This has become an incoherent babble but I was determined to finish it. My apologies.
The defection yesterday of the Fernando siblings, on one level, is quite easy to laugh off. If Chamali and Chandila are “senior” party members on the basis that they have failed to get elected to any prominent position within the party (to be fair, Chamali did get elected to the FPC, but resigned almost instantly), then I must be one of the most senior party members out there. Been a member for five minutes? Not elected to anything? Well, on that basis David Cameron wants to hear from you too!
The Fernandos activities over the past couple of years have been a breathtaking example of ambition blinding individuals to harsh reality. One got a sense that Chamali was really angry at not getting selected as the mayoral candidate and wouldn’t brook the quite reasonable argument that a man who has helped run a London-wide authority (in his case, the police) was better qualified. A similar arrogance ran through Chandila’s presidential candidacy like a stick of rock. The sense of entitlement was palpable; one almost got the impression one had intruded onto the set of some dynastic soap opera.
Once the laughter dies down however, the party needs to wake up to some home truths. Specifically, we really are failing get BAME candidates selected in winnable seats. In terms of gender balance, we are actually making good progress. Of our 25 most marginal seats, 10 selected candidates are women. Of the top ten, 4 are women. If you exclude Tory marginals on the basis that we are unlikely to take them, 6 out of 13 selected candidates are women. Clearly we could still make improvements in this area, and incumbancy will always dent our progress, but it could be a lot worse. However, none of them are from an ethnic minority (quite happy to stand corrected here).
And it isn’t just the Fernandos that are defecting. Obviously there was Saj Karim in 2007, but earlier this year there was Norsheen Bhatti. I tend to be pretty dismissive of Saj as he threw his toys out of his pram despite coming second in a list of candidates in a PR election. We could have won that second seat; he simply wasn’t prepared to take that chance which was pretty shoddy. Norsheen is different. Unlike the Fernandos, Norsheen had done her graft. I first knew her back in 1998 when she was on the LDYS Equal Opportunities Committee with me. She had fought two thankless elections, as the candidate for Battersea in 2005 and Brent East in 2001. Yes, Brent East. My understanding is (again, happy to be corrected) she was out of the country when Paul Daisley died in 2003. It must have been pretty galling for her to see us go on to win that by-election.
What concerns me is less the specifics of each individual defection and resignation but the trend (with apologies to Antony Hook, who seems to think we should only ever look at this problem at an atomic level). We don’t appear to have made any meaningful progress in terms of getting ethnic minority candidates in place. The vibes I have felt coming from the Ethnic Minority Lib Dems in recent years have been a growing sense of despair and frustration. Sometimes this has been aimed at the wrong targets (if targeted at all) and lacked a proper analysis, but it is no less worrying.
There seem to be two main problems here: one is simply a question of priorities while the other is more intractable. The first one is that we have serially failed to implement anything even vaguely resembling a coherent strategy in terms of encouraging, developing and supporting candidates from under-represented groups. The model we have successfully used for women in recent years, whilst under-funded, has delivered results. For the most part, it could be reapplied to encourage ethnic minority candidates or disabled candidates. It was broadly agreed that this would happen when Navnit Dholakia was president back in 2003, but as soon as Simon Hughes took over that agenda was scrapped while Simon spent years pursuing his own preferred solution of imposing ethnic-minority shortlists and quotas in urban ghettoes. Under Clegg, we have seen the development of this Diversity Engagement Group, which is welcome, but it has taken us a breathtakingly long time to get that far. Meanwhile, Clegg’s promise of a “leaders’ academy” still seems to be lost in the ether. Maybe, post-election, we will see more progress made on this, but that certainly did not happen after 2005.
The second, harder problem is how we do politics. Simply put, there are very few jobs out there that are tougher and less thankless than being a Lib Dem target seat candidate. That is true whether you are black or white, male or female. The male target seat candidates of my acquaintance are all pretty much working at it full time at largely their own expense and have been for a couple of years now. I have to be honest and admit that I don’t personally know any female target seat candidates – I do however know several former female target seat candidates, for the most part because of what a dreadful job it is.
Frankly, we shouldn’t treat people like this. It’s horrible. But to be honest, it is hard to see how we can afford not to treat people like this. We don’t have money to pay them a stipend or give them more support (let alone things like childcare) and if we reallocated funds from elsewhere, we would be forced to fight fewer seats (this applies to investing more in training and development as well, although you can at least make the argument that better trained candidates tend to be better fundraisers, etc.).
The flipside of this approach is that it predetermines specific kinds of candidates. By putting so much emphasis on local campaigning, we have helped fuel this obsession with parochialism. These days, if you can’t actually trace five generations of your family all being born in the constituency, you get labelled a carpetbagger (I exaggerate slightly). The Lib Dems did more than most to encourage this culture, but all the parties play this game these days. Clearly such an emphasis is bad news for candidates whose parents or grandparents are immigrants (furthermore, it is no coincidence that this emphasis on the “local” has gone hand-in-hand with the greatest period of centralisation in British history, but I’ve written about that before).
Finally, another factor tied up with this emphasis on the ground war is the unfortunate tendency to play ethnic minority communities like mindless cattle. This is one aspect of local politics where the bad habits were established by Labour rather than the Lib Dems but it has become ubiquitous nonetheless. All too often, political parties treat BME communities as an homogenous group. It has to be said that there are plenty of people within those communities who, for reasons of their own, are all too happy to play along. So it is that ‘elders’ and (usually self-appointed) ‘community leaders’ like to act as middlemen (and it does tend to be men), negotiating votes in return for favours. The result invariably leads to greater racial tensions and segregation. And out of the system arise a number of politicians from ethnic minority backgrounds who are used to playing this game and all too often have a totally unrealistic idea about how politics is played elsewhere. Alongside all this comes entryism (the practice of flooding local parties with members who don’t necessarily even know they’re joining and all too often don’t share the parties values with the aim of stitching up candidate selections). It leads us with curiosities such as Irfan Ahmed and is… quaint views about women ending up in the party (I like to think that Irfan can be saved from his illiberal views as he matures; the vast majority of them are founded in ignorance and I have to admit to having some stupid ideas of my own when I was 17. But he doesn’t half push it).
I’m not saying that all politicians from an ethnic minority background come with this sort of baggage or attitude. Far from it. A lot of people, particularly second and third generationers can’t stand this sort of culture. But all too often parties, and the Lib Dems in particular, tend to indulge this sort of ghetto politics rather than side with those individuals who are fighting for a better sort of participation and engagement. Ultimately the problem is that we don’t merely fail to train and support enough BAME candidates; we end up recruiting the wrong ones.
The solution to all this, and in part some of the problems raised by Charlotte Gore a couple of weeks ago, is much less emphasis on “ground war” campaigning in favour of the “air war.” The party needs to identify a stronger public identity and a clearer vision. This will become doubly crucial if we ever gain electoral reform for Westminster.
That however is glib and somehow I doubt anyone reading this will think that is a particularly new thing to say. Nor will it get away from the fact that the Tories have now adopted many of the party’s ground war techniques wholesale, thus making it crucual for us to be able to fight like with like. We are stuck in a tussle that we can’t afford to break free from. And yet the tussle itself is causing the party to become hollowed out, alienates our supporter base and discourages some of our brightest prospective MPs from even considering becoming a candidate. However bad these problems might be for the Tories and Labour, they are that much worse for a party in third place with no safe seats and much lower funding.
It seems to me that we face two unenviable choices: transform our strategic approach and risk destroying ourselves in the process, or carry on as we have been – at best making grindingly slow progress and at worst ending up going in reverse in the process. I happen to think that in the long term the former is more desirable. The prize is not merely a better politics but a system that doesn’t end up excluding so many people from becoming target seat candidates. Incrementalism has had its day and we need to move on. But it will take a brave leader (and future chief executive) to begin the process. Either way, there is simply no excuse for not sorting out a better training and support system for BAME candidates as a high priority.
The solution to all this, and in part some of the problems raised by Charlotte Gore a couple of weeks ago, is much less emphasis on “ground war” campaigning in favour of the “air war.”
Bingo. This is why we were doing so well during the Charlie Kennedy era before he was shot down by the tabloids. How many among the unconverted actually read all these brightly-coloured, dodgily bar-charted Focus leaflets of ours anyway?
As for the defection of the Fernandos, or should that be “re-ratting” in Chandila’s case; it’s no big loss.
Nice post – I’ve posted a response at http://bit.ly/XLRki (one day, I’ll learn the art of short responses. Not yet).
I just found this bit of recent news on EMLD.
I wonder if this sort of flummery actually ends up being part of the problem. If our strategy is top-heavy with this kind of event, then we’ll end up flattering those who are too easily flattered while not helping those who do want to knuckle down. The OBV guy’s Obama talk is not terribly helpful either (shades of Chukka). I suspect EMLD, given the choice, would rather have had the cost of the drinks reception and the slots of Nick and Vince’s precious time in the form of an actual training session.
Yes, I noticed the Fernandos’ sense of entitlement too. But isn’t that an act that works well for a lot of white people? Perhaps only if it is not too obvious. And perhaps, because we only expect white people to act like that, it was always going to be obvious.
I think it would have worked just fine for the Fernandos actually, if they’d stuck at it. They were bang on course. They both stepped up and made a good fist of fighting prominent internal elections (hers better than his, and hers really was pretty good), and their names were made. As James says, they could have walked into any committee position, any local assembly seat and probably a marginal parliamentary seat too.
One can only assume that, for whatever reason (and there are good possible reasons) that wasn’t enough for them. The thing we couldn’t promise them was a good shot at a decent seat at the next election. I’ll be interested to see if that’s what one or both have been promised by Cameron.
No! The Kennedy era (or, to be precise, the 2005 election when he was known as opposed to the 2001 election when he was not) epitomised this approach. He even presided over the party effectively junking its manifesto in favour of ten random bullet points devised by the campaigns department.
People have short memories. They forget that the general mood coming out of the general election was that it was a missed opportunity.
Not having been there, I can’t draw any conclusions, but I would agree that is somewhat concerning. Actually going so far as naming specific individuals as bright stars for the future is highly problematic.
I still remain to be convinced that the party is applying the lessons it has learned in encouraging more female candidates to BAME candidates. As you say, one hears a lot about receptions but nothing like as much about training weekends (in the case of the CGB, it is the other way around).
Absolutely, and I would quite happily criticise them as well. But most people – black or white – wouldn’t even consider standing for federal president without having some standing within the party first, and having lost certainly would run away crying to Cameron (and Guido) about not being wanted. That isn’t merely entitlement – it is breathtaking.
I hope I haven’t given the impression that that sense of entitlement is typical of BAME people however. That wasn’t my intention at all. I am saying that if you treat ethnic minority communities as a homogenous group you will tend to attract the wrong sort of people and that I have seen all parties do this too often for my liking. This would apply to white people if we treated them like that as well (indeed, they way the BNP treat white communities probably is analagous, and explains why it is that they end up getting so many councillors elected who apparently didn’t realise they had joined a racist party). I simply don’t know enough about the Fernandos’ background to be able to state whether this especially applies to them.
Apologies for using “BAME” so much by the way. It is such an ugly term. It is however good shorthand if you are feeling lazy and in my experience you tend to get criticised if you don’t use it by certain quarters.
Here’s one of those ‘PC’ grenades which I think actually applies here. The Fernandos are individuals who, as you say, were not prepared to do the hard work to achieve advancement. They are likely to be able to play the ‘race card’ in Dave’s so-desperate-to-please-everyone party and get preferment.
You could consequently argue that it is to the LDs’ credit that these people were judged as individuals and not as ‘token ethnics’ and found to be wanting.
Widening your argument to discuss the LDs’ pretty woeful progress in attracting BME members just doesn’t work as it falls into the lazy trap of lumping together all minority members with the Fernandos, which just doesn’t wash as an argument.
Individuals should get on because they are able and for no other reason.
I think we were right to treat the Fernandos as individuals and find them wanting and said as much. My point is that having done that, we are still left with a problem.
And I don’t disagree that “individuals should get on because they are able and for no other reason” – where did I say otherewise? The problem is, we a) fail to convince a enough good people that they can “get on” inside the party and b) convince too many unsuitable people that they can “get on” when, quite frankly, they can’t.
Alix, you have got this sooo wrong! As chair of EMLD, and someone who has spent a long time pulling together over 40 of the brightest amnd most talented BME Lib Dems, my response to this:
I wonder if this sort of flummery actually ends up being part of the problem. If our strategy is top-heavy with this kind of event, then we’ll end up flattering those who are too easily flattered while not helping those who do want to knuckle down.
IS this – This is NOT flummery! We have launched the New Generation Programme, with support and buy in from the party leadership and OBV, precisely because in the past we’ve had a few disperate initiatives and people doing things, and it was not coherent or focussed.As James has set out, we select BME PPCs, they don’t get much support, or obviously, win, and then after the election, they leave and often drop out. We are putting in place a sustained programme of training,supporting and INVESTING in our brightest BME members and activists. Not all want to be MPs, some will receive support to become councillors, party agents, trainers, and even maybe get to sit on local and regional party executives. We need to change the face of the Party and make it look like the UK. They are under no illusion, that its going to be hard work that they will have to work hard and its a 2 way street. I want to see a black man or young woman Lib Dem PPC on TV, talking about issues that affect the lives of people who identify with them.
As a prominant commentator and activist in Haringey, where over 50% of the population is BME, perhaps you could tell us what contribution you or your local party is doing to ensure that we recruit, support and elect more people from your local community? FYI, the ‘Obama talk’ IS relevant, and I don’t know when you last spoke to young black people, but can I tell you that it HAS raised awareness and expectations. Its insulting to suggest that they do not want to “knuckle down” – just what kind of terminology is that!! About a third are already PPCs and elected councillors!
Some of us are prepared to roll up our sleeves and do the hard, and it seems thankless task of recruiting, supporting and mentoring BME party members who have a lot to offer and till now have all too often been isolated and ignored (and I can speak with some experience on this!)
I await to hear from you as to what your contribution is and will be on this agenda…
James – I think and hope, the years of ‘despair and frustration’ in EMLD are behind us. We have a growing number of members and our executive is 15 strong, with people from very diverse backgrounds and faiths. There has been a growing sense of optimism and determination over the last year. Of course we are under no illusions to the vast amount of work, buy in and support needed to achieve real change, but in establishing the New Generation Programme, we have recognised that BME members attract more people from our own communities, and unless we bring on new people, as well as supporting the exisiting party activists, we will never make progress. We are already putting in place targetted training events, and we will be holding a whole day event of personal training, so that members will come away with a personal action plan as to what they want to achieve.
Stumbling block is ther isn’t a budget for this, so in talks with Leaders office for plans to raise funds to make this happen.
The Fernandos – well I think they were in a hurry as has been suggested, and I had no real sense that they were committed to the Liberal Democrats – I might be wrong, but thats my impression.
I think I’ll have to do my own blog on this to explain more fully, as there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and suspicion.
Meral, I think you’ve misunderstood me. My quibble is not with the New Generation programme, but the possibility that a drinks event might be seen as a step forward in itself, when we know (and indeed you emphasise) that it’s the training and support that count. However, if this particular drinks event genuinely heralds a lot more investment, training and support, and if, as you suggest, this time will be genuinely different, then great and I look forward to seeing the results.
“Its insulting to suggest that they do not want to “knuckle down” – just what kind of terminology is that!!”
I suggested nothing of the sort, as you’d know if you’d read my comment properly. I said there were undoubtedly some people who wanted to knuckle down to the hard work and some people who were probably too easily flattered. That’s completely and utterly true and it’s the case right across politics with all would-be politicians – black, white, male, female, LGBT. There’s nothing remotely insulting in suggesting that it’s as true of BME candidates as any other candidate. It is.
Now, as to this:
“I don’t know when you last spoke to young black people”
This really, really upsets me and is very insulting, I’m afraid. It just so happens that I left Haringey a year ago and now live in Manchester, which is basically a white city by London standards, certainly a much more segregated city. But you didn’t know that – you thought I still lived in Haringey. And you know, as I do, that it would be very difficult to live and work in Haringey without speaking to young black people on a daily basis – one would have to go out of one’s way to avoid it. Is this honestly what you think of me??
You’ve now put me in a position where, basically, I’m going to have to say “But, Meral, I used to have a young black flatmate and a black boss and three young black colleagues and work for an organisation which ran black youth inclusion programmes” in order to “prove” that I’m not some dreadful racist/ageist hybrid. Which is frankly rather a shitty position to put someone in. Of course, you weren’t to know that I actually spent a lot of my professional life last year writing about marginalisation and criminalisation of young black people and getting worked up on their behalf – but frankly, you should not have assumed that it was impossible. That shows prejudice on your part.
Wow, have I been censored? I am honoured!
Whoops, apologies. Problems with computer clearly!
I did vote for your blog in my top ten so I can’t be all bad.
Alix – my intention was not to insult you in any way, nor to lable you, but referring to a major piece of work as “flummery” is insulting.
The event you refer to was not a ‘drinks reception’, but a media launch of the event with drinks offered to all present. We had very positive coverage from the BME media, which can only help us to attarct more BME support and more members to join us.
And it was a launch, we are already planning a whole series of events, including, media training, campaign training and will ensure that each person who is on the programme has a personal deveopment plan, so that they know what they want to achieve.
I’m getting increasingly annoyed with the language used when we talk about more BMEs or women – equality in general, that somehow we expect favours, and unlike hard working white everything men, we aren’t prepared to work for something. This just perpetrates the argument that we only want the ‘best’, whenever theres an argument about diversity. As if somehow the 70% or so of MPs who are male all happen to be the ‘best!”
You were dimissive of the programme without finding out much about it. Perhaps we’re at fault for not putting out far more information, but I wrote about it in Lib Dem News, and its on our website.
On the Obama comment – I’m sorry but for BME people, it IS a big deal that we have a black man as US president. I was merely suggesting that you were not tuned into this. Your work with young black people would surely inform you of this?
I apologise that I wasn’t aware that you had moved out of Haringey, but again you must be aware as to just how unrepresentative the party is in many diverse inner city areas. I have no reason to label you in any way, nor do I know about your professional background, as you know little about the work I’m committed to doing.
I am usually very tolerant of put downs, and have indeed come to expect them on this agenda, but I was merely responding to your dismissing a major piece of work as ‘flummery’, and a ‘drinks reception’
I suppose this exchange illustrates just how much work still needs to be done in the party to work together for a common cause.
It is not and was not mean to be personal.
Each time there has a defection of a BAME member, the subsequent debate in the membership at large has been weighted more to attacking the arrogance / entitlement / selfish ambition of the defector than finding solutions.
EMLD, far from “lacking analysis” as the main piece suggests, have actually been designing a programme with the party leadership to support talented BAME members.
Pretty much the only point I agree with in the above item and thread is the need for a strategic approach to training and supporting BAME candidates, and I believe this is already underway.
It is only through action that we can turn negatives into positives, and this page alone demonstrates how many negatives there are flying about.
Far from ‘ghetto politics’, the way forward is a combination of polishing and equipping BAME candidates and a change of mindset at the grassroots whereby young and ambitious people of colour are not viewed with any more suspicion than a young and ambitious white person from a privileged background.
And, personally, I’ve never come across politicians with a greater sense of entitlement than those who have had the best education, and who just happen to not be from a visible minority.
The playing field is not currently level, so let’s not tilt the pitch even further by accusing a whole section of our membership of having view ‘founded in ignorance’. The vast majority of first generation immigrants have not come from the village, they arrived with values, a work ethic and a decent education. If they hadn’t then, frankly, they wouldn’t have survived Britain from the 1950s to the 80s.
But returning to the main issue, I don’t think a party that lacks a single visible BAME MP or regional assembly member is in a position to spit at ‘quotas in urban ghettos.’ We need to consider all options, but whatever measures we discuss, nothing but nothing would be as effective as a good searching reassessment of the assumptions individuals (and much of the party collectively) make about BAME members.
As James has set out, we select BME PPCs, they don’t get much support, or obviously, win, and then after the election, they leave and often drop out.
Yes, and so? The same applies to most white PPCs as well. Whether they are statistically more or less likely to drop out, I don’t know. But there does seem to have been a significant higher proportion of BEM high profile LibDems who have moved to other parties after experiencing political disappointment than white.
Life as a LibDem is quite largely about political disappointment. There are many decent people who have spent a lifetime standing as LibDem and previously Liberal candidates and never got elected to anything.
People who are not in the party often seem to suppose there must be some big funds somewhere, offices everywhere it is run from, support mechanisms etc. Reality is there’s a few pamphlets from ALDC and the like which help, and even in places where we’re doing relatively well only a dozen or see really committed activists. And next to no money. I guess it does come as a shock if you’re fast-tracked to being a candidate and find out this is what it’s like.
Yes there has been a large number of PPCs dropping out,and the party seems to be taking steps to ensure more support for PPCs. My point being that when the few BME PPCs leave or do not stand again, we lose the experience they take with them. Many Lib Dem MPs have stood more than once in a particular seat. We need to provide support for those PPCs who we feel should be prepared to fight several general elections to win a seat.
As a complete neutral I would suggest to Alix and Meral that if you had this discussion face to face rather than by this particular medium you would quickly clear up any misunderstandings and not be anything like as angry with each other as you clearly currently are.
Everyone should bear in mind that email is notorious for causing people to misunderstand each other when it wasn’t intended. If you get offended try understatement and clarification before jumping to conclusions, just in case they are wrong.
I come in peace.
I want to point out a couple of positive things that has happened recently. I saw Nick Clegg supporting Farid Ahmed at the “Town hall” meeting in Walthamstow recently, and there was a large ethnic minority attendance that reflected the area and hopefully many were persuaded to join the party.
Also I would say the most exciting group in the Lib Dems at the moment is the Lib Dem friends of Turkey, of which Meral and Turhan are doing a great job. There is hope.
That isn’t quite accurate. Each time there is a defection of ANY high profile member, people tend to attack their ambition/arrogance, etc. You have before you an article that is 14 paragraphs long, only two of which meet that criteria rather than examine wider issues.
Where did I say EMLD lack analysis? You must think I did or you wouldn’t have put it in quote marks. I don’t think I’ve criticised EMLD at all.
And I hope you’re right. If the New Generation Programme is that, I’m delighted. But something very similar was mooted five years ago and effectively binned by Simon Hughes as soon as he became President.
I tend to agree as it happens, although I would cast the net more widely than politicians.
That may well be so. My experience of 6-7 years of working in Northern cities with high levels of ethnicity however is that politicians (both white and BAME) do cynically manipulate communities where that is not so much the case.
Actually, I think it is incumbant on us to do so, because that is merely a continuation of the old politics, of treating BAME communities as a homogenous group rather than a collection of individuals. Aside from the fact that it isn’t very liberal, papers over the real problem rather than confronts it and tend to divide local parties who will then be expected to form the activist base that will win the seat, I don’t think the majority of people in those groups themselves want to be patronised in that way.
What’s worse, it IS the only solution that Simon Hughes, while President, was willing to contemplate – and as such we wasted an enormous amount of time not doing anything whilst he spent time and energy in not getting his way. It is crucial the party learns from that mistake.
While you clearly weren’t censored, for the record for some reason I don’t get email alerts every time someone posts a comment here any more. So if an comment doesn’t appear here instantly, it is because it is stuck in the queue.
But full marks for jumping to conclusions. I understand it will be a presentation sport in the 2012 Olympics. Perhaps you should consider applying?
I’ve been asked to point out that the aforementioned and much maligned ’10 point plan’ (see #6) was not devised by the Campaigns Department but by the 2005 General Election Team. I’m happy to make that correction.
James, how do you know that BAME communities don’t want all-BAME shortlists? You say they don’t want to be patronised, and well if you put it like that, then yes, they don’t want it! But, if you put it like this – we’ve had years of warm words there’s a terrible lack of BAME elected politicians, would you like a short term measure to break this logjam, which has worked in the case of women? – then I think the result will be somewhat different! It is, I guess, a matter of how you weight the question!
And actually, I would rather other measures work before we get to all-BAME lists, but I believe it needs to be on the agenda because the party needs to know what could happen if we collectively fail to get people of colour into significant elected office.
Some people in the party are talking about the election after next as the target to get a visible BAME MP. I disagree. The Tories will have at least another four, possible six, new MPs on top of the two they’ve already got. Labour may get another three, and they’re starting from a much higher historical base. We just can’t afford to not have a BAME MP at the next election, and wait possibly six more years to see one.
People in the party may think that’s acceptable, but I don’t, and more importantly I don’t think BAME communities will be very impressed. There is a widespread opinion in the population about us lagging behind and it needs to be combatted with results, and that means results at the next election.
Afzal Anwar is running for Parliament and has a good chance of winning. As I have pointed out on my blog Pendle changes who they vote for like underpants.
If a party win the local election which is held with the general election they lose the MP seat. The Tories are gonna win the local election and we might elect Afzal Anwar.
And yes my views are immature and I think as I mature I will see sense and will one day no doubt become a mature enough candidate for Parliament.
Please see http://www.irfanahmed.org/search?q=Pendle and other searches on my blog for more info on how Afzal clearly has a chance of winning the seat!
Where did I say the party didn’t have a problem? I point I have been making is that the party has a very real problem. Did the title “The Fernandos expose a wider failure” not make that plain enough?
In terms of whether BAME communities want all-BAME shortlists or not, why doesn’t OBV do some polling? If I can approve the wording first, I’ll even make a wager with you. In the meantime, let neither of us presume to speak for them.
There are circumstances where I could find myself supporting all-BAME shortlists but if we have to use them they shouldn’t be restricted to areas which high levels of ethnic diversity. If we’re going to use them, it should be a process that potentially any constituency should potentially have to adopt – with held seats being a priority. You might think that forcing an all-BAME shortlist on an area like Burnley would get us a Lib Dem MP – I worry that it would help us get a BNP MP. Look at Blaenau Gwent for an example of how such heavy-handedness can backfire.
I have less of an issue with quotas. In London at least, I think the party ought to seriously consider a rule that at least one third of candidates in the Euro and GLA top up lists – and at least 1 of the top three in each list – being a BAME member (although I suspect that would be less needed if we had a selection system that wasn’t so suburban South London biased). That wouldn’t be ghettoisation and the principle of quotas for lists has already been won when it comes to gender balance.
I don’t know what your background is, but speaking as a black man who has campaigned for race equality for 20 years, been a part of the key campaigning organisations, has been editor of a black weekly newspaper and worked on perhaps a dozen other BAME publications, I assume you think all this counts for nothing and that you have every bit as much right to declare your analysis the right one?
Corblimey Lester, you don’t have enjoy putting words into people’s mouths, don’t you? Of course your experience doesn’t count for nothing – far from it. But none of it allows you to speak on behalf of BAME communities. I’m sorry if that challenges your sense of self-worth, but that’s just how it is.
There’s also the matter of white voters, which in vast majority of constituencies (all? I’d need to look it up) still outnumber the BAME voters. You want more BAME MPs? Like it or not, you have to keep them on board.
Lester you don’t speak for me and I am a part of the BAME community. And to get more BAME MP’s you need to campaign at election time not just talk the talk.
Lester, show your commitment and campaign for someone like Afzal Anwar at the next election so he can win and put forward the opinion of the BAME community.
James, where have I said that I speak for BAME communities? What I have done, is suggest that your conclusion – that all BAME people find all-BAME shortlists patronising – is blinkered. Lots of BAME people do support it, from all political persuasions. I know, because I have been involved in the race equality scene for some time. I suspect you don’t.
I did not say, if you read what I’ve written carefully, that I speak for all BAME communities. I did say that my experience provides me with certain insights, which you are dismissing just as easily as you discount any notion that BAME people might support a mechanism that will improve political representation for those communities.
I don’t have any issues about my self-worth, thank you, but neither am I arrogant enough to assume that communities of which I am not a part will be opposed to positive action measures which benefit them. Britain used to govern half the world on these kind of assumptions.
Although I remain sceptical that BAME voters want to ghettoised, I said that could be easily settled by a bit of polling evidence. Your response has been to leap up and down to bang on about your experience. I’ve seen this game of “As A…” politics being played all my life and am weary of it.
Since you seem to think we are playing some kind of verbal Top Trumps, let me declare you the winner right now and be done with it. Well done! If you want a proper discussion about how to solve this issue, perhaps talking bollocks about my eeeevil Western Imperialism might not be the best way to go about it.
James – I know you said yours was the last word, but I do take the point that your original piece was that we have a problem with a number of BME activists defecting. I suspect that given we have too few, they are noticed far more than the steady trickle we’ve had join us from Labour. I’m also aware of your real concern in the fall out of the GLA selection in London, and your support for quotas in Londoon to address this. I believe this needs to be part of a wider programme to address the lack of BME/ womens representation. The problem with your exchange with Lester suggests that there is a perception that the BME communities who are only too aware of the situation, somehow collectively reject any form of short lists. Some do, but many want to see postive action measures to ensure greater representation. As with lack of women, at the rate we’re going it will take decades before we end up with any change. We do need big changes at local level, which will almost inevitably bring changes in national government. This was the experience in the US from the 1970’s, which helped to mainstream equality in public life and prepared the ground for a black man to get elected President.
I think the issue of BME candidates fighting then not getting the support or training they need then dropping out, is an issue for all Lib Dem target PPCs. I agree with James: you really must change the way you do politics so you don’t end up burning out all the enthusiastic energetic people who want to take you places, because if you do you will end up with the cynical, wizened bunch. That way lies madness.
I am all for the air war. Bring it on. Labour and the Tories have been in government for around 80 years now and you don’t see them having to work this hard on the ground for most of their seats. So neither should the Lib Dems. Focus on winning the masses over, at once like Obama did, rather than bit by bit. Of course you need sexy GOTV operations and a presence in the “local” communities to make it all come off, but that shouldn’t be the focus, and you have to be looking at the bigger picture.
Regarding the spat between Lester and James: BME people (I hate the word “communities”, as if we live in separate blocks from the rest of the population are part of) want more BME MPs, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be elected in BME-heavy areas.
If we had a proportion of BME MPs that approached the proportion of BME people in the country as a whole, then BME people wouldn’t care if their own MP was BME or not: all they have to do is know what BME and all other people in the country care about, act on it, and remain accountable.
I believe that there is no reason why BAME shortlists should be limited to areas with a high BAME population.
In terms of James. Well, all I can say is that there was a far more sensible and high-minded debate about these issues on Lib Dem Voice: