With just over a week to go before the leader of the Labour party is announced in Liverpool, we wrote to both candidates asking them questions that were of particular importance to the BAME community. Due to the length of both the candidates answers (which is greatly appreciated!), we’ve split the questions and answers into two parts. You can read part one here.
Don’t forget that the deadline to vote for the Labour leadership is noon on Wednesday 21st September.
Owen Smith [OS]: Recent research has shown the additional disadvantage in employment and income experienced by Muslims. A recent report by the Women and Equalities Committees shows that Muslim women are the most disadvantaged and three times more likely to be unemployed jobseekers than women generally. My plans for fair employment will include banning exploitative zero hours contracts, introducing a modern Equal Pay Act, and wages councils in the care, hospitality and retail sectors, and a real living wage. All these policies will help close the BAME and gender pay gaps. And we also need to constantly tackle Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms, to ensure that no one is held back from achieving their full potential in the workplace.
Jeremy Corbyn [JC]: Britain is rightly proud of being one of the most diverse communities in the world.
Our first priority will be education. Educations is the gateway to realising potential. My commitment to restore free education and Education Maintenance Allowance will help BAME communities to become economically active. Once in the job market we will ensure the practices in the public and private sector root out inequality in recruitment and in the work place.
Muslim face unique disadvantages which we aim to urgently tackle in order to make equality of opportunity a reality for all BAME communities. We will ensure that the experience of BAME people are properly represented in Workplace 2020 and take forward measures such as implementing fair and transparent employment practices and explore further initiatives such as name blind recruitment practices to combat discriminatory recruitment practices which disproportionately impacts on BAME and Muslim individuals.
We will utilise our £500 billion investment in infrastructure, backed by our publicly owned National Investment Bank and regional development banks, to ensure that women and BAME communities gain access to the high quality jobs of the future, while creating a million new jobs.
We have also committed to policies that will end the scourge of low paid and insecure work, raising the statutory minimum wage, ending exploitative zero hours contracts, as well as strengthening employment and trade union rights for equality in the workplace and to tackle discrimination.
[OS]: I will continue to use the Future Candidates Programme, and work with groups like the Labour Women’s Network and Fabian Women’s Network, to provide support for BAME women standing for election. I know that the cost of standing for election can be a significant deterrent for many women, including from BAME backgrounds. We must find ways to make sure cost does not prevent candidates from coming forward. The NEC are looking at this issue and I look forward to seeing their recommendations, as action is urgently needed.
[JC]: The increase in Labour membership over the past year provides a vast and diverse resource for our movement, however we cannot assume that this will translate into increased representation for traditionally underrepresented groups.
The fact that 12% of Britons come from a BAME background, yet only 6.3% of MPs do is testament to the barriers people face. Women are also underrepresented across out society and in our democracy at all levels – and of course BAME women are particularly underrepresented. We need to challenge the barriers to this at ever level.
To ensure greater representation of BAME women we need to bring about a cultural shift both inside and outside the Labour party. One of the points I have made at hustings is that we need to look at mechanisms to increase our diversity, be reflective of society as a whole and increase our representation of all women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, disabled and LGBT people. We have also committed to taking forward the recommendations of the Shami Chakrabarti report in ensuring that we are building an inclusive party that is welcoming to all.
[OS]: I want Parliament to be more reflective of the communities we seek to represent, and of the country as a whole.
As Leader of the Labour Party, I’d work closely with BAME Labour and the NEC to help encourage and support greater representation of BAME people in Parliament. We need to encourage people to get more involved by standing for CLP officer positions, as well as for council and parliament. We also need to look outside our Party, working with community groups and trade unions to identify talented BAME campaigners and activists who could be future Labour members and representatives. Greater BAME representation in parliament will enable us to have a shadow cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country, and I am committed to achieving this.
[JC]: As a party we must never go back to the all too recent situation of having an all-white front bench and a commitment to this principle should be a minimum requirement to stand as Labour leader. However, we cannot allow this limited and recent progress to satisfy us; the shadow cabinet still does not reflect the country it seeks to represent that his must be addressed. At the last shadow cabinet elections in 2010, only one BAME candidate was elected and only three candidates stood. To encourage this to change we must first address the number of BAME MPs. At the current rate it will take 100 years before BAME Parliamentarians reach a number that is reflective of society. We will initiate a review into the actions required to address BAME representation, considering all options.