Monday, June 11, 2007

Ethnicity and diversity: maybe we're not alone in our predicament...

One of the advantages of a fairly 'catholic' reading list is that you often realise that you aren't alone, after all. And, whilst our internal debate over selection of black and minority ethnic candidates in winnable seats has calmed a bit, interestingly, our friends in the Labour Party appear to be doing their own navel-gazing.

I have already made my opposition to quotas abundantly clear, favouring the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) approach of support, mentoring and training. Meral Ece has already made the case that Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) receives no funding from the party centrally and so I find myself wondering, "Is there a role for my Regional Party here?". Clearly, given the proportion of the London population that defines itself as non-white (28.8%), we would be failing if we didn't take a lead on this issue. We have a training budget, and we could work with EMLD to organise training that might be useful.

I would say this though, working simply with EMLD is not enough, we should be working with CGB and, a point often overlooked, anyone else who might benefit. Women-only training opportunities have been crucial in both encouraging women to come forward and supporting them once they have done so. On the other hand, there has been some ill-feeling that such opportunities haven't been made available to anyone else.

In part, this is due to the fact that there isn't any other organisation which is similarly effective. My views on the Parliamentary Candidates Association (PCA) vary between mockery and contempt, depending on how good a mood I'm in and, as already stated, EMLD has little funding. So perhaps we could run the same training session three times, once with CGB, once with EMLD, and once for anyone in the Regional Party?

I'm keen that rather than just talk, we act. There will be a review of our processes and outcomes, it is true, but the sooner we start to make a real difference, the sooner we can put the events of the past month behind us.


Tristan said...

From my rather distant viewpoint that sounds close to ideal.
We should be allowing opportunities to all, but there is a need to encourage groups who have suffered (and do in some cases) discrimination to overcome reluctance to get involved.

We cannot have quotas, it is plain illiberal. We want the best people to be involved and that does require encouraging some groups to come forwards.

Andy Mayer said...

Removing the party's 'no endorsements' rule would make a fast difference in internal selections.

The equivalent of the party leadership and MPs A-listing promising candidates from a wider variety of backgrounds but with the onus on the candidate to prove they have talent by gathering support, rather than some central party list. Clearly good BME candidates are going to get a lot of support from leading party figures.

The current 'fair' system simply favours long-service against potential, which will make change very, very slow.