eunisEunis Jassemi, Youth Officer of Strathkelvin and Bearsden CLP and Communications Officer for Scottish Young Labour, says Labour needs to change to attract ethnic minority support.

 

The ethnic minority population is growing at a rapid rate in the UK, a rate in which could influence future elections.

A comparison of the 2001 and 2011 censuses shows that the Asian and black population of the nation has increased by 2.5% and 1% respectively. These are not numbers to be ignored. And the 1.8 million members of the Asian community, and 750,000 members of the black community that were either born in or travelled to the UK has interspersed throughout the country (rather than congregating in London or inner city areas as is the stereotype with anyone new to the country).

It has been an unspoken tradition, for many years, that large portions of the ethnic minority in Britain are staunch supporters of the Labour Party. From the 1965, 1968 and 1976 Race Relations Acts, and the 2000 Race Relations (Amendment) Act, they’ve all been passed under Labour governments. They also like Labour’s more relaxed immigration policy compared to the Tories.

I’d like it to be clear that I have my own personal reasons for having such strong support for Labour. My family has been affected by the immigration standards set by Labour in the early 90’s; without the new Labour era, my family and I may have not been in the position we are in now; my sister and I may have been unable to attend university, and my mother may not have been able to work in a field she loves: the NHS.

Thankfully she was able to enter a nation that values hard work, democracy and the rule of law. My father was eager to set up his businesses so he can provide for the family and contribute to society. With the modern dynamic of the economy and the voices of people from all field of life, we were able to have a stable life here, as have many others who have joined the nation over the years, and many who soon will, and look to Labour for guidance and ideas.

However, this constant support Labour has perhaps come to expect may slowly be dwindling due to the SNP’s tireless effort to get the ethnic vote, and the Conservatives’ success in attaining approximately 1 million votes from this demographic – helping them to their overall shock win in the recent election. It is clear Labour must be more forward about their support for the ethnic demographic. As a minority myself, I’d like to think I have some valid ideas that would help drive the campaign forward:

  1. Promote more BAME candidates
  2. Promote the benefits of immigration has had on the nation
  3. Create more educational opportunities.
  4. Be pro-business
  5. Have a pro-Palestine policy and engage in the Middle East peace process

I’d like to talk in particular about numbers 1 and 4; I think these are key for us to continue to win over the BAME population.

It is my personal opinion that political parties should do more to promote their candidates who are ethnic minorities; it is no surprise that over the years Labour has had a rich and diverse range of talent in the BAME and I believe those candidates deserve recognition. I am not ashamed to admit that I admire these candidates for their intelligence, work ethic and downright determination. People such as Keith Vaz, Diane Abbott, Oona King, David Lammy and Anas Sarwar.

Anas Sarwar is a personal hero of mine for many reasons. He is a young ethnic minority who has held the position of Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and served the people of Glasgow for 5 years, who I saw first-hand working tirelessly for the unheard voices of his constituents and was frankly robbed of his seat in Glasgow Central in my opinion. He has strong family values and progressive values which he believed with incredible vigour. We need more people like Anas running for candidacy to represent the unheard communities of people who are judged and degraded each and every day as their voices remain unheard by those already in a place of power and privilege. Candidates such as Anas provide their constituents with hope, respect and give the youth of the community a role model to look up to, and see that nothing can keep them from achieving what they’ve always wanted to do regardless of the stigma wrongly associated with their skin.

I myself as a 21 year old British born Arab I’m more than engaged in politics. (I joined Labour at 15 and have been active since.) I want to make a difference for the BAME community, for Scotland, for Britain and whether that means talking to faith groups more and communities, hitting the doors more, standing for election etc. then I’m up for that. It’s time BAME members should step forward and represent our communities.

BAME communities love having an ethnic minority MP, they feel they have a strong voice in the UK parliament which is stuffed full of white middle aged men in suits.

The party should also adopt a pro-business approach.

When my parents moved to this country they were eager to set up shop in Glasgow. They were seeking the basics: low tax rates, a growing economy, less regulations etc. After the election of 1997 they were able to find all those things under thanks to the Labour government. Year after year we were able to hire more staff as the economy continued to grow. It’s one of the reasons why my family are staunch Labour supporters; they knew only Labour stands up for small business. A good portion of immigrants coming to the U.K. are exactly the same; they want a government that will champion small enterprises, they want government they will stand up for their values and will help their family to proposer.

We lost hundreds of thousands of voters in southern England. Mainly middle and high income BAME earners left us for not setting out a clear, bold agenda for the national economy.

As we will elect a new party leader soon my advice to all the candidates is to talk UP business; don’t bash the business sector and instead offer a clear positive vision to what the Tories are offering. Let’s help the SME sector and grow our economy. If we can offer that then we’ll win back those ethnic voters that left us in Southern England.

So in conclusion, the party will need to act fast and get itself prepared for the next election. I’ve set out 5 basic areas that the party could look at but in detail I’ve said that we should promote more BAME candidates and set out a pro-business approach. I think these should be considered first.  We need to re-engage with the BAME community. Slowly, slowly we are losing our vote to other parties. If we don’t act now that could become an irreversible trend.