Letter: Parties need codes to combat racism

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The Independent Online
From Mr Robin Richardson

Sir: The Liberal Democrats have decided not to expel the Tower Hamlets members found by the Lester report of December 1993 to have been pandering to racism. This decision must not be allowed to minimise the fact that the report itself was a very major and valuable document.

The Lester report broke new ground in British political life. It contained a terse but profound statement about the limits of speech, and showed that vigilant attention needs to be paid to coded meanings as well as to surface meanings, and not just to politicians' intentions but also to the actual effects of what they say and do.

All the main political parties have a great deal to learn from it. Definitely no party can use it to criticise any other party. For all have fallen short of the high - but realistic - standards that it sets out. All, so far as pandering to racism is concerned, live in glasshouses. They need to put their own houses in order, not throw stones at each other.

The priority now is for each political party to formulate a code of practice about how it will handle 'race' issues in its campaigning and electioneering, and the steps that it will take to avoid pandering to racism. Such codes of practice need to be ready long before the municipal and European elections due to take place in May.

Yours sincerely,

ROBIN RICHARDSON

Director

The Runnymede Trust

London, E1

10 January

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