Tag Archives: racial equality

We need to be uncomfortable… let’s talk about how we treat our BAME members

On the third time I went canvassing, at the age of just 13, I was sent to a complex of flats. These flats were mostly owned by people of Indian descent and I, as someone born in the UK but whose family originally came from Bangladesh, was confused as to why I was being sent there. At a meeting later that day, the senior figure who made me canvass that area, proudly declared how we had gone to an ‘Indian’ complex of flats and that I had performed very well in the role of connecting with this particular community. It was very clear from this speech that this was planned to use my race to win votes. I was embarrassed but, more so, confused at why he thought I was meant to be the one to do this, and why everyone else (who was white), including an approved PPC, all smiled and murmured a chorus of approval.

Not too long after the election, we bumped into another senior local party figure in our town centre with his family. As he walked away I heard him explain to his son I was the ‘new Indian boy’. This made me uncomfortable. My parents and I were born in this country. It was, in fact, my grandparents who came from Bangladesh (not even India). I should’ve put my foot down at the way I was made to feel, how I was tokenised and racially (mis)profiled. But I didn’t want to kick up a fuss as an individual.

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Why electoral reform and Black Lives Matter go together

In a fair, free and open society, we would expect the makeup of our parliament and councils to reflect the demographic makeup of the area in which they serve, however this is not always the case. When some groups are over-represented, and others not, this can be symptomatic of systemic inequality, a potentially vicious cycle where an under-representation of voices from those the victims of this inequality means solutions to address it are not championed and prioritised.

By design, First Past The Post is designed to amplify many small majorities into a large majority on a representative body. By and large, many consider this feature to be unfair, but analysed through the lens of a system which already causes inequality, it also means the amplification of inequality such that those who either benefit by, or at least not penalised by, such a system are then over-represented on our electoral bodies.

This flaw of First Past The Post is one that’s not easy to rectify. When looking through a lens of gender, the mechanism of the All Women Shortlist was created to address this inequality, and by one mechanism it appears to have been effective – certainly within our parliamentary party, women have not only achieved parity, but have exceeded it! And in parliament as a whole, female representation has continued to rise. But the All Women Shortlist also has many critics, and puts into tension an individual freedom by suppressing a free and open selection process from all suitable candidates, with the systemic freedom of removing hidden barriers to entry for all genders.

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Isabelle Parasram on how she’s working with the English Party to improve diversity

Over on the party website, the Party’s Vice President BAME, Isabelle Parasram, writes about how she is working with the English Party to improve diversity and our party’s engagement with diverse communities.

For example, when I attend high profile events, wherever possible I also invite BAME members and supporters to attend with me.  One such event was the launch of the Commonwealth 8.7 Network at the Australian High Commission.

Through the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, over 60 civil society organisations will work together to push for greater action across the Commonwealth in eradicating modern slavery and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7.

At my invitation, Michael Bukola, one of our London Assembly candidates, and Dr Victoria Shownmi, an academic specialising in race relations who has been supportive of the work that I am doing, both attended with me.

Not only did they support me that evening, but they built connections and represented the Liberal Democrat brand in a way that I could not achieve on my own.

In terms of community outreach, I met the outgoing Cypriot High Commissioner at an event hosted by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.  Stemming from the discussions I had that evening, I will be arranging an event that will build further links between the Cypriot community and our Party.  Recognising the unique needs of our fellow EU citizens and seeking to meet those needs through political policy is part of my broader goal of ensuring that our Party adequately reflects the communities we serve.

She described a visit to Hackney after the murder of a teenager:

I also work with key figures within the Party to raise issues, seek their help in pursuing the cause of race equality and ensure that diversity remains at the top of the agenda for our Party.

Jo Swinson, Pauline Pearce and I went to Hackney following the tragic murder of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and met with some of his schoolfriends who were on study leave preparing for their GCSEs.  We also visited the local community, observing for ourselves the knife amnesty bin – inaccessible due to building work – the community buildings – either run down or closed down – and the high-rise buildings, with few open spaces or facilities for young people.

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Our #BollocksToHate campaign is for everyone

One question we have to address as a party, locally and nationally, is how to allow grassroots energy to contribute to coherent and effective campaigns.

Energised by the EU election result, the Islington LibDems are in top form. We did extremely well last May and there is a palpable sense of optimism and determination in the borough. Local activists led by chair Pierre Delarue and deputy chair Katherine Pollard have been holding lots of events, drinks, brainstorms and sessions to discuss next steps. How do we harness this power and start to get on a general election footing?

One of their first ideas was to do something about a series of pernicious stickers that had started to pop up around the borough, North and South, promoting racism and Hate. We spotted them and decided to print up some stickers to stick over them, with the simple message Bollocks to Hate. To be honest they looked very strong…and they covered over the vicious messages others had put there.

It sparked an idea. Why don’t we do an Islington values campaign on Hate…and Pride 2019 would be a perfect place to launch it.

We felt we needed buy-in from HQ, and we got Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter on board. They loved the idea and got very enthused over tea at the House of Lords. We showed them some sample graphics and they said go for it. Then we met with LibDem Creatives Charles Brand who advised us on the right imprint for the materials and crucially that we should ask everyone who appeared in the photos to sign consent release forms, giving us permission to use their photos in our campaign online. Lib Dem deputy CEO Emma Cherniavsky gave us her blessing and advised we focus it as an Islington campaign, and if it worked, HQ would consider taking it wider. She agreed this is a values campaign.

As this was Pride weekend in London, we decided in the first instance to focus on LGBTQ+ rights even though Hate and hate crimes are much wider than this. More of that later.

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Could you be the Lib Dems’ Vice President BAME?

As part of the implementation of the Alderdice Report which aims to remove the barriers to participation in the party by members of BAME communities, the Party is looking to appoint a Vice President BAME.

They’ve advertised the role and the details of what it entails and how to apply are below:

The Vice President BaME will be a party ambassador and senior Board officer. They will work with various Federal and State bodies responsible for delivering diverse representation both internally and externally. These include Candidates Committees, the Candidates & Diversity Office and the Diversity Committee of the Federal People Development Committee.

The VP-BaME would also support the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) and Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality (LDCRE) in their work to promote more BaME representation both in internal party structures and externally in local, regional and parliamentary elections.

The VP-BaME will work closely with the Party’s Equalities Spokesperson to ensure that different BaME communities’ interests are represented, to highlight issues, engage ethnic minority voters and campaign for a better deal for them.

They will work with LDCRE to reach out to BaME communities, to enthuse them about the Lib Dems and attract them to become members and activists.  They will champion inclusion, and work with these recruits to help them empower each other and gain the knowledge and skills they need to be meaningfully involved.

The VP-BaME will listen to BaME communities’ views and work to ensure that they are reflected in Liberal Democrat policy making.

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