Latest Stories


Trevor Phillips’ recent report worryingly pointed out that there are just 10 people from ethnic minority backgrounds among the 289 Chairman, Chief Executives and Chief Finance Officers of FTSE 100 companies.

We should and we must challenge the private sector to do better, as the Government are doing with regard to women on boards. And just as with drives to increase the representation of women in positions of responsibility, I believe that the public sector needs to set an example to the private sector.

But just as with increasing the representation of women in positions of responsibility, this Government are failing to get their own house in order when it comes to harnessing the talents of those from BAME backgrounds, and in many cases are wiping out years of progress made by the last Labour government.

Over the 3 years before the election, Labour increased ethnic minority representation within the civil service by 11%, but since 2010 this progress has been all but cancelled out, and the proportion of ethnic minority staff working at the most senior level – which includes directors and permanent secretaries – has fallen.

Even in London, which has a BAME population of some 40%, just 6% of those in the top jobs share those backgrounds, despite the fact that ethnic minorities are over-represented in entry level and intermediate positions.

This simply isn’t good enough.

We need a culture change in our civil service, away from the stuffy elitism of the past, and towards a modern, meritocratic service which attracts and promotes the best and the brightest, regardless of their background, their skin colour or their old school tie; a service which looks and thinks like the country it serves.

We can’t change that culture instantly, but we can take significant steps to achieve the critical mass required to achieve change from within.

To that end, our Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Michael Dugher set out last week how a One Nation Labour Government will ensure that the Civil Service Fast Stream, which selects outstanding candidates for rapid promotion through the ranks, will be required to ensure that its annual intake comprises at least 18% of successful candidates from BAME backgrounds.

We’ll also expand internship opportunities, successful completion of which will improve the young person’s chances of getting on to the Fast Stream.

These actions alone will mean that hundreds more able people from BAME backgrounds will be in positions of power and influence in the civil service by the end of the next Parliament.

This isn’t about tokenism. We make these arguments because we know that our public institutions – just like our businesses - work better and are more responsive if they reflect and embrace the talents of the communities and the country that they serve.

Of course, it’s only a start, and there’s a great deal more a future Labour government will need to do to shatter the glass ceilings which remain in the workplace, and particularly to open up the professions and well paid jobs to those from non-white, non-privileged backgrounds.

These issues – and many more - are at the heart of Labour’s consultation on a new One Nation Race Equality Strategy, and I hope everyone reading this will contribute their views to this important process, and help shape Labour’s policies in this area ahead of next year’s election.

But it’s an important start nonetheless, and one which demonstrates that only a One Nation Labour Government can and will deliver the changes we need to see to make our society a much fairer and more prosperous one for everyone – not just those at the top.

Sharon Hodgson MP is Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and represents the constituency of Washington and Sunderland West.

Not just White-hall: creating a One Nation Civil service


At the end of last year, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, disgracefully equated vulnerable sections of society to ‘cornflakes’ in his infamous Margaret Thatcher speech. He also went on to state that inequality is ‘natural’ and ‘essential’. His oxymoronic cure for inequality (which in London equates to thousands using foodbanks and sleeping rough whilst the ‘super-rich’ thrive) is to cause further hardship for vulnerable groups because, he believes, it is healthy to foster a ‘spirit of envy’. 

It is shameful that the Mayor of a city as diverse and wealthy as London can advocate such a view and get away with it. Despite the reams of evidence that demonstrate the structural inequality across the capital, the Mayor keeps his fingers in his ears and lets the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It is made even worse that this is due not only to his general incompetence, but also to his genuine, personal outlook on society – as demonstrated in his speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture. 

My cost of living report, Falling Further Behind, is a rebuttal to the Mayor’s dangerous ‘cornflake economics’ and underlines the structural inequality that exists in London and the actions that he can take to lower the barriers to success, which are outlined in the paragraphs that follow. 


The evidence in my report shows that Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds face barriers to success due to low pay; employment discrimination; food poverty; lack of appropriate childcare provision; high public transport fares; and high rents. A report by the Runnymede Trust for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community in 2012 found that 25% of the unemployment rate for Black and Asian men and women is a result of prejudice and direct discrimination. The report also found that BAME women face discrimination ‘at every stage of the recruitment process.’ London’s Poverty Profile shows that half of all people in poverty in London are from BAME backgrounds. 

Londoners with disabilities face barriers due to a smaller supply of suitable, accessible housing; cuts to disability allowances; food poverty; inaccessible public transport; lack of specialised childcare provision; and barriers to employment. This in turn, has forced many to turn to food banks and risk their health by cutting back on heating so they can afford the bills. According to the London Cost of Living Survey, 74% of disabled Londoners have cut back on heating their homes in order to afford their energy bills. 

Women face various barriers due to a lack of affordable childcare; low pay and low pensions; insecure employment contracts; public transport safety concerns; and widespread sexual discrimination. Once again, the Mayor falls short when addressing this inequality. Indeed, in February 2014, the Mayor claimed women are not ‘anywhere near’ achieving equal employment opportunities in the labour market, but that his own pool of advisers, in which ‘almost half’ of the staff are women, was an example of how things could be done. However, it turns out that only 4 of his 14 paid advisers are actually women (28%). 

The inequality story for young and older Londoners can also not just be dismissed as a result of, what the Mayor, in his speech, put down to, ‘natural and God-given talent’. Children and young people are facing barriers to success due to hunger impacting on their education; being forced to pay out high rents for accommodation; the cancellation of the education maintenance allowance; increased university tuition fees; and a lack of job opportunities. Meanwhile, elder Londoners are facing hardship due to high energy bills; malnutrition; and rising costs of everyday necessities. As highlighted in my report, it also appears that Londoners are retiring later than people in other parts of the UK with 11% of those aged 65 and over in work compared with the national average of 9.5%. In the North East, this figure is 6% (Source: ONS Annual Population Survey). 

The negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis extends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, too. Those who identify as LGBT face societal discrimination which feeds into employment opportunities and, notably, housing. Due to a high risk of domestic abuse, LGBT Londoners who are victims of abuse also struggle from a lack of emergency accommodation in the city. Studies have also shown that the vast majority of homelessness services work with people who identify as LGBT. 

Whilst the Mayor takes economic advice from the back of his cereal box, my report suggests that Londoners across the city are suffering. I urge the Mayor to take steps to address this inequality to help those groups protected under the Equality Act 2010. I believe that action can be taken on these issues and that inequality is not inevitable. It is certainly not ‘essential’ as the Mayor suggests. Boris argues that vulnerable Londoners require inequality and envy to ‘shake’ them to the top, but it is he that needs to be shaken into action. The evidence and recommendations outlined in my report show that the barriers facing vulnerable groups are not ‘natural’, but structural, and it is time for the Mayor to recognise this and work to make London a city of equal opportunity for all, instead of a city of inevitable and, as he argues, justifiable inequality for the majority.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM has been a member of the London Assembly since 2000. Initially a London-wide member, since 2004 Jennette has represented the North East London constituency of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.  Jennette’s work focuses on the key strategic issues that impact directly on the lives of her constituents – improved transport services, crime reduction and affordable housing. She is also a champion in the fight against any form of injustice and discrimination.

Rebutting Boris’ cornflake economy of inevitable and justified inequality


The 2014 European Elections will be a challenge in many ways - but increasingly the issue of BAME representation is one of those challenges even if it is not taken seriously. The UK has a handful of BAME MPs - and at last, in the last one or two electoral cycles this has finally begun to include BAME women, and BAME MPs who are no longer confined just to the Labour Party.  This, and the Obama effect have all thrust us into a 'post race' world when it comes to BAME concerns in political selections.

Yet the European Elections in 2014 show how  BAME representation across the EU is on a whole different level - so low in numbers that it is difficult to even count. Despite big demographic changes in some of Europe's big cities - the number of non-white MEPs has stayed at an extraordinarily low number and there is some anecdotal evidence that this will remain the same or even reduce in the upcoming European Elections.

There are 766 MEPS in the European Parliament, yet there are probably only around 10 non-white MEPs - the last time a serious objective journalist tried to count the numbers - the Guardian's Patrick Barkham in 2007, he said there were 9 out of 785 about 1.1%.

As no ethnic monitoring is done in the EU institutions it is impossible to give accurate objective information. When I was first elected I formed with MEPs Neena Gill, Harlem Desir, Cem Ozdemir, Livia Jaroka, Emina Bozkurt and others an All party group (Intergroup) on Anti-racism and Diversity.

We called for ethnic monitoring on a similar basis to gender monitoring. This is practised under the EU's own Race Equality Directive, and in EU countries like Belgium and the UK public and private bodies are comfortable with ethnic monitoring and benefit from employing the best people whoever they are. Confidential monitoring is one of the best ways of measuring whether discrimination is happening against people of equal or greater merit based on their BAME origin. Yet in the EU and in many EU countries the policy is rejected for 'cultural and historic reasons' and some would argue because the institutions don't want to do anything about increasing race and ethnic diversity amongst both the politicians and staff by telling a wider audience who is actually working in and representing them in the

The EU - particularly in its big cities is becoming more ethnically diverse, and yet the big western European countries Germany, Italy, Spain have virtually no BAME MEPs across their entire national groupings left to right. Of course it goes without saying that there are none from central and Eastern EU countries - and here the European Parliament has only one MEP of Roma origin (it is estimated that Roma population of the EU could be as high as 9 million).

The tiny number of BAME MEPs usually come from the UK, France and a smattering of single MEPs of Turkish or Kurdish origin from the Netherlands or Germany.

The UK currently has four BAME MEPs - one Labour and three Conservatives. The Lib Dems, UKIP, Greens and Nationalists have none. If the polls are to be believed then this number should slightly increase, but in other countries the anecdotal evidence shows existing BAME MEPs retiring or in 'unwinnable' positions on party lists. So overall, there is a feeling amongst those who are on lists of candidates currently selected to fight the 2014 election, that we may even see a reduction in numbers as the new Parliament begins. For Labour there are a number of strong BAME candidates standing for 2014 including Neena Gill (number 1 in the West Midlands), Afzal Khan (number 2 in the North West), Kamaljeet Jandu (London) Khalid Hadidi (East Midlands), Naseem Ayub (Eastern), Farah Nazeer (South East), Junab Ali (South West), Ansar Ali Khan (West Midlands), Asghar Khan (Yorkshire and The Humber), Asim Khan (Scotland), Wajid Khan (North West) and Sanchia Alasia (London) and we are campaigning hard to get them elected.

None of the big polling exercises analysing 2014 European Election outcomes looks at this issue -It just does not register as an important, even for many progressives in Europe who would otherwise be sympathetic to issues of equality.

Why is there such inertia and why are barriers so great? First the barriers facing potential BAME MEPs in their own member state are significant. Yet with party lists and positive action available as tools to ensure better gender representation in most EU countries, itis depressing that so little is ever done in this area.

My perception about BAME representation in EU countries is that each has it own history, hang ups, and barriers - but the fact that it so unusual to see a BAME MEP illustrates the persistent problem that exists. The European Parliament is a representative parliament like all parliaments should be in attempting to reflect society as it is, and to attract candidates of merit.

I represent London which in the 2011 UK Census registered only 44.9% of resident's as white British. Yet I represent them in a Parliament which is around 1% non-white. Even if you care little for issues of race or ethnic equality, just from the point of the European Parliament being a representative parliament as all parliaments should be, this state of affairs in 2014 has got to be wrong.

Another reason why the European Parliament should be more representative with BAME MEPs of merit is the fact that the 2014 election is likely to see an increase in the number of MEPs openly hostile to the idea that immigration or diversity has had any positive impact in Europe at all. When the renewed hostility begins this summer in the newly formed European Parliament, it would be useful if more than 1% of MEPs were from BAME backgrounds and could reply with real experience. After all - they are talking about us.

Claude Moraes MEP

Claude Ajit Moraes was elected in 1999 as London's first BAME MEP and the European Parliament's first Indian origin MEP when elected with other UK MEPs that year. He is currently Deputy Leader of the Labour MEPs in the EU and will lead the London List going into the European Elections on May 23 2014.


More Stories >

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.