Six Lib Dem policies to tackle racial inequality

The Lib Dem manifesto, launched earlier today, includes several ideas to make Britain a more racially-equal society.

Black and minority ethnic (BAME) people will be voting on all the main issues, like Europe, the economy, education and health. But polls show that BAME communities are more concerned about ‘security’ issues like unemployment, and about equality.

Our new manifesto offers some serious proposals to address some fundamental causes of racial unfairness in society. This shows that Lib Dems are keen to walk the walk on equality.

That we don’t just believe that everyone is equal, but we understand the challenges faced by those who suffer inequality and, in partnership with BAME communities, we are committed to doing something about it.

Large companies to monitor and publish data on BAME employment and pay gaps

The Equality Act requires all companies with over 250 staff to do this for gender. Extending this to race can make a big difference to tackling racial biases in the jobs market, which is the main cause of many unequal life chances faced by BAME families. It will focus minds of top management to ask why unfair outcomes are happening, which they might not have even been aware of, and find solutions to deal with those disparities. Importantly, Lib Dems are also committing to closing inequality gaps revealed by the published data.

Reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system

BAME people are more likely to have their life chances severely curtailed in their youth and early adulthood due to being disproportionately sucked into the criminal justice system with police targeting stop and searches on them. Studies also reveal that BAME offenders are more likely to get custodial and longer sentences than White offenders for the same crime. Lib Dems are pledging to seriously consider upcoming recommendations of the government review being led by David Lammy MP. He has already delivered an interim report.

Increase the number of apprenticeships from BAME backgrounds

Lib Dems also aim to ensure gender balance across industry sectors. A focus on ethnic representation in apprenticeships is welcome. Under the Conservatives just 9.5% of 2 million were BAME even though 26% of applicants were. The proportion of secondary school pupils who are BAME is even higher than that, so urgent action is needed to stop apprenticeships turning into the first major barrier of unfairness faced by young and diverse talent.

One BAME candidate on every public appointment shortlist

We already know that BAME jobseekers with foreign-sounding names have to send twice as many CVs to get an interview compared to equally-qualified people with an ‘English’ name. The same problem applies to public appointments. Lib Dems want a presumption that a BAME person is on the shortlist. This implies that appointment panels will have to consciously decide that no BAME applicants were able to do the job well before going with an all-White shortlist. Again, the process will focus minds and help dismantle unconscious biases.

Introduce a government-wide plan to tackle racial inequalities and strengthen the equalities watchdog

The Lib Dem manifesto proposes a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities. This goes further than the Tories, who have ordered an audit of racial disparities but have no plan to address the causes of the inequality. We also call for a review of the effectiveness and funding of the watchdog that promotes and enforces equalities laws, the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This body has been cut and sidelined by the Tories.

Introduce legislation to allow for all-BAME parliamentary shortlists

Lib Dems want to enable political parties to run all-BAME and all-LGBT+ shortlists if they want to. Currently the law covers all-women and all-disability shortlists. The change will need secondary legislation to amend the Equality Act.

* Lester Holloway is a former councillor and member of the Equalities Policy Working Group, and a member of the Race Equality Taskforce

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May '17 - 7:49pm

    Lester as ever gives us reason to be vigilant and optimistic about our party and its BAME stance, involvement and members.

    We have some terrific candidates from a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. What a terrible thing so rare any of our seats are remotely safe ones !

    The great shame is not only this, but that so few BAME voters give us their vote, with the coverage and representation we secure I am hardly flabbergasted !

    Here’s rooting for our candidates and party !

  • The further slide toward ‘positive’ discrimination is however disappointing from a liberal party. Labour’s experience demonstrates how little progress you can make toward changing attitudes in this way.

  • Lester Holloway 18th May '17 - 9:53am

    Thank you @ Lorenzo Cherin for your comment. In terms of seats we lost in 2015 in this election we have Amna Ahmad aiming to win back Sutton and Cheam, and Ade Adeyemo seeking to do the same in Solihull. This is a better position on BAME candidates than we’ve been in. They would both make excellent MPs. As a former Sutton councillor I know our party there has been bucking the national trend since the 1960s, before I was born. They did this through localism, hard work and perhaps most importantly, believing they can (and not believing what the Tories or the polls tell us). This has been a winning formula. We need to keep believing.

  • Lester Holloway 18th May '17 - 9:53am

    @ Ian – here’s why the race equality aspects to our manifesto are positive action and not discrimination:

    Large companies to monitor and publish data on BAME employment and pay gaps – If we are against publishing information we are for a secretive society, and that doesn’t sound very liberal to me. We current publish a lot of data on a range of services and performance. Exposing this to the light of day helps experts formulate solutions and inform the public and politics itself. If we believe in equality, there is no excuse to exclude one particular area of race.

    Reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system – catching and punishing all criminals equally regardless of background is not discrimination. We know more about why stop and searches are disproportionate and progress is continuing in this area to make policing fairer and build on the principle of policing with consent. We need to know more about disproportionate sentencing. A more diverse judiciary will help but that is only part of the solution.

    Increase the number of apprenticeships from BAME backgrounds – We are against the 11+ as liberals because it divides between white collar and blue collar before talent has truly flourished. Apprenticeship figures tell us there is something going wrong in how businesses pick apprentices. We should not tolerate a race-based 16+.

  • Lester Holloway 18th May '17 - 9:54am

    One BAME candidate on every public appointment shortlist – The underlining principle of the best person for the job remains intact here. This has nothing to do with manipulating outcomes, only extending choice because existing biases self-deny the full choice of talent by discriminating against BAME applicants. There have been extensive studies in the US (which apply here) on human behaviours in hiring practices, such as ‘will they fit in here’, ‘will I get accused of being racist’ etc, all of which have nothing to do with qualifications or ability to do the job. Human contact helps break down these barriers (to an extent). That is why interviews (ie opportunities) matter.

    Introduce a government-wide plan to tackle racial inequalities and strengthen the equalities watchdog – having a plan for equality is actually just a manifestation of believing in equality. The detail (solutions) are up for discussion. I hope the forthcoming Lib Dem race equality policy working group will flesh out some liberal solutions. But the basic premise of having a 360 degree vision on racial inequality everywhere, and recognising the responsibility of a progressive government to tackle it is an important one. Of course its not just about government. Hearts and minds will never be won by state levers alone. But government plays a part. Let’s work out exactly which part.

    Introduce legislation to allow for all-BAME parliamentary shortlists – the key words here are “if they want to”. Its about freedom and choice of parties to ensure outcomes in selected seats where all else has failed and where the BAME and/or LGBT talent is there and would make terrific MPs. Positive discrimination would be denying a completely rubbish MP (and there are enough of them) the opportunity to contest a seat they already hold. Positive action is utilising the opportunity to make parliament better reflect society with diverse talent when vacancies naturally occur.

  • Sue Sutherland 18th May '17 - 12:08pm

    Thank you Lester for this post and your well reasoned response to Ian. I’m afraid my reaction was to throw up my hands in exasperation! I’m glad the party is moving forward on this and horrified that our police and legal system is still so biased.

  • My first thought on reading about these 6 Policies is that they are the sort of change that will very quickly become seen as simply “Common Sense”.
    To me they are the essence of Liberalism : small Reforms that will improve peoples lives.

  • Follow Labour down this dead end, if you wish.

  • “Introduce a government-wide plan to tackle racial inequalities and strengthen the equalities watchdog”
    The problem is racial inequalities in immigration are not done on race as such but on income requirements and the like. If people in Britain could only marry if they had a high income then the married rate would drop by a lot.

  • Jonathan Brown 18th May '17 - 10:59pm

    Thanks for your tireless work on this Lester, for this article and your extended explanations. It’s great to know that we’ve got some really solid policy proposals on this.

  • I don’t often post to thank people, but I want to thank Lester Holloway for this article and his replies in the comments section. I have a vague memory that our 2015 manifesto didn’t really include policies such as these. It is therefore great to see them highlighted and hopefully they reflect the work that some people have been doing for a number of years to get these type of policies into our manifesto.

    I am shocked by the figures on apprenticeships. Hopefully after the general election this will change so that BAME applicants have the same chance of getting in to an apprenticeship as non-BAME applicants.

  • Pramod Subbaraman 21st May '17 - 7:12am

    Dear Lester
    Thanks for sharing this. As you know well, I have myself suffered on many counts and totally identify with the points you raise in this piece.
    Let me share my experience.
    When I first tried to move to the UK and get a job, the local area PCT were sceptical. It was part of a new scheme announced by the Department of Health to tackle the NHS dentist shortage at that time (2004-2006). A good part of their scepticism was related to the scheme itself, but I can’t deny that having what they would regard as an unpronounceable name could have been a factor. They had told my prospective employer at the time that they most likely weren’t going to support the scheme, but they would meet me as I had made the effort to come see them in West Norfolk, all the way from Bangalore. The meeting lasted 10 minutes. My prospective employer at that time who was in the meeting after they sent me out so they could discuss then told me that once they’d met me, they decided that they wanted me there even if they were sceptical about the DoH scheme! Now if they hadn’t met me and just put my application in the bin, none of what followed since could have happened!

    The reason I say this is that I’ve recently become aware of a culture whereby employers just bin CVs of people whose names they can’t pronounce ( anything not sounding ” English” ). A friend of mine told me about ” the good old days” when hospital consultants could freely bin such CVs.

    It is good that the party wishes to do these things. Nice to see them in the manifesto, but given that Tim has committed us to opposition, it’s possible that there will be no real progress on these matters. For now, I wait with bated breath to see if Amna and Ade get elected! I hope they’re getting the support they need to win.

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