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Shahzad pressing Labour on Black representation

Ahmad-ShahzadThe head of Labour’s Black members group says he is pushing his party’s leadership to select more ethnic minorities in winnable seats ahead of the next general election

Speaking from Labour’s annual conference in Brighton today, Ahmad Shahzad (pictured above) said rumours of a flood of Labour MPs stepping down presented opportunities for new diverse candidates to take their place.

Shahzad, chairman of BAME Labour, an affiliate organisation represented on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, also said that he was hopeful that black and Asian members would play a crucial role in “galvanising” the party over the next few years.

If Labour crash to an expected defeat at the general election next May, it is likely that rising stars such as David Lammy, Sadiq Khan and Chuka Umunna will help lead the party’s renewal in opposition, rethinking policies that could revive Labour’s fortunes.

Shahzad, a former Brent councillor, told OBV Blog: ‘I want to see more [BME MPs] and I’m in negotiations with the party [about how to achieve this]. I’m pushing them.’

He said he was “confident” that Labour would select more Black candidates in winnable seats, and said that suggestions that a large number of sitting MPs could announce their retirements from Westminster was an issue he was keeping a watching review over.

Shahzad is paying particular attention to seats where the ethnic minority population is 30% or more. There are 39 constituencies with this population profile, and Labour currently hold all but one of them. Out of these 39 seats, only eight have a Black MP or Labour candidate.

Labour have 13 Black MPs at present – a figure that could rise to 17 if new candidates Rushanara Ali, Chuka Umunna, Yasmin Qureshi and Chi Onwurah are elected.

The Conservatives have selected a number of Black candidates in good seats, but unless further candidates are selected parliament will still be woefully short of the 64 Black MPs that would be required for the Commons to accurately reflect the society it serves.

Labour’s most senior figures are expected at a BAME reception in Brighton on Wednesday, where these issues are bound to be raised again.

Lester Holloway

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