Britain has 'disgraceful' record on ethnic-minority candidates

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Britain has a "disgraceful" record on promoting ethnic-minority politicians, black leaders said as research forecast that 98 per cent of MPs elected on polling day will be white.

Britain has a "disgraceful" record on promoting ethnic-minority politicians, black leaders said as research forecast that 98 per cent of MPs elected on polling day will be white.

Fewer than 20 black MPs are expected to take seats, even though more ethnic-minority candidates are standing than at any previous British election. The Tories are expected to gain their first black MPs, but the Liberal Democrats are in danger of returning without a single ethnic-minority representative.

An analysis by Operation Black Vote predicted that only about 2 per cent of MPs will be from ethnic minorities. Labour is likely to have the best result, with between 12 and 15, and the Tories will have their first two black MPs.

The Liberal Democrats could end up with none because they risk losing Leicester South, held by their only ethnic-minority MP, Parmjit Gill, who faces a Labour onslaught.

The study found that although more than 100 ethnic-minority candidates were standing for the main political parties, almost of all are in unwinnable seats.

Operation Black Vote said the absence of prominent black faces in British politics was putting off people from participating in politics and was partly to blame for low turnout in Britain's ethnic communities.

"The parties failed to put forward a substantial number of candidates in winnable seats," said Ashok Viswanathan, from the group. "It is the highest number ever, but Westminster doesn't look remotely like the people it serves.

"The number one issue that discourages black people taking a prominent role is the lack of black faces in high places."

The Tories are keen to communicate the fact they have more ethnic-minority candidates than any other party with 41, 16 of whom are Muslim. But they have been blamed for putting most in "no-hope" seats.

Adam Afriyie, who is replacing the retiring Tory Michael Trend in Windsor, and Shailesh Vara, who is standing in Cambridgeshire North West, Sir Brian Mawhinney's old seat, are, however, likely to be the first ethnic-minority MPs in the party's history.

Labour could boost its number of ethnic-minority MPs from 12 to 15, with Shaheed Malik well placed to beat the Tories' Sayeeda Warsi to gain Dewsbury. But it risks losing one of its most prominent black MPs, Oona King, in Bethnal Green and Bow, who is faces an aggressive challenger in the former Labour MP George Galloway.

Paul Boateng, the chief secretary to the Treasury and the most senior black MP, is standing down at the election to become British high commissioner in South Africa. He is likely to be replaced in his Brent South seat by Dawn Butler, who is also black.

Next door in Brent East, Labour's candidate Yasmin Qureshi is attempting to win back the seat, which was lost to the Liberal Democrats, but she will have an uphill struggle to topple Sarah Teather, the sitting Liberal Democrat who is popular with her constituents, over half of whom are from ethnic minorities.

Lord Razzall, the Liberal Democrats' campaign chairman, said: "Our manifesto appeals more to black and ethnic communities because of our clear stance on the war, prevention of terrorism legislation and civil liberties."

In with a fighting chance

ADAM AFRIYIE

Likely to be the Conservatives' first black MP, Adam Afriyie is a half Ghanaian IT millionaire who was brought up in London. The 39-year-old is standing in the safe Tory seat of Windsor. Urbane, charming and 6'2", he is a former long distance runner.

SHAILESH VARA

The Conservative vice-chairman is the favourite to replace Sir Brian Mawhinney in North West Cambridgeshire at the next election. He was educated at Aylesbury Grammar school and Brunel University and is media savvy and a good public speaker.

SHAHID MALIK

A prominent member of Labour's ruling national executive committee, Shahid Malik is standing in Dewsbury a seat vacated by Ann Taylor, the former cabinet minister. He is an outspoken figure within Labour and a prominent equality campaigner.

PARMJIT GILL

Delivered a historic victory for the Liberal Democrats when he won the safe Labour seat of Leicester South in a by election last year. The softly-spoken Sikh MP will find it hard to defend the seat against Labour which is making a concerted effort to regain it.

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