LETTER : The Mancunian candidate

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The Independent Online
From Mr Peter Coleman

Sir: How easy it seems to write articles such as Ken Livingstone's Another View ("Asians won't go away, Tony", 3 August, which claims knowledge of "scandal", "racism" and "imposed white candidates". The reporting of decisions taken by Labour's National Executive Committee are meaningless when a good story can be written about imposed Labour candidates in constituencies with large black communities, or the imposition of all-women shortlists by the party to foil the election of black activists.

The truth spoils the flow of this story. Thirty-six constituencies, with all but one, voluntarily agreeing to help achieve Labour's aim of increasing Labour women's representation in Parliament selecting from all-women short- lists dumps the imposition argument surrounding women candidates.

Another myth in Mr Livingstone's article concerns exclusion of Muslims from the Manchester Gorton selection, and two investigations concluding that some Asians were wrongly excluded. People were found to have been excluded from meetings, but that was because they were not eligible Labour party members. These challenges were made last autumn to the Commission for Racial Equality, which decided not to proceed on any of the 11 complaints. Labour's investigation also concurred that all applications and members had been treated equally.

I almost forgot: Gerald Kaufman got 40 out of 41 of the nominations! Hardly an imposition.

Then there is the claim in Birmingham of imposition of the NEC's preferred white candidates over local objections. The truth is that the NEC investigation team has been holding many days of interviews in the city over the past two weeks to enable a report to be published in late summer; given healthy parties, the membership will select its own candidates later this year.

Contrast these media stories with the training events and support being provided to prospective black candidates by the party and the latest moves by the NEC to provide better representation on the supreme governing body.

In the autumn, Labour will begin voluntary ethnic monitoring of its membership. Labour will almost certainly then be able to point to more black members, more black councillors, a black MEP and more black MPs than any other political party. Still a long way to go, but give credit where credit is due.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Coleman

Director of Development and Organisation

The Labour Party

London, SE17

4 August