, Truro and Falmouth and Harrogate. Now four out of the eight (with the new seat) candidates selected were white women. The other four candidates were white men. Now if two of those seats had been made BAME locks there is no gaurantee they would have been elected. We only won three out of those eight seats. Maybe a good BAME candidate may have won in seats we lost, but we’ll never know. I doubt a poor BAME candidate (and yes they do exist, as do the dreadful white male and female candidates that exist on the current list) would have done any better.

    But what about the future? The EMLD motion comes into effect – Let’s say for example Charles Kennedy is the first sitting Lib Dem MP to announce his retirement. They discover the local party doesn’t have an approved BAME candidate so we ship in BAME candidates from across the country? Or do we decide (I don’t know who that would be – EMLD, FCC, the party) that’s the wrong seat for a BAME candidate so we’ll wait….and we’ll wait…. and we’ll wait until a seat finally comes up that Lester, Meral and Mohammed say ‘that’s the right seat for an EMLD endorsed candidate’. Or do we say regardless of the seat, we’ll ship in an external candidate with no links to the constituency just so we can improve our image with people who think we are racist or prejudiced.

    I remember from conference last year the party promoted Karen Hamilton – she was great. I heard her speak and I heard her talk about the campaign she was running but she lost. Not because of prejudice in the party or because the selection was stacked against her but because the electorate and electoral system said no. What do I think would have helped her to get elected? Probably financial support so that she could campaign full time. Unless we can help candidates with more money or an ability to raise more money then candidates will find it difficult to get elected under the current system.

    Lester talked about the Toxic Tories. The Tory brand wasn’t toxic because of the colour or lack of colour of their candidates it was much deeper than that. It was actual racism. If anyone thinks the Lib Dems are like the Tory party you should take a long hard look at the membership card you carry around with you. I don’t believe we are a racist or sexist party but then I’m white and male so what would I know.

  • Munira Wilson 3rd Jul '10 - 12:18am

    I was not going to post further comments on this thread and have tried very hard to stay away from personalising this debate but feel compelled to respond to Mohammed Shafiq’s defamatory comment about my alleged “desire to promote anti-Muslim sentiment”. Those who were there for my speech in Blackpool and actually bothered to listen to my argument know that I did no such thing, nor would I ever dream of doing such a thing. This is a disgraceful and slanderous comment by someone who seems to wants to make his point by making personal attacks rather than dealing with the arguments and the facts.

    I do not feel the need to go into a long explanation about what I tried to say in that speech as I am confident about what I said and stand 100% behind it. I and hundreds of people in that conference auditorium know that I said nothing negative about any particular religion or ethnic group. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never ever spread anti Muslim sentiment, and I am appalled that a member of FCC and Vice Chair of an SAO of the party is throwing around such derogatory and unfounded comments.

    I really do get the sense that anyone who disagrees with Mohammed’s and EMLD’s view is being tarred with the “racist” or, in this case, “anti-Muslim” brush. There seems to be particular ire toward anyone of colour who dares to speak against these measures. That, in itself, is prejudice and EMLD and its leading members would do well to examine those attitudes. Please can we show some respect to each other and our respective views.

    I look forward to a full apology from Mohammed and retraction of his defamatory comments.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 3rd Jul '10 - 4:27pm

    @Mark – Yes, I agree, its good news that we have the first BAME Liberal Youth chair, and I’m sure you would’ve smoothed the path along the way……
    The point is that here we are in 2010, and we are only just taking tiny steps in making the Party as a whole, and at every level more representative. I’ve just come off FE, but was one of 4/5 women, and one of 3 BAME members, (presumably now down to 2) I don’t think we have anyone on FPC. If we look across the Party structures representation is negligible. In proposing our motion, we believe EMLD are being bold and up front, and wanting the Party to have this debate. Of course many will oppose, but I believe many are willing to have the debate. Our objective is to ensure that the Liberal Democrats make the same progress as the other main parties, and be more representative.
    EMLD, has worked very hard over the past year, together with Issan and Vicky in the Diversity Unit, to recruit and support more that 60 people from BAME background, who are members of the New Generation Programme. Many of whom are new to the Party. I think its only fair to ask those who oppose any positive action measures, to put forward their own ideas and amendments. We in EMLD, will not have all the answers, but we are up for the debate and willing to work with those who are also committed to creating greater diversity in the Party.
    @Munira – I’m sorry that you were offended by the line EMLD has taken. Of course we welcome people from all backgrounds, which I’m sure you appreciated when you attended our reception last year. You are of course entitled to your views, and we’d welcome you to work with us at any time.

  • If I can attempt to progress the argument a bit further beyond the debate about internal selection processes – The pro-discrimination totally ignore the wider picture.

    Perhaps people support a party not because it’s MPs look like them but because of the policies they promote and implement?

    The VAT rise will hit black communities hard, no question about it. The cuts in police numbers will hit inner-city black communities hard. The cuts to local authorities (and therefore slowing down regeneration and development programmes in cities) will hit black communities hard.

    The views of many BME representitives are not dissimilar to those of poorer white people. Poverty is the biggest concern, followed by jobs, safe neighbourhoods and housing. The concerns often highlighted by Black Community organisations are the concerns of inner-city populations in general. Is coalition with the Conservatives going to draw more inner-city voters towards us?

    Perhaps we need to look beyond the ‘I’m not voting for that candidate because s/he isn’t like me’ argument and look towards how we can make our policies more attractive, and more importantly how we can promote those policies that are. Our campaign didn’t focus enough on the £10k threshold and our anti-poverty message, instead we got bogged down in bar charts and cant-win-here leaflets when all along we should’ve been telling people why we’d help the poor more than Labour. .

  • @ lester you say ‘no one is accusing the Lib Dems of racism’. Well actually the only racists on this thread are those like you who want to disadvantage white people on the basis of their race. Your proposals would mean if a white person came 4th on the list of GLA candidates they would be pushing down to 5th and the next person from a approved ethnic minority would take their place at number 4.
    If that isnt racism I don’t know what is.

    How on earth you think this is compatible with the party constitution or indeed the law I can’t imagine.

  • @Mark
    “But what is EMLD doing to encourage its members to take their rightful place amongst the Party’s organisational and democratic structures?”
    At the last round of Federal elections we encouraged, nominated, and supported BAME members to stand. At the Local Govt Assoc. cllr elections last year, we did the same, (I personally canvassed many cllrs) and for the first time we saw a black lead member of the Community Safety Board. I spoke at a recent meeting of BAME PPCs, and made exactly this point: that until we see far more BAME members in these key internal cttees, where decisions are taken, we will never make progress. We will ensure that come the Federal elections in a few months time, we will see many more diverse candidates. In my view the question we all need to be asking, is what is everyone else doing? EMLD must and has been leading on this issue, but one SAO alone, cannot be soley responsible for ensuring the Party is representative (not on our budget!) . Its everyone’s business.
    London Region has taken this seriously, because the committee, led by Chair, Jonathan Fryer, has taken a lead on this matter and a ‘can do’ attitude. Those of us who’ve been involved in campaigning for equalties over many many years, if not decades, feel rather tired of the ‘we can’t do’ brigade, and the handwringing. A significant number of these posts are telling us, some in a very forceful manner, what we can’t do. How about some positivity – what CAN and SHOULD we be doing?
    Or are we to assume that the status quo, suits some people just fine? Just asking……..

  • @Mark
    Consider yourself lobbyed! We’re holding our AGM at the end of the month, be good if you could come along/ join, and support these efforts. I’m standing down as chair (for obvious reasons) so the new cttee will need support.

  • Jonathan Hunt 4th Jul '10 - 10:44pm

    Over the 100-odd contributions to this subject, we have seen great mental gymnastics and much innovative thinking as to why the EMLD motion should not be discussed, let alone passed.

    If all that brainpower and effort was directed to actually wanting to do something, just imagine what we could achieve.

    Let us make it clear yet again that the EMLD motion neither discriminates for or against anyone. It allows us to use the law to take positive measures designed to counteract the effects of past discrimination.

    Because our record is seen to be worse than that of other parties, whatever our intentions, it means that the positive action we have to take is proportionately greater

    Positive Action is intended to encourage people from particular groups to take advantage of opportunities for work and training. This can be done when past under-representation of particular groups has been identified.

    Under this broad meaning positive action may include initiatives such as the introduction of non-discriminatory selection procedures, training programmes or policies aimed at preventing harassment.

    Sections 37 and 38 of the Race Relations Act 1976 allow an employer [or se;ecting party] to give special encouragement and provide specific training for a particular racial group. Positive Action is often confused with positive discrimination, which is unlawful.

    Although they are not legally required, positive measures are allowed by the law to encourage employees and potential employees [or candidates in our case] who are members of particular groups which are under-represented in particular work. Discrimination at the point of selection for work, however, is not permitted in these circumstances.

    Such measures are important of the development of equality and diversity practices. It is therefore recommended that, where there is under-representation, such process as fast-tracking, special training, mentoring, etc, should be taken wherever appropriate and reasonably realistic.

    Positive action is lawful, provided certain criteria is met. Selection must be based solely on merit!

    The alternative is to say: “Go Away” — or words to that effect — to more than 8 million of our fellow citizens who are visibly non-white. Is that what we really want?

    What kind of message do we want to send out? Is it: “We don’t want you discriminating against white activists and taking our parliamentary candidate places”.

    Sadly, in some places, it seems to sound like it.

  • Jonathan Hunt 5th Jul '10 - 12:07am

    As a one-time member of small white minorities in two African countries, I was treated with great friendship, respect, hospitality and generosity. Far, far more than we ever give to Africans in this country, where black people get the worst education, jobs, justice, housing and representation.

    As white residents in post-independent countries, our inluence and power was hugely disproportionate. Now, as a member of a slightly larger white minority in my London borough, I wonder why I and other whites should continue ro be treated as the ruling majority.

    Visitors from Mars would expect to find a huge white majority in Southwark and many similar London boroughs by looking at where political power and influence resides. And nationally, wonder why the party that best proclaims its support for equality, liberty, community, human rights and racial justice is the one that fails to practice what it preaches.

  • david thorpe 5th Jul '10 - 11:02am

    it should be a question of represenitng the community. in areas of the scottish higjhlands and cornwall there is a very small ethnic minority popualtion, in areas of lonodn the reverse is the case.
    certainly we need to reach out to other communities but in a way that is not tokenistic or patronising

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jul '10 - 12:11pm

    Lester Holloway

    @ Matthew Huntbach – I am quite alarmed at your linking of negative “character traits” to “ethnic groups.” I can see no basis for such a bizarre view

    but had I linked positive “character traits” that would have been fine?

    Sorry Lester, but the accusation you are making is insultingly wrong. I gave no value judgment on the “character traits” I mentioned, I did not say they were positive I did not say they were negative. Nor did I believe them to be either. The racism you are accusing me of here is in your head, not mine.

    If there are no such things as what I have called “character traits”, but please feel free to suggest another word, then there are no such things as ethnic minority cultures. If that is the case, then much of the case for trying for better BME representation goes out anyway.

    I was simply noting that I believe there are cultural and sociological reasons why, at least until recently, BME people tended not even to think of becoming active in the Liberal Democrats. I don’t wish particularly to go on about my own life experiences, but for what is now the majority of my adult life I have more interaction with BME people in my daily life than I do with white English people. So the point I am making is not from a position of ignorance. In my own case, I actually feel more comfortable with non-white people than I do with white people, it’s a class thing, having been brought up working class and become middle class through education I don’t feel comfortable on either side in the way that I do when with people who aren’t part of the white class spectrum.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jul '10 - 12:43pm

    Jonathan, I read your latest message, and I despair.

    Why can’t people like you get it into your heads that posh white people like, uhm, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, are just as much alien to working class white people as any ethnic minority? When I see the lack of people who have real working class background in this government, and consequent stupid mistakes it is making, the idea that somehow the bloke on the run-down council estate should feel it is acting in his interest as some privileged person because Cameron and Clegg et al have the same colour skin as him is ridiculous. The class divide in this country is huge and growing. When I was younger I used to think it was going away, now I see it is not. It is an INSULT to the ground down poor people in this country that you should bracket them in with posh people who went out and governed the colonies just because of their skin colour, it is an INSULT that you should imply just because people like Cameron and Clegg have had huge advantages that have pushed them effortlessly forward in life the bloke on the council estate is also part of some privileged group with “hugely disproportionate” power and influence.

    I tell you – Cameron and Clegg are aliens to the sort of people I used to represent as a councillor for a predominantly white working class (though it became more mixed over time) council estate ward, far more distant than the non-white people they mixed with in their daily lives.

    Wouldn’t it be great if people who went to expensive private schools had green faces? Then it would be so much more obvious where the differences in life chances lay, and this utterly false bracketing of people at opposite ends of the class spectrum as somehow one group because of the same skin colour would be exposed as the nasty piece of trickery it really is.

  • Jonathan Hunt 6th Jul '10 - 2:10pm

    Matthew,

    I represented one of the most deprived council wards in London. It differed from yours in that the majority of residents were black or of mixed race. But it made me only too aware, if I wasn’t before, of the depth of poverty that afflicts the lives of poor people of all races. I believe the class gap has widened over the last two decades or so.

    But on the whole BAME people face the twin disadvantge of forms of racism as well. Not normally from other working people, white or whatever. More frequently not direct racism, but the indirect, insidious form that Simon Wooley was also trying to find a name for yesterday.

    My experience is that most white and non-white people in their estates and communities work well together, with natural leaders both white but more often non-white working well together.

    One instance that made an impression is where a horrendous block housing 700 / 800 people was to be demolished. The leader who emerged was a black graduate whom everyone was happy to follow –but all had their roles, and we all fought hard until the last tenants, black and white, had been properly rehoused and given their right to return.

    The hardest battles were for BAME business people wrongly cheated out of contracts, or their premies, or planning permission or licences because of discrimination and /or corruption by council officers and councillors. Or BAME and white shopkeepers blighted by council inaction, locked into long leases waiting for demolition and charged higher rents while the number of shoppers rapidly fell.

    History tells us that the landlords, private or public, have always tried to destry working class unity. New Labour has nearly succeeded. The green-faced people increasingly traget BAMEs.

  • Jonathan Hunt 6th Jul '10 - 10:36pm

    Nishma: Don’t worry. Positive discrimination is unlawful, and no one is proposing that we use it. Asante Sana, kwa heri.

    Anders: We have brought up two boys, both adopted, both Afro-Caribbean, and neither has ever regarded themselves as anything but black. Where do you get this crap from?

    I find it totally depressing that it is people like you demonstrating utter, excrutiating ignorance who will decide whether or not the party takes any and what action to win fair representation for black, asian and other minority ethnic — about a seventh of the population — and seek their votes.

  • @Jonathan Hunt – but positive discrimination is exactly what the London Executive have agreed. if the top 6 people the members vote for on the GLA list are all white but no 7 and 8 are from a minority the policy says that number 7 would be moved to number 4 and number 8 to number 6. The white people would move down.

    Glad you agree this is illegal.

  • @Stephen

    I raised the same point about 50 posts ago.
    It is not only illiberal,against the Constitution but also illegal.

  • @Stephen.

    You quote to constitituion:
    .’…..fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity..’

    How exactly can we fulfill this core section of our principles and beliefs by continuing to ignore the barriers and disadvantages people from BAME backgrounds face when trying to play a greater role in our democratic institutions? Do you believe its acceptable for a Party with this line at its core, should ignore the fact we are totally unrepresentative? Do you not accept that people from BAME communities are more likely to be ‘enslaved by poverty?’
    NO-ONE is suggesting any form of illegal discrimination, which I think Jonathan has eloquently explained ad nauseam above. We are advocating, tried and tested positive action to address the democratic deficit within our Party. How anyone can suggest that that we do nothing and carry on as we are, is an acceptable way forward is beyond me.

  • Ray Woolford 7th Jul '10 - 11:55am

    Why do the Lid Dems have such a problem with being GAY, over the past 10 years more Lib Dem MPs have been outed than any other, and yet as a party the Lib Dems, claim to be so welcoming, MP Laws the most resent in a long line. Until the Party stops claiming to be all things to all people it will never win major power,People of Colour, and Gay people as well as people of Faith must see MP elected as Lib Dems, not the usual list of Bankers and Lobby experts.
    Lib Dems Should have made deal with Labour, this idea of working with the Conservatives will lead to the end of the Lib Dems…As for AV…………It should be PR for National and Local or Nothing.

  • Jonathan Hunt 7th Jul '10 - 10:58pm

    @Nishma: Jambo, mzuri sana.

    All the things you list, such as internship, coaching, mentoring, buddying, shadowing, training, fast-tracking are integral parts of a programme of positive action, and mentioned in the legislation to will help people be fitted for the role of cadidate and thus be more confident about standing.

    There would be little point in seeking places for BAMEs to stand if there are no suitable, trained candidates. We have to see positive action as a coherent programme, where non-white people are recruited into the party, and if interested, willing interested and suitable receive this preparation — and then are given the opportunities their uncles and aunts were not given in this party.

    Of course, it is our policies that we want people to vote for. But voters also choose the candidate, and if non-white people see that we have no BAME MPs and few candidates in their area, that discourages them from voting for us. Given that about one-in-seven of the population are non-white, it is a large number of voters to insult.

    @McG Let me remind you, and others, once again that positive action allows us to take measures designed to counter and put right the effects of previous discrimination. Such programmes are in force in thousands of organisations in the UK. Measures proposed by the London region, where more than a third of voters are BAME, fall into this quite legal category.

    We should have done more in the past to ensure that people from non-white backgrounds were treated more fairly as members and candiadtes for public office. The Seats for Whites backlash can only harm the party.

    @MatGB: To suggest that black people can deny their identity thanks to someform of white brainwashing is even more appalling than old beliefs that with the right soap and brushes you can scrub them white. It is racist, and perceived as racist by black people I have talked to; as well as being grossly insulting to tens of thousands of people involved in transracial adoption and fostering.

    However, as you say it was posed in the interests of scolarship, So I will not levy that charge. But we have to fight racism hard wherever its ugly head appears. Even in the Lib Dems. Even from ignorance.

  • Bob Roberts 8th Jul '10 - 2:12pm

    Again Jonathan Hunt throws the same old accusations around again – could you tell me why if I don’t believe in positive discrimination that I am a racist or that I am ignorant?

    Could you also show me the institutional racism by the Liberal Democrat party? Where is the evdience to back up the ‘seats for whites’ policy you talk about? There is no reason or disadvantage (other than what exists for all candidates) to prevent any candidate running for a target seat, GLA list selection or Welsh or Scottish AM seats.

    And nobody has yet to answer my point about Pramjit? He didn’t lose his seat due to racism within the Liberal Democrats, he lost his seat because he was not very good.

  • Jonathan Hunt 8th Jul '10 - 5:08pm

    @ Bob Roberts Read this carefully please, and you won’t get it wrong again.

    I have not accused anyone of being a racist, whether for opposing positive discrimination (as I do) or anything else. I do believe it was a racist remark to suggest that black people can be made white by adoption. I use the Macperson definition that it is perceived to be a racist remark.

    I do not know whether it was said by someone who is a racist. I don’t believe it was, and thus will not comment on it again.

    I have not said that the Liberal Democrat party is or has been institutionally racist. What I do say is that it is perefectly legal for the party to take positive action measures now to counter its failure to do so in the past.

    I do not know of any policy of Seats for Whites. Perhaps you could enlighten us further. I do think it sad there is a backlash against helping BAME people from being given a fair chance at last, If the kind of remarks we are getting used to in there columns are part of an organised campiagn, It will only make the party look worse in the eyes of reasonable voters.

    I went to Leicester South to help Parmjit in the previous general election. I was not able to go this year because of a foot injury. I found in 2005 that apart from a small dedicated and hardworking group from outside, as well as a lot of local people, there was not a lot of obvious help or resources.

    Parmjit was a good MP in the short period he was in the House, and deserved much more support from the national party. Party activists who invest a lot of their time, effort and resources into winning any by-election deserve to know that the party will give full support to the winners.

  • @jonathan – you are simply wrong. positive action is allowed under the law – such as training , positve discrimination is not. moving someone down the list because they are not BAME is discrimination.

    @Mercel – is there in fact any evidence at all that the under representation of BAME people is due to racism ? or are they in fact underrepresented in most areas of society (just like white working class people).
    In your career in the lib dems has it in fact affected you?

  • Jonathan Hunt 8th Jul '10 - 6:53pm

    @SmcG: Sorry, but this what I have been saying far too many times for too long, but still it doesn’t seem to get through

    Yes, positive action, which is what the EMLD motion calls for, is legal. Positive discrimination is not legal.

    Positive action allows measures to be taken that counter the effects of previous discimatory practices. That is what the motion calls for.

    No one is seeking to move white people down lists or anywhere else. They are already there in the top four, or six or whatever. The backlash has simply got it wrong.

  • @Jonathan – looking forward to your answer to MatGB. given you do not support positive dicrimination you presumably do not support what the London Liberal party have agreed.

  • Jonathan Hunt 9th Jul '10 - 10:39am

    My response seems to have disappeared into the ether. Is it this crap inerweb thingie or me?

    It will take a little time to rewrite it.

  • Jonathan Hunt 9th Jul '10 - 1:01pm

    @ MatG and others:

    I was not present at the London awayday when this was discussed. Will refrain from commentunti I hear details at executive meting on Monday. But your prompting provkes a number of questions.

    The last GLA list selection in 2007 meant only one BME candidate at ninth position in a city where the BME population was about a third, and is now much more. But membership is mainly located in the outer suburbs, where members know white candiadtes and respond to their messages. Most BAME people live in the inner-city.

    I believe it should be possible under a programme of positive action “rules” to correct this by the system you seem to object to. All quite legal. We need to reflect the population of london and be seen to be properly representative of the people we are seeking to represent. Otherwise we might as well give up being a party that pretends to seek social and racial justice.

    Most forms of social progress mean that someone is adversely affected. When we stopped small children being sent up chimneys and down mines, we discriminated against sweeps and mineowners. legislating for full-time education meany discriminating against mill and landowners who would otherwise obtain have paid a pittance for their work. Progressive taxation discriminates againt the rich. Disredisbution of power discriminates against the powerful.

    I could go on ad nauseum. Few major changes, or any redistribtion, can occur without some form of discrimination against those in the main who have, in favour of those who have not. Although I think what is being done is within the law, it might help you to think in those trems.

    I have tried to make reasonable arguments that may persude reasonably minded Liberal Democrats. I am afraid remarks by your friend caused such offence that i reacted unreasonably. I accepot that it was due to innocence and ignorance rather than intended racism.

    Perhaps there is a need for race awareness, as well as positive action programmes thoughout the party.

  • Jonathan Hunt 9th Jul '10 - 1:06pm

    @MatG and others

    I was not present at the London awayday when this was discussed. Will refrain from commentunti I hear details at executive meting on Monday. But your prompting provkes a number of questions.

    The last GLA list selection in 2007 meant only one BME candidate at ninth position in a city where the BME population was about a third, and is now much more. But membership is mainly located in the outer suburbs, where members know white candiadtes and respond to their messages. Most BAME people live in the inner-city.

    I believe it should be possible under a programme of positive action “rules” to correct this by the system you seem to object to. All quite legal. We need to reflect the population of london and be seen to be properly representative of the people we are seeking to represent. Otherwise we might as well give up being a party that pretends to seek social and racial justice.

    Most forms of social progress mean that someone is adversely affected. When we stopped small children being sent up chimneys and down mines, we discriminated against sweeps and mineowners. legislating for full-time education meany discriminating against mill and landowners who would otherwise obtain have paid a pittance for their work. Progressive taxation discriminates againt the rich. Disredisbution of power discriminates against the powerful.

    I could go on ad nauseum. Few major changes, or any redistribtion, can occur without some form of discrimination against those in the main who have, in favour of those who have not. Although I think what is being done is within the law, it might help you to think in those trems.

    I have tried to make reasonable arguments that may persude reasonably minded Liberal Democrats. I am afraid remarks by your friend caused such offence that i reacted unreasonably. I accepot that it was due to innocence and ignorance rather than intended racism.

    Perhaps there is a need for race awareness, as well as positive action programmes thoughout the party

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