Vice President Election: I will end the BME Deficit says VP Hopeful Rabi Martins

Editor’s Note: Liberal Democrat Voice has invited all six candidates for Vice President to submit an article in support of their candidacy. They are allowed to include two photos and video content. You can find out more details about the candidates and election, including the hustings tonight (Wednesday 8 December), here. Votes must be cast by 12 pm on Friday 10th December. 

This article is by Rabi Martins

I have not taken the decision to seek election as Party Vice President lightly. It is too important a post for that. I realise that Isabelle Parasram has done a great job of raising the profile of Liberal Democrats amongst many BME Communities in England, Scotland and Wales. Yet within the Party BME members struggle to make any significant headway. The new Vice President must redress that balance.  I know it is a challenge I can rise to because, as a member colleague told me “no one has worked as hard or for so long on Race Equality and Diversity Issues within the Party as you have.”

Back in 2001 I persuaded Lord Dholakia to review Diversity and Racial Equality within the Party. Consequently we established the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force which led to the election of our first BME MP since 1892. Soon after EMETF was disbanded and progress has stalled.

So bar that one significant achievement with EMETF and despite concerted efforts by me and several others, Liberal Democrats continue to remain the least BME friendly Political Party in the UK. How a Party that claims to campion a Fair, Open and Equal Society is able to live with that label beats me.  Yet time and time again attempts by internal campaign groups such as EMLD and LDCRE to persuade the leadership to initiate corrective action are met with platitudes and excuses.

The VP post is advertised as “Vice President for Engaging BME Communities”.  In my eyes the role carries a much wider responsibility. As VP I will put myself at the head of showcasing Lib Dems as the Party that values the contribution BME Communities make to our country and cultivates talents from diverse backgrounds to our mutual collective advantage.  I will use my experience, skills profile and time to end the BME Deficit and deliver the aspirations of BME members and activists to make Liberal Democrats a genuinely BME Friendly Party. This has been my aspiration for myself and for the Party for many a year. Anyone who has been a Party member for ten years or more will know precisely what I mean. And my Lib Dem colleagues in Watford will tell you about how I helped make Watford one of the most ethnically diverse Lib Dem local Parties in the country. Hence why I am known locally as the Community Champion.

Indeed if you dig up past copies of Lib Dem News or google past editions of Lib Dem Voice you will find many an article from me on the same theme. That is because I am Lib Dem who is obsessed with Diversity and Racial Equality in all walks of life.

I want to be elected Vice President to help transform our Party into the first choice political home for BME communities because members, activists and supporters from diverse communities are valued, trusted and respected.

Your Vote holds the key.




* Rabi Martins is a councillor and Deputy Lib Dem Group Leader on Watford Borough Council. He is a candidate for Lib Dem Vice President.

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  • Rabi Martins,

    I hope you can answer some questions from me.

    What do you mean by the BME Deficit? And what does ending this deficit look like?

    What would you consider as significant headway for BME party members?

    Are you committed to proposing and campaigning for the Federal Party to re-establish the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force or a similar body?

  • Rabi Martins 9th Dec '21 - 12:07am

    Michael Big
    Thanks for the questions
    When I say BME Deficit what I refer to the make up of local Party Membership which do not reflect the racial profile of the respective areas, the absence of elected representatives from BME Communities on Local / Regional Party Committees and ultimately the low level of elected representatives – councillors, assembly members and parliamentarians from BME backgrounds For example there are 27 Lib Dem run councils in the Country – As far as I know not a single one is has a BME leader or elected Mayor and only a couple of cabinet members

    of BME members on Parties in the same proportion Parties local Party executive committees , Regional and Federal Party elected.

    Ending the BME Deficit is implementing proactive measures to address these visible anomalies. I am conscious this is not an easy or a quick fix but it needs to be part of the development plan of every local Party in England, Scotland and Wales.

    A significant headway for BME Party members will be when they feel accepted within local Parties as being just as capable and competent as their white counterparts, When local Parties start to consider them for target winnable Local Council or Parliamentary seats regardless of the demographic of the seat. This is not something that comes naturally to any of us but has to be worked at by consciously suppressing the tendency to only associate with “people like us”

    As for re-establishing the EMETF – I do think there is merit in creating a forum to develop and support BME candidates get selected and then elected And yes I would gladly lobby for it.

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Dec '21 - 8:59am

    @Rabi Martins
    “When I say BME Deficit what I refer to the make up of local Party Membership which do not reflect the racial profile of the respective areas……”
    Do you have readily available data showing which areas do not reflect the racial profile of the local population – which might help to identify ‘underperforming’ local parties in this respect?

    “I am conscious this is not an easy or a quick fix but it needs to be part of the development plan of every local Party in England, Scotland and Wales.”
    When you say ‘every local party’ what about those – perhaps struggling anyway – local parties where the proportion of the local population who are from ethnic minorities is very low and where focussing on this issue might not be the best use of their limited resources?

  • Rabi Martins 9th Dec '21 - 3:45pm

    I do not have statistical data This is because the Party does not record ethnicity of or members This is something I have asked for before and been promised so am still waiting for
    I do know that none of the Leaders of the 27 Councils we control are BME And our team at the LGA could not tell me if there are any BME members on the Cabinet in these 27 Councils. That said anecdotal evidence suggests that only a handful of Local Parties have any significant BME members.
    If elected Vice President I will undertake a survey of Lib Dem Parties in areas that have 15 % or higher BME Population

    You are quite right to suggest that there will be areas where the BME population is very low That will be reflected in the make up of the local Party

  • Rabi Martins,

    “Michael Big” Ha ha : )

    Thank you for answering my questions.

    Do you know if the party keeps a record of each member’s BME status?
    How would you encourage members to give this information to the party?

    Do you expect to survey all MBE party members to gauge how accepted they feel within their Local Party now and when your term of office expires (I assume this is at the end of 2022)?

    You use the word “forum” with regard to the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force. Do you want a new EMETF or similar body to be more than a forum, but be financed so it can give real help to work a ward both with human assistance and financial assistance?

    Would you want to setup a body to provide human assistance and financial assistance to Local Parties where BME members do not feel accepted?

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