The new Naoroji Award

Dadabhai Naoroji

I have written here before about the case for community outreach by our Party and cited amongst other statistics results from the Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (EMBES) which showed in the 2010 elections: 68% of ethnic minorities had voted Labour, 16% Conservatives and only 14% Liberal Democrats.

To encourage local parties to do more to promote support from diverse communities, we have of course implemented various initiatives. These range from the appointment of a National Diversity Advisor for the Party in Issan Ghazni (2007-2010) and permanent staff in the Party’s Diversity Unit, to the establishment of volunteer Regional Diversity Champions across the country.

One of the biggest challenges I believe is the scale of the task having to grapple with the different strands of diversity. On the question of race however, I think we might now be able to make real strides through the creation of a new Party Award: the Naoroji Award.

Dadabhai Naoroji is probably a familiar name to those of you who are well versed in Liberal History. He was the first Asian Member of Parliament across all parties, hailing back to the year 1892, and had successfully stood on Gladstone’s Liberal platform for the constituency of Central Finsbury. In memory of the late Naoroji, an award in his name was thought up by one Cllr Rabi Martins, Vice-Chair of Ethnic Minority Lib Dems and the idea approved by the EMLD executive, Federal Executive and our Party President.

The criteria for the Judging Panel to find the local party most deserving of this award (consisting of a cash prize, a mini-shield and a larger rotating shield) include the following:

  • The extent to which the membership of the local party reflects the BME population of their local area and the nation as a whole
  • Local Party outreach programmes to BME communities to encourage membership and active involvement with the Party
  • The extent to which BME members are elected to the Party Executive
  • The number of BME council candidates and Councillors, and the proportion of BME candidates in safe seats
  • The extent to which local BME members are encouraged and assisted to apply for Assembly and Parliamentary seats
  • The extent to which BME candidates are encouraged to apply for the Parliamentary seat in their constituency.

My personal reaction was to realise with dismay that as a Party we do not yet practice ethnic monitoring of our membership. Nevertheless this should not pose a monumental hurdle and will certainly help us focus more attention on the general profile of our own Party membership, be it with regard to gender, age, race/culture, disability or sexual orientation.

If you have read this far and are still interested, please note that applications are currently open, and the deadline is 31 July 2012. Submissions should be made to [email protected] at Lib Dem HQ with supporting evidence (no longer than 5 pages in length) including:

  • Descriptions of campaigns in and appealing to ethnically diverse communities
  • Case studies of individuals recruited or affected by these campaigns
  • Positions created or used to support campaigning in ethnically diverse communities
  • Testimonials or case studies from BME party members
  • Evidence of encouragement of BME members to run for elected office inside the party
  • Descriptions of support offered to BME members proposing to seek election / case studies with BME elected to public office

Applications are to be accompanied by a covering note from a Local Party executive member who will act as the point of contact.

I understand that decisions on successful applications will be made known to the relevant Local Party by 17th August 2012 and it is likely that presentation of the awards will take place immediately prior to the leader’s speech in the afternoon session on Wednesday 26th September 2012. All in full glare of the media.… an opportunity not to be missed?

* Merlene Emerson is an Executive member of LibDems Overseas and Co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats.

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11 Comments

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 17th Jul '12 - 12:19pm

    I do hope that that the Party takes note of this Award, that has been established to encourage and reward those local groups that have realised the seriousness of the current situation where we do not have one non-white Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament.

    In fact since Dadabhai Naoroji, in 1892, we as a Party have managed to send only one further other non-white MP to Parliament, and this was Parmjit Singh Gill who was elected for the Liberal Democrat at a by-election in 2004 in Leicester South, but did not retain the seat at the 2005 General Election.

    What does this lack of obvious ethnic diversity within not only Parliament, but also within the Party, at the highest levels of the local and national level say about us?

    Surely the time has come to consider a positive action programme of recruitment, retention and progression in order to redress the imbalance not only with regard to race, but across the entire diversity spectrum, so that we are truly reflective of society?

    We could start this process, by formally adopting positive initiatives such as equality impact assessing our policies, procedures and functions, and as Merlene highlights, the demographic monitoring of our membership.

    I wish to commend the Party to move from the laudable rhetoric that it communicates with regard to equality and diversity, and move into action, to achieve its vision of “Building a fairer Britain”.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat – Executive Member

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 17th Jul '12 - 2:51pm

    Whilst I am pleased to see this initiative, I suspect that my Local Party (Bury St Edmunds) won’t be competing for it any time soon. For despite the fact that we have a BAME Chair and Treasurer in our Local Party, the BAME population in vast swathes of our constituency is so small that it would be difficult to find.

    We would almost certainly encourage anybody who turned up to do whatever they felt they were interested in, our approval processes for candidates are certainly applicant friendly, but we treat everybody the same, regardless of their background, mainly because we can’t see any good reason why we shouldn’t.

    And that’s rather difficult to vouch, I suspect…

  • Rabi Martins 17th Jul '12 - 5:51pm

    Very disappointed with your take on this initiative
    If your way of thinking had worked there would be over 50 or more non white members of Parliament by now

    If you and others think this initative is aimed just at at constituencies with huge BAME populations they are very much mistaken
    The hope behind the award is that it will act as an incentive for local Parties to find and nurture local BME talent because THIS GROUP IS UNDER-REPRESENTED in elected office

    There is absolutely no reason why your local Party should not put a plan together to help your Chair and / or Treasurer get elected as a councillor – MP – MEP etc if that is what they wish On the contrary just think what a strong message Busry St Edmunds would send to the rest of the country if you were to win the award

    Windsor has never had a huge BAME population That did not stop the Conservatives putting their trust in a BAME candidate And as you know their trust was not mis placed

  • Rabi Martins 17th Jul '12 - 9:48pm

    Just to clarify – my comment above was aimed at Mark V

  • Rabi Martins 18th Jul '12 - 9:56am

    The Party needs to make a start by getting a handlre on the profile of the Membership –
    I first asked for data o on membership ethnicity to be collected way back around 2007
    Can’t undertand why we find it so difficult to so

  • Mark,

    You are wrong and the approach you advocate is wrong – it’s not about treating people equally – it’s about tackling inequality. I’s not passive, it’s pro-active. I don’t accept that the treating people equally is sufficient – that just leaves people turning a blind eye to the reality of under-representation. And if you need a course/session or more on sorting this then i love suffolk and am happy to come and explain in more detail – you know where i live 🙂

    Ed

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