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'Labour gives us chance to get equality we deserve'

LEADER: Labour's Ed Miliband (PA)

I GREW up in Wolverhampton where Enoch Powell was the local MP and the National Front had regular marches creating constant fear of being under siege in a multicultural neighbourhood.

This reminded me that every day that being black and an ethnic minority was a struggle for acceptance and belonging. My dad still recounts stories of where up to 15 men would share two or three bedrooms in a rundown terrace house doing a shift system to share the bed. When my mother came a year later he saved enough money to rent a room before they bought their first property.

My parents raised five children and had hopes and aspirations for us. They made sacrifices to support for us to achieve our goals. Four of us went to university, and four of us have had successful careers as a NHS Nurse, lawyer, and me as a former NHS manager. My siblings and I benefited from Labour policies of comprehensive education and higher education.

Labour was the first government to introduce race relations and equalities legislation to tackle racism, sexism, disability and homophobia in housing, classroom, sports field, boardroom, shop floor, media and operating theatre.

Labour activists promoted positive action and equal opportunities monitoring in the 1980s in the face of derision and contempt from government and media.

Great strides have been made in the last 60 years in celebrating difference and acknowledging the mutuality around respect and tolerance role models have provided the equality of opportunity for the X and Y generation.

As a nation we benefited from this social revolution as a modern success for Britain as a dynamic multi-ethnic, secular and inclusive society.

We still have a long way to achieve the equality that we all deserve. However with Labour we have a chance since this is part of our values and DNA.

Over the last few years we have been in danger of sliding back as a nation to my parent’s experiences of the ‘colour bar’ when they came to Britain in the late 1950s. The proposed Immigration Bill, the racist van, the return of stop and search, racist landlords, and disproportionate impact of Tory austerity. Many of us are taking action at a local and national action level to stop this which has had a successful impact. In some of these campaigns Brent has been leading the way.

I was approached by Kate Green MP a few months ago the then Shadow Equality Minister to give input and suggestions in Realising One Nation: Developing a race equality strategy. I was invited to contribute because of my track record in working in communities and my national work in health and social care. I relished the opportunity contribute to a new vision around equality.

The new Shadow Equality Minster for Women and Equalities Gloria De Piero MP has now launched the strategy for consultation to party members, affiliates and supporters.

She said: “We have come a long way since Labour introduced the Race Relations Act in 1968, but under this Government progress has stalled.

“It is unacceptable that as a non-white person today, you are twice as likely to be unemployed as the national average in the UK, and educational attainment is still linked to ethnic background.

“On so many fronts this Government is failing our BAME communities. We should be supporting entrepreneurship opportunities for ethnic minority businesses and helping the police to increase recruitment from minority communities.

“This is why Labour is today launching the ‘Realising One Nation’ consultation. We need a new race equalities strategy to address all these challenges and support stronger community cohesion.”

The consultation document along with key questions covers the following policy areas: employment, education, policing and criminal justice, health and social care, representation, small business, equality and immigration legislation.

More work is required in developing specific policies and certain policy areas are absent e.g. arts and heritage, international development, foreign policy, housing and environment.

The race equality strategy will play an important role in shaping, influencing and mainstreaming this agenda as part of Labour’s manifesto for 2015 so please read the document and give your feedback.

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