CLD signs joint statement with LDCRE, BLAC and LibDems Muslim Forum

September 11, 2021 9:35 AM
By Janice Turner, Vice Chair of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality in LibDem Voice

LDCRE logoMore than a year has passed since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement stunned the world into vowing to take racism more seriously.

Tackling racism, however, always needs to begin at home, and both Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE) and Liberal Democrats Black Lives Action Committee (BLAC) had hoped BLM would propel the party into making faster progress to increase membership and electoral support from ethnic minorities.

LDCRE made a major submission, duly accepted, to the Thornhill Review. The Review's recommendations included that the party fulfil the recommendations of the earlier Alderdice Review "in full, with urgency". It added the party should:

  • revise targeting strategy to include the BAME electorate particularly in the most diverse areas,
  • Change the culture of the party to embed at all levels the concerns and interests of BAME communities and issues in all its activities, reaches out to the BAME communities and actively plan how it will achieve real integration at all levels.
  • Ensure resources - paid staff and investment - are in place to implement this.
  • Help local parties reflect the demographic of the electorate they represent.

Alderdice made crystal clear that the party has to make ethnic diversity - not diversity in general - its top priority. Alderdice said: "In the Liberal Democrats the commitment to diversity and the campaigns to make diversity happen have brought significant changes and improvements for women and LGBT+ members and representation, but not for BaME members and representation." He stated that ethnic diversity now had to be a "Number 1" priority issue for the party. "The party has a tendency to try to be inclusive of all issues at all times and that has an intellectual appeal, but it has not worked for BaME communities, because addressing everything means focussing on nothing."

He added: "Every local association needs to compare the make-up of the population in their area with the make-up of the local party, the make-up of the officers in the local party, and whether their activities, leaflets and preoccupations are reflective of the local community."

So it is incomprehensible that the leadership, who were given responsibility for carrying out the recommendations, are doing precisely the opposite of what Alderdice recommended. It has embarked on a general equality, diversity and inclusion policy that does not prioritise ethnic minorities, and has no plans to lead a campaign to help local parties reach out to local communities.

The party seem unable to comprehend what was accepted by the Thornhill Review: that ignoring ethnic minority communities is costing us seats and power. Tackling it is essential for our electoral success.

Electorally, if we ignore ethnic minority communities it will be impossible for us to gain significant numbers of seats. Ignoring BAME voters in diverse areas will leave us requiring impossibly large swings from the white electorate to win.

Our failure to reach out to ethnic minority voters is what allowed Labour to hold on to London and other areas despite the collapse of the "red wall". The Conservatives have learned this, as have the Greens. Our party's failure to do so is a key factor behind our shocking fourth place in London's elections behind the Greens.

LDCRE has shown how reaching out to ethnic communities with multiracial canvassing teams brings huge electoral success. In Brent, Anton Georgiou achieved a 28% swing and won the council seat from Labour, the first Lib Dem on Brent Council in four years. But this needs to replicated in a sustainable way across the country by the party.

We have also heard of countless cases of activists and candidates finding their local party's culture is discriminatory and exclusionary, and those found to be racist are not held to account. Those experiencing racism find that the party has not lived up to its ideals, that there is a perception of some going through the disciplinary process that it may remain discriminatory. Little changes as the years go by.

There is a clear need for action and for the party to provide meaningful resources to achieve this. It needs to be willing to also take political risks for diversity - for example, in pushing for a Rooney Rule for candidate shortlisting when it appears this can be legally possible. Furthermore BLAC have produced policy documents that could help make the necessary changes happen more quickly.

But our party is determined to ignore the recommendations of both the Alderdice and Thornhill reviews. LDCRE, BLAC, the Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum and Chinese Liberal Democrats are standing together in condemning this failure. We are calling on all fellow members who want real action on race equity in this party, and who want our party to win power, to make clear that you, like LDCRE, BLAC, Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum and Chinese Liberal Democrats, demand that the Alderdice and Thornhill recommendations are fulfilled.

Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality

Liberal Democrat Black Lives Action Committee

Liberal Democrats Muslim Forum

Chinese Liberal Democrats