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Is Labour fighting to win back black voters?

RACE EQUALITY: Party leader Ed Miliband with his shadow cabinet

THE LABOUR Party has launched a race equalities consultation in a bid to reach out to the black electorate.

This follows a damning report as part of this newspaper’s Big Question series, which asked: “Is Labour losing the Black Vote?”

The question, posed earlier this year, ignited debate about the party’s commitment to issues that affect people of African and African Caribbean heritage – 64 per cent of whom back Labour, according to a study done by the Runnymede Trust.

But the party says race equality is high on its list of priorities, and hopes that the Realising One Nation: Developing a new race equality strategy for Labour consultation is going to help influence its policies and address the shortcomings of current equality legislations.

Despite Home Secretary Theresa May’s recently-closed stop and search consultation, Gloria De Piero MP, Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities accused the Coalition Government of “stalling” the progress in race relations.

Speaking at the consultation launch on October 21, De Piero said: “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.

FAILING

“On so many fronts this Government is failing our black and ethnic minority (BME) 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 is set to address a range of issues affecting the BME communities in areas including employment, enterprise, education, policing, criminal justice and health.


LOBBY: Simon Woolley

Among questions raised were those around the creation of employment strategies and apprenticeships that are targeted to support BME young people. 

It also explores problems around educational attainment across ethnic groups and regions, diversity in police forces and challenges in health inequalities.

Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote (OBV), who earlier this year had said Labour “must do better,” told The Voice: “I am particularly pleased that the Labour party is seeking a strategy to tackle race inequality.

“It seems to me that in the latter part of the Labour government and in the new Coalition government that race equality had fallen off the agenda. Clearly, the Labour Party has realised that the black vote in the next general election will be crucial.”

Sutton Liberal Democrat councillor Lester Holloway said the consultation was “positive news” but added he was sceptical about a follow-through.

He said:  “It all depends on how high up the agenda this is for the Labour Party. They can produce a wonderful document but if there isn’t the political will to follow through on this, then it is all a paper exercise.”

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson told The Voice that they were committed to addressing race inequality. 

He added: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy in a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life.”

MISTAKES

But Holloway criticised his own party declaring that they “don’t have a complete race equalities strategy.”   

Labour party councillor, Patrick Vernon, admitted that his party has made mistakes with its approach to race issues, but said he is confident that they are listening to voters and that the consultation will influence the manifesto for 2015.

He said:  “The proof is in the pudding. We were the first party to raise race regulation and the Coalition government is trying to get rid of it.


OUTSPOKEN: Gloria De Piero

“In a period of cuts and austerity you need to have strong legislation to protect those parts of the community who are most affected. We are aiming to ensure a robust race equality strategy, backed up by quality impact assessments that will enable us to deliver effectively to BME communities.”

Runneymede Trust director Rob Berkeley said the consultation was “not perfect” but welcomed the effort.

He added: “It is a much needed attempt to engage with efforts to address the persistent patterns of discrimination and disadvantage experienced by too many from Britain's black communities.”

Woolley has urged the black community to contribute to the discussion.  He said: “I’m convinced that this will force other parties to follow.

“The tide is swinging towards the power of the black vote. It is for us therefore to seize it.”

The Conservative Party said it would not comment on Labour’s consultation and its own strategy for racial equality “at the time being.”

To participate in the consultation please visit: www.yourbritain.org.uk

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