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It was a full house in committee room nine of the House of Commons, sat upon the gaze of a gargantuan portrait of Sir Robert Peel was a room was packed wall to wall with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people. Many of whom had come from across country to be at the launch of BAME Labour's mentoring and political education scheme.

The panel of Dawn Butler MP, Keith Vaz MP, Lord Paul Boateng, Professor Joke Ukemenam, Susan Matthews and Kamaljeet Jandu - the chair of BAME Labour, were adament that now is the time for BAME voices to be heard in both this party and this country. We heard, so rightly, that there was so much talent in Black and Asian communities across this country but that it wasn't reaching the highlest levels of public service. I left this event feeling genuinely optimistic and convinced we have a Labour Party comitted to reflecting the country it wants to govern and prepared to do what it takes to give BAME people a chance to lead. If ever there was a time when black voices needs to be heard, when Muslim voices need to be heard and the voices of so many ethnic communities feeling the backlash of Brexit need to be heard, it's now.

We were told how this mentoring scheme is designed to make use of talented BAME people eagerly wanting to stand up for the values of the Labour Party. I thought it was great how the scheme intends to make use of the MPs, MEPs and Lords in Labour and pairing them with BAME people across the country to develop their skills and raise up a generation of leaders and BAME people in vital roles across the country. 

When much of the rank and file of the Party and our movement is filled with BAME bodies, it's vital the ideas and leadership of the movement reflect that too. That means more BAME MPs, more BAME people on trade union councils, more BAME councillors, BAME mayors, putting BAME people on the boards of Bank of England, the BBC, the National Lottery. We desperately need this mentoring scheme. We can't let the talent in our communities go to waste, it needs to be sharpened and turned into a force to help transform this country.

For me and so many others, Labour has a proud history of being fighters for racial justice and racial equality in this country, it was this party who had the first black MPs and pushed for the first laws tackling racial discrminiation. Names like Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz as well as the late Bernie Grant have been stalwarts in representing BAME voices in parliament. However, as Dawn Butler rightly said, "we need to make sure what we do as a community is powerful and sustainable so that it doesn't fall away when our leaders do." We can't rely on the same people forever, I hope this mentoring scheme can ensure we have BAME people who can carry on the legacy of racial justice in Labour and be champions in their own right.

The words of Lord Boateng stuck with me particularly at the end and captured the essence of what I hope this scheme can acheive: "It won't be easy but you need to bring forward new ideas that defend the values & ideals of justice & equality we represent." It's this message that is so important and it's vital the Labour Party has a space for Black and Asian people to lead. That's why we need this mentoring scheme and why over the next few months I'll be eagerly following updates from BAME Labour on how best to take advantage of this great opportunity

Josh Jackson is a member of Young Labour and Labour Students. You can follow him on @joshuayjackson.



We Need BAME Labour's Mentoring Scheme - Here's Why

  It was a full house in committee room nine of the House of Commons, sat upon the gaze of a gargantuan portrait of Sir Robert Peel was a room...

With just over a week to go before the leader of the Labour party is announced in Liverpool, we wrote to both candidates asking them questions that were of particular importance to the BAME community. Due to the length of both the candidates answers (which is greatly appreciated!), we've split the questions and answers into two parts. You can read part one here.

Don't forget that the deadline to vote for the Labour leadership is noon on Wednesday 21st September.


4. How would you help pull up BAME communities, specifically Muslim communities, from being at the bottom of the economic active population?

Owen Smith [OS]: Recent research has shown the additional disadvantage in employment and income experienced by Muslims. A recent report by the Women and Equalities Committees shows that Muslim women are the most disadvantaged and three times more likely to be unemployed jobseekers than women generally. My plans for fair employment will include banning exploitative zero hours contracts, introducing a modern Equal Pay Act, and wages councils in the care, hospitality and retail sectors, and a real living wage. All these policies will help close the BAME and gender pay gaps. And we also need to constantly tackle Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms, to ensure that no one is held back from achieving their full potential in the workplace. 

Jeremy Corbyn [JC]: Britain is rightly proud of being one of the most diverse communities in the world. 

Our first priority will be education. Educations is the gateway to realising potential. My commitment to restore free education and Education Maintenance Allowance will help BAME communities to become economically active. Once in the job market we will ensure the practices in the public and private sector root out inequality in recruitment and in the work place. 

Muslim face unique disadvantages which we aim to urgently tackle in order to make equality of opportunity a reality for all BAME communities. We will ensure that the experience of BAME people are properly represented in Workplace 2020 and take forward measures such as implementing fair and transparent employment practices and explore further initiatives such as name blind recruitment practices to combat discriminatory recruitment practices which disproportionately impacts on BAME and Muslim individuals. 

We will utilise our £500 billion investment in infrastructure, backed by our publicly owned National Investment Bank and regional development banks, to ensure that women and BAME communities gain access to the high quality jobs of the future, while creating a million new jobs. 

We have also committed to policies that will end the scourge of low paid and insecure work, raising the statutory minimum wage, ending exploitative zero hours contracts, as well as strengthening employment and trade union rights for equality in the workplace and to tackle discrimination. 


5. How would you provide extra help for BAME women wishing to stand for election?

[OS]: I will continue to use the Future Candidates Programme, and work with groups like the Labour Women's Network and Fabian Women's Network, to provide support for BAME women standing for election. I know that the cost of standing for election can be a significant deterrent for many women, including from BAME backgrounds. We must find ways to make sure cost does not prevent candidates from coming forward. The NEC are looking at this issue and I look forward to seeing their recommendations, as action is urgently needed. 

[JC]: The increase in Labour membership over the past year provides a vast and diverse resource for our movement, however we cannot assume that this will translate into increased representation for traditionally underrepresented groups. 

The fact that 12% of Britons come from a BAME background, yet only 6.3% of MPs do is testament to the barriers people face. Women are also underrepresented across out society and in our democracy at all levels - and of course BAME women are particularly underrepresented. We need to challenge the barriers to this at ever level. 

To ensure greater representation of BAME women we need to bring about a cultural shift both inside and outside the Labour party. One of the points I have made at hustings is that we need to look at mechanisms to increase our diversity, be reflective of society as a whole and increase our representation of all women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, disabled and LGBT people. We have also committed to taking forward the recommendations of the Shami Chakrabarti report in ensuring that we are building an inclusive party that is welcoming to all. 

6. You've both proposed women's representation in the shadow cabinet. How would you encourage greater BAME representation?

[OS]: I want Parliament to be more reflective of the communities we seek to represent, and of the country as a whole. 

As Leader of the Labour Party, I'd work closely with BAME Labour and the NEC to help encourage and support greater representation of BAME people in Parliament. We need to encourage people to get more involved by standing for CLP officer positions, as well as for council and parliament. We also need to look outside our Party, working with community groups and trade unions to identify talented BAME campaigners and activists who could be future Labour members and representatives. Greater BAME representation in parliament will enable us to have a shadow cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country, and I am committed to achieving this. 

[JC]: As a party we must never go back to the all too recent situation of having an all-white front bench and a commitment to this principle should be a minimum requirement to stand as Labour leader. However, we cannot allow this limited and recent progress to satisfy us; the shadow cabinet still does not reflect the country it seeks to represent that his must be addressed. At the last shadow cabinet elections in 2010, only one BAME candidate was elected and only three candidates stood. To encourage this to change we must first address the number of BAME MPs. At the current rate it will take 100 years before BAME Parliamentarians reach a number that is reflective of society. We will initiate a review into the actions required to address BAME representation, considering all options. 

BAME Labour Leadership Questions - Part 2

With just over a week to go before the leader of the Labour party is announced in Liverpool, we wrote to both candidates asking them questions that were of particular...

With just over a week to go before the leader of the Labour party is announced in Liverpool, we wrote to both candidates asking them questions that were of particular importance to the BAME community. Due to the length of both the candidates answers (which is greatly appreciated!), we've split the questions and answers into two parts. You can read part two here.

Don't forget that the deadline to vote for the Labour leadership is noon on Wednesday 21st September.


1. Why do you think over a million BAME voters decide to vote Tory in the 2015 General Election?

Owen Smith [OS]: As a party we didn't do enough to show voters that we could be trusted to run the country. People lost faith in us, we were not strong enough in opposition and we lacked credibility. Meanwhile the Tories have worked hard in the last few years to remove their negative image with BAME voters. For example, we saw David Cameron as Prime Minister visit India three times before the general election last year. 

Voting patterns of BAME individuals have also changed over time, especially amongst second and third generations. I recently held a roundtable discussion to hear from BAME activists and community leaders about their concerns. They told me Labour has been too complacent, taking votes for granted in certain communities, and overlooking the fact that, people are moving away from us. We failed to show that the Labour party is ambitious for everyone, and is in tune with people's ambitions for themselves and for their families. 

We have to change the dialogue we have with BAME voters and that includes the party being more active in our engagement and recognising the individual needs and ambitions of voters from diverse communities. 

Jeremy Corbyn [JC]: According to the most authoritative studies of the 2016 General Election just over 65% of the BME electorate voted for Labour compared to just over 20% for the Tories. Whilst this was a small percentage decline for us from the 2010 election, as a party we mustn't be complacent and take one of the most loyal Labour communities for granted. 

Like many voters at the last election I think many from the BME community were looking for a radical alternative to the austerity mantra of the Tory party - for Labour to set out how they would be different and offer more. Simply we didn't convince enough voters across the country, irrespective of their race that we had the programme to make their lives better. 

Since 2015 when I was elected we have focused on the economic and social issues that sets out a clear alternative to the failed Conservative plan of cuts - cuts to education, cuts to the NHS, and cuts to social housing. These are the issues that face everyone, every community every day. 

So when we fight the Tories on their plans to introduce segregations and selection a the age of 11 we are fighting for each and every child. When we expose the Tories for their complete failure to support and fund the NHS that has resulted in your local hospital being in debt we do that for you and everyone who may need to use the NHS one day. 


2. Why should 2nd and 3rd generation people from minority groups support Labour?

[JC]: There's a very simple answer to this - We are the party of the many not the few. If you want to live in a fair country - be treated fairly and know future generations will be judged by the strength of their character not the colour of their skin, then you will vote Labour. 

Delivering a just and equal society will be central to our policies. We know that those from BAME communities have disproportionately lower income levels. The Tory cuts have hurt the poor and BAME communities. Report after report has shown that when it comes to the criminal justice system BAME people get longer sentences and are more likely to be stopped and searched. 

We have got to stop knowing these things to be true and start doing something about them. A Labour government is committed to delivering equality across all our public services. Our economic strategy will have fairness at it's heart. 

That's what everyone under a future Labour government will get. 

[OS]: I am offering radical, credible leadership so that Labour can offer strong opposition to Theresa May's Tories, and a serious chance of getting into Government again so that we can make real change for the people we all joined the Labour Party to represent that that includes BAME individuals. 

This country is more divided and more unequal than we have been for generations. A recent report released by EHRC shows there is a long way still to go. BAME groups still suffer disproportionately from educational underachievement, higher levels of unemployment, poverty and poor housing. Inequalities in health outcomes and educational attainment are still stark. We need a Government that takes these inequalities seriously, and also takes robust action to tackle them - only a Labour government can achieve that. My policies will tackle austerity and change the country for the better: a £200bn British New Deal to rebuild our public services and infrastructure; a real living wage; a 4% increase in NHS spending, funded by new taxes on the wealthiest; building 300,000 homes a year, half of them social homes and making the minimum wage a genuine living wage for all voters aged over 18.

Since the EU referendum, we have seen how racism has shot through the roof, and politicians have to take some responsibility. We mustn't forget the Islamophobic dog-whistle Tory campaign against Sadiq Khan, Theresa May's vans urging people to report on immigrants, or the vile UKIP 'Breaking Point' poster which demonised desperate refugees. As Leader of the Labour Party, I would take on those that spread hatred and seek to divide our communities. We need tougher enforcement of penalties for racially motivated crime. We also need to recognise the concerns the community has about Prevent, and redevelop an approach that is rooted in the community and community-led. 


3. How would you engage with BAME communities to get them more active within the party, rather than just securing bloc votes?

[OS]: Labour is the part of equality. However, there is more we must do to increase BAME representation in our party, so we look more like the country we seek to represent. 

Currently there are 23 BAME LAbour MPs, so far more needs to be done and the picture is even worse in local government where just 4% of local councillors across all the political parties are from an ethnic minority background.

As Labour Leader, I would work the BAME community, and with our MPs and CLPs to make sure more is done to support BAME members at all levels of the party. This means providing the encouragement, advice and training needed to build up experience and confidence within the Party. We need also to look outside of our Party, working with community groups and trade unions to identify campaigners and activists who could be future Labour members and representatives. We need much greater BAME representation to ensure our party reflects the diversity of the country Labour seeks to serve. 

We also need to ensure diversity in our staff team. As leader, I will carry out an audit to see how many BAME staff are employed directly by the Party. We should appoint a national BAME officer to work for the party. 

[JC]: Last week we launched a major consultation into how the party engages with it's membership, including how we can get greater involvement from BAME members. The findings and recommendations will be taken to the NEC and I hope will be fully implemented. 

With over 600,000 members, we have the largest membership of any political party in Europe. Our job as a party is to get every one of those members to play a full and active part. 

Part two will be available tomorrow. 

BAME Labour Leadership Questions - Part 1

With just over a week to go before the leader of the Labour party is announced in Liverpool, we wrote to both candidates asking them questions that were of particular...

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