Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg writes exclusively for OBV about Liberal Democrat policies for BME communities.
I was taught, from a very early age, about the dangers of intolerance. My mother, who’s Dutch, spent several years in a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. My grandmother had been forced to flee her home in St Petersburg during the Russian Revolution.
So, against that backdrop, I developed a strong commitment to human rights, and to opportunity for all. That’s my liberalism. And, when I ask you to vote for the Liberal Democrats on May 6th, it’s those principles I’m asking you to choose for Britain.
Labour has failed on equality. If you’re from an ethnic minority you’re still more likely to be out of work; more likely to be on low pay; more likely to be hassled by the police when you haven’t done anything wrong.
And the Conservatives, despite being newly airbrushed, have no intention of putting that right. Otherwise, why would they continue to stoke up social divides? They talk tough on crime, promising to relax the rules on stop and search. They pander to the right on immigration, promising a cap that would mean even turning away British people’s relatives who want to visit if they apply at the wrong time of year. And when it comes to human rights the Conservatives have only one thing to say: they’ll repeal the Human Rights Act.
Liberal Democrats are different. We’ll use the law to uphold rights, not put entire communities under suspicion. We’ll end discrimination in the workplace. And we’ll clean up our corrupt politics and make parliament a place that truly represents Britain.
First: making sure the statute book protects BME communities. Liberal Democrats are committed to equality legislation, we’ll uphold the Human Rights Act, and support a strong EHRC too. But we need to go further, ending what has been a systematic abuse of counter-terrorism measures. It’s a scandal that black men are six times more likely to be searched than white men. And that three-quarters of the people on the DNA database are young, black men – a database that holds a million innocent people’s records.
My party will take a whole new approach. Instead of victimizing innocent people, we will concentrate on catching dangerous individuals. We’ll make stop and search intelligence-led, and we’ll end abuse of the notorious Section 44. We’ll get innocent people off the database too, and we’ll repeal control orders and 28-day detention, delivering fair trials instead. The PREVENT programme, which currently alienates Muslim communities, also desperately needs to be reviewed.
Second: we’ll end discrimination in the workplace. Right now, someone with an ethnic minority name has to apply for twice as many jobs before they’re hired. Labour hasn’t made the workplace fair. They’ve grown complacent towards enduring prejudice, when what we need is a government determined to root it out. That is going to take new ideas, and I believe some of the most simple measures could have a real effect. Like name-blind job application forms, where names and personal details are hidden or blanked out to give applicants a fair chance of an interview. And the Liberal Democrats will introduce fair pay audits for companies as well, so unscrupulous employers won’t be able to get away with paying some people less than others when the work is the same.
Third: decent, representative politics. After the expenses scandal, it is going to take a radical overhaul of our broken politics to restore people’s trust in it. Liberal Democrats will give people the right to sack corrupt MPs. We’ll end the influence of big money in party funding. We’ll introduce fair votes, making every vote count. And we’ll lower the voting age to 16. If someone is old enough to die for this country, they should have the right to vote for its government.
It’s true that we need to get more people voting. But rather than make it compulsory, I think it’s politicians’ duty to give people a reason to come out and vote. And more people will if Westminster looks like a place they can relate to. We need a parliament that is much more reflective of modern Britain. Since I became leader 2 years ago I have been concentrating on making the Liberal Democrats more diverse but I know that none of the major political parties including the Liberal Democrats have done enough. What we’ve found is that the problem for the Liberal Democrats isn’t really about getting candidates selected for seats – it’s getting them to come forward in the first place.
So we’re providing the support and encouragement to change that. Like through our New Generation programme, which helps activists, councillors and future MPs from BME communities achieve their political ambitions. We’ve also set up a dedicated Diversity Unit to make progress on diversity within the party. Promoting tolerance and breaking down prejudice are hardwired into the Liberal Democrat party’s DNA. I’m determined our own make-up reflects that.
A new politics. Attacking discrimination in the workplace with renewed vigour. Rights and a commitment to equality enshrined in law. It’s a different approach from Government. It’s the liberal approach Britain needs. If you like it, make it happen. On May 6th, vote for the Liberal Democrats.
By Nick Clegg
The Liberal Democrat party’ BAME manifesto can be read here.