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Moving forward on Black representation

gordon-brownGordon Brown has pledged to improve political representation for all under-represented groups in parliament, including the numbers of Black MPs

His full speech to the all-party Speakers Conference on 20 October takes stock of the progress made since Brown was first elected in the early 1980s, but also makes clear his commitment to go further.

On Black representation, the Prime Minister has ordered the Labour Party to make sure it has more BME hopefuls on shortlists in seats with a high BME population.

It is expected that the new Equality Bill, currently going through parliament, will make this possible.

Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, commented: “Gordon Brown is in effect sanctioning local political parties to use 90%  BME short list.

“It seems to me that whilst seeking to avoid the controversy of  ‘all BME’ short lists, he is saying be inventive and we can get around this problem, with the same positive outcome: more BME MP’s.”

The full text of Gordon Brown’s speech:

There have been in our Parliamentary history only five Speaker’s Conferences. They are summoned only when great issues vital to our democracy demand debate and then decision.

The greatest of injustices demands the boldest of actions, so it was the first Speaker’s Conference in 1916 that opened the way to guaranteeing the right to vote for women, and so it is today, when great injustice arises from discrimination and prejudice on grounds of race, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

Some of those who sit on this Committee are those who have done most over recent years to address these inequalities and to plead for justice. When I entered Parliament in 1983, the House of Commons was an all white chamber.

There were only 23 women, a House of Commons where 50 per cent of the population had only 3 per cent of the representation. I am proud of the record in extending representation over these last 25 years, but we have not done enough yet to address under representation in our society.

Seen from the outside, Parliament is not yet fit for the 21st century. So I want to suggest areas where we will move fast as a party and as a government to make change possible.

For women, we want to advance further, and on a like for like basis, I expect the number of women Labour MPs in Parliament to rise to between 120 and 140 after the next election.

The Equality Bill will extend all-women shortlists until 2030, and I hope there will be general support for this. On black and Asian representation, we will make sure that in relevant constituencies, a majority on the shortlist are black and Asian candidates.

That will follow the passage of the Equality Bill. On disabled representation, we recognise the barriers of access, in some cases finance and prejudice to disabled candidates seeking selection, and we are determined to offer the greatest of practical support to make that possible.

We will increase support for LGBT candidates, and I have said that there is a way that we can deal with some of the prejudice.

Just as marriages can take place in the presence of the House of Commons, I hope Mr Speaker will consider that civil partnerships should be celebrated here too, and I hope that he and the House authorities will consider this idea.

I am committed to diversity in Parliament, not just because it is at the heart of our Labour Party values, but because it is also in the interests of the whole country, that we keep the promise of our democracy, not for some but for all the people of Britain.

I do not believe that sexism, racism and disability discrimination are indelibly woven into the fabric of our society, but it is our duty as Parliamentarians to lead the way in a process that in this generation can end the discrimination and prejudice that exists, and make our Parliament a Parliament where all people feel that they are fully represented.

staff writer
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