Tag Archives: operation black vote

Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats: a year of achievement

cropped EMLD logoI was delighted to be re-elected Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) at the AGM last Saturday, 25th November.

2013 has been a year of considerable achievement, not least a very well-attended race equality conference in partnership with the Social Liberal Forum  which was launched by the business secretary Vince Cable.

EMLD were also successful in changing party policy on education and employment when our motion endorsing the Race Equality Taskforce report was unanimously approved at federal conference in Glasgow.

We were instrumental in preserving the “general duty” part of the …

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LibLink: Anuja Prashar – At the heart of why Europe matters

Operation Black Vote has an interesting interview with Anuja Prashar, Lib Dem Euro candidate in London, covering a whole range of issues, including her views of the future of the European Union.

Here’s a sample:

Prashar, an OBV graduate from the 2011 Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme, is rapidly making her political presence be felt. Having shadowed Baroness Ros Scott, former President of the Liberal Democrats with who she has maintained a relationship, Prashar feels she was given a unique and exceptional opportunity on OBV’s scheme and was surrounded with like-minded people.

During my time talking with her she consistently reiterated the need for our

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Opinion: Race must be central to rebuilding and reorientating the party

Black, Asian and minority ethnic voters could help the Lib Dems could win seats from the Conservatives in 2015 if we improve our appeal to the BME community.

The Guardian ran a front page today based on a new study by Operation Black Vote which found 168 marginal seats where BME voters outnumber the majority of the sitting MP, far outnumbering the swing 100 seats that could change the government.

The study, which I authored, also reveals there are 13 marginal constituencies where Lib Dems are in second-place and where the BAME electorate is larger than the majority of the sitting …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 131 Comments

The Independent View: Why I’m voting Yes to AV – Simon Woolley

I was a little surprised to be invited to be guest speaker at the Liberal Democrat spring conference last week. But the surprise was not because I’m supporting the AV Yes Vote. After all, I am vice-chair of the campaign.

It was rather because party bosses are well aware of my criticism after the main conference last September. My beef with them, expressed in the Guardian and other places, was a result of the party’s failure to do something positive about its lack of BME political representation.

Of course, I wasn’t there to talk about representation. But I did anyway. …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Opinion: The last chance saloon on diversity?

I went to conference expecting something entirely different, perhaps influenced by the daily articles and news reports, that this conference was going to be like no other. That there was much unrest, and even anger amongst the Party’s ranks. Instead I found myself amongst many Lib Dem party members and friends who were upbeat and positive.

I didn’t speak to anyone – nor as far as I can gather did the media – who was vehemently opposed to the Coalition Government. Yes, this conference was like no other. It was the largest conference we’ve ever had, and our Leader is …

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Opinion: The Defection Spiral

It’s a case of déjà-vu all over again. The defections of Chamali and Chandila Fernando seem to have produced carbon copy internal debates to the ones that greeted Norsheen Bhatti and Sajjad Karim’s walkouts.

As a party we really need to start learning some lessons from these regular blows because I, for one, am tired and frankly quite bored of witnessing the same depressing spiral of losing bright young BAME talent followed by a debate more notable for its heat than light, as the membership lob brickbats at the defectors.

All too often there is precious little by way of actual solutions to improve racial diversity in the party, but no shortage of insults. Arrogant, selfish and over-ambitious individuals who saw advancement in the party as their entitlement… good riddance to these jumped-up scumbags, I hear you say. Over and over again.

The trouble is, once we’ve stopped furiously kicking up sand there is virtually no energy left to tackle perhaps the biggest elephant in the room – our failure to look like a diverse party. Having made significant in-road in the inner cities, the lack of visible diversity is one crucial blockage we must clear in order to surge into Labour’s ‘territory’, where they have taken black and Asian votes for granted for so long.

Given the virtual collapse of Labour, I suspect if we had got serious about diversity earlier, then by now the whole party would be feeling the benefits of BAME communities supporting us in greater numbers. Let’s not forget a borough-by-borough breakdown of the European Elections in the capital seemed to indicate that neighbourhoods with the highest BAME populations continued to be wedded to Labour, despite everything.

Proportionally, BAME communities appear to be the last section of the electorate still prepared to vote Labour in any numbers, even though most indicators of race inequality have hardly improved over the past 13 years.

The sad fact is that we Lib Dems are still failing to convince enough black and Asian people that we are a diverse party which understands the multicultural society they are part of. This is especially true in the large chunks of London where we do not have a major local presence.

Polling by Operation Black Vote has shown just how highly BAME voters rate the issue of ‘Black political representation’ as a reason to support one party over another. If we are to properly respond to this we need to challenge gut instincts that reject ‘putting people in boxes’ or fret about a ‘silo’ approach, because the desire of people from ethnic minorities to be treated equally, and not to be pigeon-holed, is just one side of the coin.

Most of the same ethnic minorities also agree that institutional racism and unequal racial outcomes need to be challenged and, like it or not, this process requires us to see colour and analyse why discrimination happens on different levels. Quite often that means targeting BAME communities, where they are under-represented, or altering structures when attitudes of officials (or party members) are not changing fast enough.

After Bhatti’s defection I wrote on the Lib Dem Voice Members’ Forum that we cannot afford to sit back and wait for the next defection. Action not recrimination was the order of the day. This is exactly what Nick Clegg and Chris Fox, working with Ethnic Minority Lib Dems (EMLD), led by Meral Eçe, have been doing. The New Generation, launched earlier this month, aims to provide personal development and media training for BAME candidates. We also have a good diversity officer in Issan Ghazni.

After years of token moves and good intentions that don’t deliver, finally under the current leadership we have something approaching a solid programme. I am excited that this initiative is heading in the right direction, but even this is only half the battle. The other half is the party at large demonstrating a passion to provide BAME members with the same support and encouragement that is available to white young members born into Liberal households, for example.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

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