The start of the party conference season is an apt time to remind all political parties of their ongoing responsibility to deal effectively with racism both within their own party and within society generally (Tories are backing far-right Viktor Orban to boost Theresa May’s Brexit plans, says Muslim Council of Britain, 13 September).
To this end, each political party should use their upcoming party conference to explain fully – not only to their own members and supporters, but also to the wider British public – precisely what measures they are going to put forward to tackle all racism and institutional discrimination within their party including anti-black racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia, and how these measures will be monitored and evaluated. This in turn, would set a good example to other institutions.
Such action needs to be accompanied by strong and unambiguous leadership to make it clear to politicians and party members that they will be held to account for unacceptable statements and behaviour.
It would also give confidence to different communities to work together to move beyond their own “isms”. In our current febrile political climate, such solidarity is vital.
To reinforce this solidarity, a new group of black, Asian, Muslim and Jewish people has been formed. It is more important than ever that we remain united in the face of current divisive debates over Islamophobia, antisemitism and racism of any kind. These differences between us must be dealt with through dialogue, empathy and solidarity with each other at all times.
Rachel Shabi, journalist
Professor Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, columnist and author
Professor Francesca Klug, human rights academic and activist
Dr Omar Khan, director, Runnymede Trust
Clive Lewis MP
Simon Woolley, director, Operation Black Vote
Radhika Bynon, director of programmes, The Young Foundation
Michael Segalov, journalist
Dr Edie Friedman, director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality
A radical approach to reforming parliament and British democracy
Rumours of steps being taken in the US to prevent another Trump are circulating. It will be illuminating to see what, if any, action results.
A recurring theme in UK political discourse at all levels and over decades is the unsuitability and/or incompetence of the governing elites. I am confident that steps taken to improve the quality of government in the UK would garner widespread popular support and would provide scope for the, I suspect, hundreds of thousands of UK citizens who would make excellent parliamentarians to step up.
A parliamentary “hostile environment” for those who treat public office as a laissez faire club/trough for the privileged and well connected is essential. As part of the “adoption as candidate” procedure there must be full public disclosure of all business interests, tax status, employment record, education record, criminal record, aspects of mental and physical health, etc that bear upon ability to perform in parliament.
Once elected, an MP will pass all assets to a bona fide blind trust, resign all outside jobs and commitments and fully commit their whole time and attention to one job: MP.
Government is at least as safety critical an environment as driving a car and therefore drugs, alcohol and tobacco will be banned from the whole parliamentary estate and regular random testing instituted. The hours of business will be fixed so as to make allowance for family and private life – MPs will clock on and off like normal people.
The whole suite of flummery, tricks and ruses that seem to dominate parliamentary process will be abandoned. Voting procedures will be modernised to eliminate known problems. Full disclosure of any and all receipts – money, preferment, benefit-in-kind, sexual services, coke – must be made and all meetings with lobbyists documented.
Upon leaving parliament (or civil service) there will be a total life time ban on lobbying activities and a 10-year ban on taking jobs connected with any office held.
A maximum 20 years in the house might also be prudent.
A Brexit puzzle
No doubt your Puzzles section this week will contain its usual quiz containing a set of photos of well-known people and ask that readers identify the stars and what they have in common.
Can I suggest that you feature photos of Boris Johnson, Bernard Jenkin, Iain Duncan Smith, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove? Ask readers to identify them (oops, sorry, belated spoiler alert) and find the things they share: male, middle aged, privileged upbringing, considerable wealth, self-interest and large egos. In short, Brexiteers.
We must instil confidence in the youth
This summer, the UK fell in love with Gareth Southgate and his modest, patient and empowering leadership style. As a nation, we’re waking up to the fact that leadership is not about being the loudest and most dominant person in the room – and that compassion and empathy are much more important.
The new study by the charity I lead, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), shows that young people recognise the value of emotionally intelligent leadership – 58 per cent told us they consider listening or empathy as the most important leadership traits.
Young people have aspirations and dreams – 66 per cent told us they would like to occupy a leadership role in the future, but a staggering 40 per cent worry that a lack of confidence will hold them back. This should inspire us to support all young people to build their confidence in their ability to become leaders – something that the DofE has been championing for more than 60 years.
Whether through the “Southgate effect” or not, we want to see more businesses, schools and parents support young people in developing inclusive leadership skills. This is an investment in our shared future as young people of today will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Peter Westgarth, chief executive, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
It’s time for the government to admit a Brexit deal is impossible
Contrary to Dominic Raab’s assertion, I do not expect the government to assure me that everything is in place to cope with the failure to reach a deal over leaving the EU. What I expect is for our representatives to act with maturity and common sense, and negotiate. If they are unable to do that, and achieve an agreement, they need to be honest and admit it. If it is an impossible task, as it increasingly seems to be, they need to admit that too and we can have a proper debate, and a vote about what should happen next.
There’s no place for buffer zones around abortion clinics
Sajid Javid is absolutely correct in refusing to implement buffer zones around abortion clinics. Those who demand them, seemingly including the Labour party leader and a number of his MPs, should be ashamed of themselves as their demands would prevent freedom of expression. This is yet another example of intolerance of people whose valid and reasonable opinions are not liked by some ill-informed, liberal and bigoted elements of society.
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