• Josie Channer

Political Empowerment: BAME Representation

By Josie Channer

Josie Channer
Josie Channer

5.5 % (3.1 million), if parliament reflected the diversity of the population there would be 36 Black MPs. There are currently only 8 Black MPs (5 Labour) in 2016.

The number of Black Labour MPs has risen from three in 1987 to five in 2010.

In December 2013 only two additional Black candidates have been selected to stand for 106 Labour target seats in 2015.

6 Labour MPs are the son or daughter of an MP (2014), more than total number of Black Labour MPs

I fully support both the All Women Shortlist and the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) policy that the Labour Party has introduced for parliamentary candidates. A proactive response is the only way forward if we are to see any real progress on workplace equity. However, there are many that oppose any kind of Positive Action to readdress the balance, including those from the under-represented groups.

A man who was considering standing as a Labour parliamentary candidate expressed some unease about stating on his application that was a BAME candidates as he did not to receive what he thought would be preferential treatment during the selection process. This was my advice to him:

“I’ve picked up on your reluctance to stand as a BAME candidate. I have a friend who, following a successful career in the armed forces, applied to join the Metropolitan Police. They accepted him immediately. However, as a BAME applicant, his application was given priority. On these grounds, my friend turned down the job offer and joined the prison service instead. The Metropolitan Police dogged by accusations of institutional racism, is desperate for BAME applicants to join its force that is currently ninety-eight percent white.

My point is that things can only change when we are on the inside. I understood that my friend didn’t want any special favours. He just wanted to be treated like everyone else and his application to be judged on merit. But prior to the policy being introduced, BAME applicants were not even being called for interview. Education is of no use when, as you rightly suggested, the codes that we are not privy to rule the game.

I hope that you will consider standing as a candidate and not feel that somehow you have not earned your place. We desperately need to change things from the inside. We are needed to change our country. That is the only reason this policy is in place.”

People of colour have paid a high price for austerity with 50% of young black men in the UK unemployed. A parliament that looks like the rest of the country is the answer to high unemployment, poor quality housing and education. For this reason, I not only have continued support for All Women Shortlist but I would argue that there is a need for All BAME Shortlists.