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Khan KO’s Tories on Labour’s representation record

Rushanara Ali, Sadiq Khan and Chuka Umunna trumpet Labour's progress

Labour insisted they would have more black and Asian MPs than the Conservatives as they held a press conference this week to ‘show off’ their diverse general election hopefuls.

Transport minister Sadiq Khan confidently predicted that Labour would still be ahead in the Black representation stakes, despite the Conservatives picking a series of BME prospective candidates to fight safe seats.

Bassam Mahfouz

OBV blog recently questioned whether Labour would fall behind the Tories after David Cameron’s party selected the 12th BME politician in a winnable seat.

Khan, who is confident of seeing off a challenge to his own Tooting seat from a black Tory, Mark Clarke, was in combative mood, emphasising the difference between the Tories “beauty parade” of BME candidates who were “parachuted in to make a nice picture” and Labour’s grassroots approach to representation.

Khan was joined by fellow MPs Dawn Butler and Keith Vaz, and a host of new candidates who Labour hope to get elected, including Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow), Bassam Mahfouz (Ealing Central and Acton), Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East), and Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Upon Tyne Central).

Labour’s press conference comes days after the Mail on Sunday boasted that the Tories 42 new black and Asian candidates, 12 of whom stand a good chance of making it to Westminster if Cameron enters Downing Street. In addition, their two sitting MPs – Adam Afriyie and Shailesh Vara – are guaranteed to be returned.

However Labour were keen to point that they have 49 BME candidates in total; 37 new black and Asian hopefuls, plus 12 of their sitting MPs who are defending their seats.

Chuka Umunna

Khan told OBV Blog: ‘The Conservatives throw around figures for the number of ethnic minority candidates but ask the question how many of those are in seats that the Conservatives can win?

‘In the 2005 election both the Liberals and the Conservatives had beauty parades of ethnic minority candidates, but the Liberals actually lost one and the Conservatives only won two.

‘We’re very proud of our history of supporting ethnic minorities for local council and parliament, and I’ve no doubt that after the general election we’ll still have far, far more ethnic minority members of parliament than all the other parties put together.’

Later on he told the press conference: ‘Don’t judge a party by its veneer and beauty parades, judge them by its policies. We welcome that more ethnic minorities are standing for the Tories, but how will their policies benefit ethnic minority communities?

‘We all know there are [Tory] candidates who have been parachuted into seats and make great pictures, but Labour candidates have been working on hard on ground.’

The Tories narrowing poll lead – with one poll giving Cameron a tiny two percent advantage which could see Gordon Brown holding on to power in a minority or coalition government – has put the wind in Labour’s sails.

But the progress made by both major parties has guaranteed that whether the pendulum swings the way of Labour or the Conservatives, Britain is sure to witness the largest single jump in the number of BME MPs in history.

Onwurah, who is defending a large majority after replacing a retiring Labour MP, commented: ‘I think particularly the Labour Party has made a big step forward. It’s so important because in a democracy if you don’t have a parliament that reflects society than that is a failure.

‘So the fact that the Labour Party has so many ethnic minorities and women is a real step forward, and I’m sad that the other parties haven’t made the same step forward.’

Umunna acknowledged that the Tories had made some progress, but was critical of the Liberal Democrats, who he accused of lagging way behind. ‘Credit where credit’s due, the Conservative Party have sorted out their act, but the Lib Dems still have a lamentable record. If we’re going to have a Tory MP, I’d like a Tory MP that at least represents modern Britain.’

Mahfouz, who is defending a small Labour majority but has a very large BME population in his west London seat, said the main battle was persuading the public to make the connection between improvements in public services and government policies.

‘The biggest problem I face is when standing outside a brand new school, not everyone recognises that that brand new school would not be there if it wasn’t for a Labour government. Once you deliver, many people then take it for granted.’

By Lester Holloway



One Response

  1. Here are some concrete steps The Conservatives have taken to assure Black and Asian peoples’ representation:

    1. Developed new selection system that guarantees diversity, fairness and meritocracy – and put this in place.

    2. Put up BME candidates in Conservative-held seats, comprising the brightest and best candidates, with equal numbers of men and women and a significant proportion of black and ethnic minority candidates, and candidates with disabilities.

    3. Full progress check review after three months, and in the unlikely event that further action is required, it will be taken.

    4. Intensive programme of headhunting and mentoring to attract the brightest and best women and ethnic minorities to apply to become candidates.

    5. Community involvement in candidate selection, either through community panels evaluating candidates, or through primaries.

    This has resulted in:

    Sayeeda Warsi in the Shadow Cabinet
    Sajid Javid in Bromsgrove
    Zahid Iqbal in Bradford West.
    Shaun Bailey in Hammersmith
    Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones in Cheltenham
    Kwazi Kwarteng in Spelthorne
    Helen Grant in Maidstone
    Sam Gyimah in Surrey East

    Actions speak louder than words. The Conservatives are winning the battle for representation. But, this is not a party political issue, so I say, ‘come on Labour, Liberals – pull your socks up!’

    Cllr Imran Khan (Reigate and Banstead Borough)

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