We Demand Better for Race Equality

Last week, the Resolution Foundation found that UK black and ethnic minorities (BAME) lost an estimated £3.2bn a year in pay gap and called for equivalent gender pay gap reporting for BAME workers. There was another report from the Centre for Justice Innovation on how community sentencing has decreased due to the loss of trust between the judges and magistrates and the probation service since the latter was privatised.

It seems like there is report each week of evidence of race discrimination or breakdown of trust between the UK establishment and the ethnic minority communities. In 2018, the Grenfell fire tragedy and the Windrush scandal epitomised how many migrant families have been marginalised and treated with impunity by public institutions. For Liberal Democrats this is intolerable and has to change.

For those who may not be aware, set up by Federal Policy Committee (FPC) a year ago, I chair the Race Equality Policy Working Group which presented a Consultation Paper (no. 136) at the last Autumn Conference. Thanks to everyone who responded, there was a record number of some 2000 comments received, more than in any past consultation!

Next week, FPC will be looking at our draft motion that will be tabled at Spring Conference this year, with a range of over-arching policies to improve race equality in the UK: from Education and Employment to Housing and Health, from Criminal Justice to Participation in Public Life. This will be backed by a 12,000+ worded policy paper with specific policy recommendations including:

    a) Ending the hostile environment and providing prompt reparations in cases of miscarriage of justice.
    b) Reducing the number of school exclusions by giving local authorities the remit and resources to act as Strategic Education Authorities for all schools in their area.
    c) Tackling health inequalities by funding public information campaigns to tackle stigmas within specific communities.
    d) Reducing the number of ethnic minority people criminalised with a drug policy that has a public health focus and with a whole-system approach to rehabilitation that prioritises diversion from the criminal justice system.
    e) Exposing and confronting the stereotyping in the media that leads to spikes in hate crime.

In the meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE) has been beavering away much behind the scenes in helping the party implement the Alderdice Report findings with a strategy to change the culture of the party. You can view our Chair Roderick Lynch’s video on the LDCRE facebook here.

So, if anyone is in need of New Year resolutions to consider, may I suggest you could add:

  • Joining LDCRE for as little as £1 a year here
  • Coming to the Chinese LibDem Lunar New Year dinner on 19 February (and bring a Chinese friend if you have one)
  • Work with me and others within the party to demand better for race equality and to eradicating race inequality in this country.

Happy New Year everyone!

* Merlene was co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats and on the executive of the LibDems Overseas. She co-edited “Rise of China – Fresh Insights and Observations” published by the Paddy Ashdown Forum (2021)

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  • David Evershed 2nd Jan '19 - 4:17pm

    We shouldn’t assume that pay equality will be achieved by increasing the pay of black and ethnic minority employess in the UK rather than reducing the pay of non BAME employees.

    Global competition has already substantially increased the pay of Asian workers whilst restricting the pay of European and North American workers.

    Be careful what we wish for.

  • Nom de Plume 2nd Jan '19 - 4:53pm

    @David Evershed

    The Resolution Foundation was looking at relative rates of pay, not absolute levels. There should not be descrimination on grounds of ethnicity. Their research suggests that there are ‘pay penalties’ related to ethnicity. The effects of globalisation on pay levels is not relevant to the argument.

  • Nom de Plume 2nd Jan '19 - 4:59pm

    @David Evershed

    If you are suggesting that Trump-like protectionism or Brexit will benefit British workers, we can have that debate elsewhere.

  • David Evershed 2nd Jan '19 - 5:18pm

    @Nom de Plume

    My point is that relative rates of pay are much greater between European workers and Asian workers than between ethnic groups within Europe or any one country within Europe.

    So the biggest problem to solve is the ethnic pay differential between Asia/Africa and Europe/N.America than the pay differentials within countries. Globalisation seems to be closing the gap but partly by restricting wages in Europe/N.America.

    Lib Dems are internationalists and will not want to look at this problem from a parochial point of view but looking across the world.

  • @David Evershed

    Sorry but that’s nonsense. This is about the pay differential between UK BAME workers and UK non-BAME workers.

    You’re basically suggesting we say to a BAME British person “okay so you are being paid less than your white coworkers but if you compare your income to a BAME person in a developing country you’re far better off – stop complaining.”

    It’s a completely different issue.

  • Nom de Plume 2nd Jan '19 - 6:44pm

    No, I think David Evershed is pointing out the large differences of levels of pay across the world. He makes some suggestions as to some of its effects. It is an interesting topic, but I don’t think it belongs to this discussion.

  • Martin Land 3rd Jan '19 - 8:23am

    Before we look at party policy we need much more information and detailed analysis than the Resolution Foundation are providing.
    I’m not a Marxist, I’m a radical Lib Dem, but the question has to be asked. How far are these questions actually related to gender or ethnicity and how much to issues of social class or educational opportunity? What role does the culture of an ethnic minority group play?
    There is obviously a problem but much more data and in depth analysis is required before debating solutions.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jan '19 - 9:40am

    @ Martin Land,
    From my own experience of how different groups are treated in the workplace , I believe that there are injustices. However, it is easy to pin the problem onto conscious or unconscious bias and I am not sure that that this is the whole story in some cases.

    Initially we need more measuring and monitoring of pay gaps to understand the full scale of the problem. We are then in a better position to analyse the reasons for any findings.

    It is a pity that one has to declare oneself, not a Marxist but a Radical Lib Dem, before raising these doubts and questions.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Jan '19 - 1:26pm

    @ Merlene Emerson,

    That is quite a challenge you have set me.

    May I start by saying that I find the continued need for Black History month depressing. The near exclusion of black people and their contribution to our shared history across all fields of endeavour is shameful.

    You mention ‘key figures’. I think that key figures, e.g. Mary Seacole, Walter Tull et al. are already well covered in Black history month. Please correct me if this is not the case. Personally, I would like to see a move that incorporates little known figures too. For example Dr Harold Moody of Peckham.

    To give you a flavour of what I mean , I would like to draw your attention to a talk at South Bank University by author Stephen Bourne.

    ‘ How Black nurses were vital to our health services even before Windrush, a talk by Stephen Bourne’.

    If you really want me to give you a list of names I would be happy to do so, but I really think that it is for black britons to make a judgement on how best to celebrate black history month.

  • Simon Banks 8th May '19 - 11:49am

    David Evershed seems to be suggesting that unfairly low rates of pay for BAME employees are OK because they mean white employees get a bit more. It seems to me fundamental to Liberalism to oppose all discrimination on grounds of prejudice. I add that last bit to make clear it doesn’t mean favouring muscular people for Fire and Rescue or people who can swim for the Coastguard is wrong. In any case, if people are not realising their potential because of prejudice, that hurts all of us. In a healthy economy, the most capable people will be in the right jobs.

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