Racism in Britain: Labour's leadership candidates explain how they’d tackle racial inequality

The four contenders describe how they plan to attract lost support from black, Asian and ethnic minority voters

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The Independent Online

For decades Labour was the was most popular political party among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voters, but has now started to lose ground. BAME support for the Conservatives hit an all-time high in the last election, with many voters swapping their allegiances towards the centre right – despite the fact that race inequality is still a huge issue in the UK.

So what would the Labour leadership contenders do to win dwindling BAME support back? And what steps they would take as part lead to tackle racial inequality? Here’s what they have to say.

 

Jeremy Corbyn

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As Labour Leader tackling racism will be one of my top priorities. Britain must become a country where everyone can fulfil their potential.

In my 32 years as an MP we have made great strides towards that goal. Day in and day out I meet inspiring people from diverse communities making life choices often denied their parents because of the colour of their skin.

But I am worried that progress is under threat. Last year’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey showed that the percentage of people who described themselves as prejudiced against those of other races has risen overall since 2001. Years of immigrant bashing and Islamophobia is taking a toll.

And just this week The Runnymede Trust highlighted how the impact of welfare cuts on minority ethnic communities were plunging millions into poverty and running the risk of widening Britain’s racial divide.

Britain needs a politics which unifies our country, an economy that provides decent jobs, homes and education for all, and a society where there is no place for racism.

The Labour Party is the only political party which can be a vehicle for these aspirations. And I want to lead it towards that goal.

 

Yvette Cooper

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Politics at its best reflects and responds to the needs of society. Politics at its worst, neither understands nor reflects society. In the Labour Party we pride ourselves on our commitment to fairness, equality and social justice. But with over a million ethnic minority voters choosing the Tories at the last election, Labour cannot be complacent.

As Labour leader, I want to see our party more than double the number of BAME MPs in a Labour majority Parliament.  I would also oversee a taskforce engaging with BAME MPs, councillors, NEC members and local Party activists, to ensure a step change in support for BAME candidates and activists.

Diversity needs to improve across British public life. As Shadow Home Secretary I’ve seen first-hand and championed the need for greater diversity in our police forces. So I would place a legal requirement on police forces to increase diversity and will change the law to allow New York-style “affirmative action” in recruitment policies.

I want to smash the glass ceilings of British society. Because it is only by improving diversity and increasing opportunities across all areas of society that Britain can finally become a country where people are able to fulfil their potential regardless of background, colour or their start in life.

 

Andy Burnham

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The loss of BAME support must act as a warning to Labour that it must never take any group of voters for granted. Almost one million BAME voters did not vote Labour and in contrast the Tories nearly doubled their vote share amongst ethnic minority supporters.

Labour relied on the votes of these communities without a meaningful conversation about what we can do in return. The complacency has to stop.

We need to reach out to all people who have lost their trust us and no longer see Labour as being on their side.

All people, at all levels of society share the same hopes: a secure job, a decent home. A good standard of living, prospects for their kids and proper care for their parents. For minority communities, many of whom have worked hard to make their lives here, this is no different.

As a party, we should look like the communities we seek to represent too - guaranteeing half the places on Labour shortlists to BAME people in Parliamentary constituencies where over 50 per cent of the voters are BAME.

Labour has not been doing enough to bring people from each ethnic minority community through to positions of leadership at local level or national level. But as Labour leader, I would work alongside organisations (like the Patchwork Foundation) to foster the ongoing dialogue and action we need.

 

Liz Kendall

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Three months ago, Labour let Britain’s ethnic minorities down. We lost. Labour must win back their trust so we can answer the injustices of society in government. We need to improve education throughout life so everyone can get on.

Labour should be asking the same hard questions about the performance of public services – like health – that we continue to ask of the police on stop and search. We must stand up and be counted when anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or any form of racism rears its ugly head.

And we shouldn’t sell stupid mugs.

Instead, we must answer the divisive rhetoric of the worst Ukip politicians with a system of immigration that commands respect, and a belief that Britain’s future is brighter if we’re united not divided. And when we win in 2020, we need a Parliament fully reflective of the country it represents.

So here’s my offer to Britain’s ethnic minority communities and to our country:

1) Looking after the nation’s finances with the same diligence anybody would apply to their own

2) Having the same ambitions for your children as you do

3) Answering the injustices in our society with actions in government

4) We will face the future together, and together Britain will win

 

The Labour leadership contenders will be taking part in a hustings event tonight organised by the Patchwork Foundation (www.patchworkfoundation.org.uk) and OBV (http://www.obv.org.uk).

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