Tag Archives: race equality

A memorial to a lie

Happy New Year. I come on to a topic I’ve meant to blog about for ages.

In June 2020 Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol was pulled down, rolled down the street and dumped in the River Avon to huge controversy. Why was the statue there in the first place, though?

The statue was erected in 1895 to falsify history. A plaque on the plinth described him as “one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city”. But he wasn’t. Bristol had been a major slave trading port, and Edward Colston had been at the heart of it.

I attempt to imagine that my skin pigmentation is black. The history I was taught at school was the history of the white-skinned people, omitting the history of the ancestors from whose DNA the hypothetical me’s skin pigmentation comes. Those ancestors, or kin of theirs, were kidnapped, enslaved, sold, classed as subhuman and as property, whipped, raped, exploited, even killed, with impunity under laws created by white-skinned people for profit.

Even Queen Elizabeth the First profited from slavery. How many people know that? I can’t recall a history lesson or popular depiction of Good Queen Bess mentioning that fact.

As this hypothetical me, I go to Bristol and I read that plaque. How can I not be indignant?

Other features of the hypothetical me are probably that:

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Dear White People: Join Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality

As Membership Secretary for LDCRE, it’s my job to get you to join LDCRE. If you just needed that reminder then click here – and welcome to the campaign!

I should write something more.

As Roderick Lynch, first Chair of LDCRE and a key driver behind the campaign, is prone to saying – the clue is in the name. We are not simply an SAO for members from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – we are the SAO for members that want to Campaign for Race Equality. Of ALL creeds and colours, and every background.

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Standing up for Race Equality is a multi generational task

Last week I wrote of my own emerging awareness of ethnicity and discrimination, awareness from childhood.

This immediately elicited a parody on social media, which I personally found hilarious – imitation, even parody is a form of flattery; however, I did wonder whether any other contributions to Lib Dem Voice would be met with such a response, so swiftly were they written by someone from a well represented or powerful group, though you might well believe that this is more likely in that case. I leave it to you to speculate on whether this is part of the a great British tradition or whether it too is a manifestation of structural discrimination, intended to put people from under represented groups off. While you could say that it hasn’t put me off, are the very people who would be put off, the ones whom we wish to include?

While of course I could write about the statistics of race equality, I’m a physicist by training and while I have done many different things one of which was to track and latterly direct 800 performance (statistical) indicators for 6 years in order to work with others to turn one of the worst councils in the UK into one of the best, that would not give you a feel for the lived experience of being in a minority group and it is precisely the view that the experience doesn’t count, it is simply the statistics which matter which is a part of the issue.

Childhood is in so many ways an important time, if not the most important time of our lives, and it is important in forming our ideas on race equality too. I will stick with the theme of race equality in childhood and write about my mother and my aunt’s early life.

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Reflections on Black History Month

Embed from Getty Images

The month of October in the UK is celebrated as Black History Month (BHM), which I must admit, I was not aware of till couple of weeks back. So, when I read about it, I thought ‘why not to write few lines for the people like me who may have not paid much attention to BHM?’

Black History Month is celebrated to recognise the struggle of black people for equal rights and civil justice. This celebration of BHM is for achievements to the contribution of black people, who, despite so much hardship, strive to contribute to humanity in every way.

Today during the pandemic, when we visit either the hospital or the care home, we see people from the black community, along with others, working tirelessly to save lives.

To tell you the truth sometimes when you read the history you find it so difficult to believe that any community has had to struggle so much for equal rights, a right which should be part and parcel of every human at the time of birth.

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We don’t talk – really talk – enough about race

We don’t talk enough about race. Properly talk, that is.

It’s become obvious, as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has come to the fore with the murder of George Floyd in the United States, that, whilst many of us who consider ourselves liberals have a desire to be anti-racist and create a society where your skin colour does not determine your life chances, we lack the language and the understanding of how to achieve this.

We excel, instead, in talking around the edges of it: about statues, colonial history and political history.

If you agree, I would heartily recommend the book: “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F Saad – as an essential read, whether you are white or not. It has given me a language, terms and understanding of issues around race and discussing race that have long troubled me, that I have had no easy way to express.

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18 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems use Urgent Question to challenge Govt on DFID merger
  • Govt must regulate big tech companies’ use of COVID-19 app data
  • Lib Dems call for Race Equality Strategy

Lib Dems use Urgent Question to challenge Govt on DFID merger

Liberal Democrat International Development spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain has today challenged the Foreign Secretary on the “wrongheaded” decision to merge the Department of International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Wendy Chamberlain blasted the Prime Minister’s description of DFID as a “cashpoint in the sky”. She also raised mounting concerns about future funding for DFID projects …

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Isabelle Parasram writes…Shall we talk about race equality?

When is it a good time to talk about race equality? 

In political organisations, as with many others, that time can often be ‘tomorrow’

With the number of fires that any organisation has to fight every day – more so with political parties – diversity issues are often last on the agenda. 

But they can’t be the last on our agenda. 

As a barrister, I was recently asked, during an interview, to name the biggest legal issues likely to impact large organisations. 

My answer surprised the interviewer. 

It wasn’t breaches of data, financial misconduct or cyber crime. 

It was: ‘…diversity and sexual impropriety…’. 

The latter is, perhaps, down to my role as Special Investigation Counsel and similar work that I carry out elsewhere. 

The former is because I believe diversity to be one of the foundational markers of a successful organisation. 

But it seems that it will always be an issue that will remain on the back burner unless it becomes a fire to fight. 

Thankfully, that is already the case with many corporate institutions who have either embraced diversity because of the enormous benefits it brings or, disappointingly, have had to do so just to meet targets. 

Either way, it has made a difference.

The reality is this. 

Take a look at how we are perceived externally (quotes taken from The Operation Black Vote BaME Local Political Representation Audit, 2019):

‘Our findings raise some fundamental questions in general about belonging, having a voice, and how political parties are failing to understand their role to ensure inclusive representative democracy. Specifically both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are both in a really poor place when it comes to their BAME councillor representation. The percentage breakdown of BAME councillors presently is: Labour 84%, Conservatives 11%, Liberal Democrats 3% and 2% other affiliations.

BAME Councillors are disproportionately affiliated with the Labour Party at 84.2%, followed by the Conservative Party at 10.9%, the Liberal Democrats at 3.1%, and 1.8% are affiliated with other parties or independents.’

I have no doubt that almost everyone in the Lib Dems sees race equality as a key issue. Perhaps some even see it as a top priority. 

This is certainly the view of Lord Alderdice, who, in his 2018 Report entitled Race, Ethnic Minorities and the Culture of the Liberal Democrats stated: 

‘… if there is to be positive change, the approach to race and ethnic minorities has to become a top priority.’

What I doubt is that we know quite what to do about it. 

I’ve spoken to local Party Chairs who have said they don’t want to get it wrong, they don’t know where to start, they don’t want to appoint a Diversity Officer out of tokenism, they don’t have the resources…

All of these comments come from people who, at their core, want to do so good a job that they aren’t actually doing it. This isn’t because they don’t care or they don’t want to care. It’s because they are hesitant to make a start and then fail at something that – broadly speaking – they really want to do well.

I’ve been asked if it’s obligatory to appoint a Local Party Diversity Officer as per my recent email to Local Party Chairs. No, it isn’t. 

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16-17 March 2019 – the weekend’s press releases (part 1)

Liberal Democrats demand a Clean Air Act

The Liberal Democrats have today demanded the Conservative Government bring forward a Clean Air Act enshrining the legal right to unpolluted air.

The proposals, set out at the Liberal Democrat conference in York, are based on World Health Organisation guidelines and would be enforced by a new Air Quality Agency.

If successful, the Clean Air Act would also demand air pollution testing took place more widely and frequently, with warning signs displayed in pollution hotspots and sensitive areas, such as near schools.

Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:


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How do we each make 2017 a better year for race equality in the UK?

2016 has been one of the worst years for race equality which I have lived through in the UK. It is quite frankly a stain on our country’s record which every liberal, whether a member of the Liberal Democrats or not, would not wish to see repeated ever.

It is up to us to create a better future, up to each of us personally. We need our political parties to be fit for purpose for race equality campaigners of all backgrounds. Imagine my surprise when I read Roy Lilley’s words below on the NHS (in an email from nhsmanagers.net) and saw how well they apply to our party and increasing the involvement of a wider range of people in politics.

As we nudge our way out of what, by any standards, has not been the health and care services’ finest year, there’s some stuff we would do well to leave behind.

The first is a word.

The ugliest word in the NHS lexicon… ‘engagement’. I don’t want to ‘engage’ with people, do you? I want to talk to them. Better still; listen to them. I want to hear their views, have a conversation, ask what they think.

Engage is what gear boxes do, to drive an engine and what old telephones sound like when someone else is talking. People who are interested in other people’s ideas don’t ‘engage’. They have a chat.

If they have something to explain, clarify, demonstrate, make a case for… they do it, face to face, eyeball to eyeball. Politely, with passion and purpose.

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Race equality survey of presidential candidates

Forms Diversity / SML.20121107.IPH5 / @lifecelebrates #diversityWhat do the candidates to be president of the Lib Dems think should be done to make the party more racially-diverse? I sent them a short six-question survey to find out.

The full survey results can be found on my blog here. Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne all agreed on many issues, with Sal and Linda proving the boldest in embracing new solutions to increase BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) diversity, Liz being the most cautious and Daisy somewhere in between. But there wasn’t a whole lot to pick between them.

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Race Equality motion passed unanimously

school childrenWhile all eyes were on the Economy debate today, in the hour before Conference debated another important motion. It was entitled ‘A new Liberal Democrat approach to Race Equality’, and can be found on page 36 of the Conference Agenda.  This motion was the outcome of the first report by the Liberal Democrat Race Equality Task Force: ‘Towards Race Equality: A Liberal Democrat Approach‘, which focused on education and employment.

This new approach sought to bring race equality back into focus in public debate. In recent years it has been …

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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 …

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Race equality – a new Liberal Democrat approach: SLF/EMLD Conference takes place soon

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, is the keynote speaker at one of the most important race equality events this party has held in recent years. Organised jointly by the Social Liberal Forum and Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, it takes place from noon on Saturday 1st June at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre, 25 New Inn Yard London EC2A 3EA. The conference will be of immense help to all those who realise that, particularly in London, the ethnic minority vote will be key to whether we sink or swim in the next elections.

Race equality is …

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