British Ethnic Congress Oct03
Brent East’s multicultural constituency with Irish and Asians
(Hindu and Muslim) is an excellent example of how well people can co-exist
successfully, despite differences in race, religion and social tradition.
The Asians have integrated very well in commercial, professional and
social life of the constituency. The people of Brent East must be
congratulated on their political maturity that minimises the social
tension which attracts extreme parties like the BNP.
So why did Brent East voters abstain or vote differently in the
All three major British political parties failed to assess the
aspirations of the constituents. The parties failed to pick a
representative ‘local’ candidate. Labour snubbed Asian supporters in
their selection. Unqualified support for the Iraq war cost Labour and
Conservative parties many votes.
The Liberal Democrats won by default. Their failure to have ethnic
members of parliament both in Westminster and in Brussels, policies of
high taxation; management of NHS and education; crime and drugs and
integration into a federal Europe do not appeal to the professional and
entrepreneurial constituents in Brent East. Further, why would Brent East
voters choose a party that is unlikely to form a government?
Kapil Dudakia’s letter in Asian Voice of 4th October,
2003 (Volume 32: Issue 22) confirms my belief that those who abstained or
voted differently in Brent East remain frustrated and unsatisfied with the
result. It seems that such a feeling was widely expressed by those
attending the Asian Youth Conference and the “Operation Hindu Vote”
Conference last month.
Asians and other ethnic communities are disillusioned with
political parties who continue to be insensitive to their needs. Whilst
ethnic contribution in industry, commerce, professions and public services
is beginning to be recognised there is a major deficit in their political
representation in national politics. Labour’s Mr. Boateng and Baroness
Amos suggest a Labour lead over the Conservatives and the Liberal
Democrats. However, most ethnic citizens consider such appointments
cosmetic as many of the problems related to ethnic minorities remain
I do not believe in a ‘fast track’ in politics for any group,
including ethnic minorities. Political participation must be based on
merit, conviction, commitment and public service. It ought to be
obligatory that candidates for national office should only be considered
for selection and election if they have worked in the ‘real’ world. In
this way, Westminster and Brussels will have men and women with experience
of employment, ability to communicate in simple English and sense of
responsibility rather than a craving for power and privilege.
I propose that the various ethnic groups co-operate and establish a
“British Ethnic Congress” where ethnic Britons of different racial
origin and religion – Indians & Pakistanis, Chinese, Afro-Caribbean,
Africans, Jews, Sikhs, Arabs, Turkish and others – can meet to discuss
and debate in an open democratic manner the promotion of understanding and
goodwill of all ethnic citizens working and living in Britain. This
Congress should not be a ‘Parliament’. It should be a consultative
body where ethnic groups can send their representatives, irrespective of
their political affiliation, for assessing the common problems faced by
ethnic citizens. It can offer these leaders a chance to meet British
politicians at all levels as well as heads of public bodies that impact on
the lives of their members. It will help budding ethnic politicians and
social workers to gain experience in democracy and socio-political life of
Britain. Resolutions passed by this Congress, after democratic debate,
will allow ethnic minorities to influence political parties in a way that
no individual ethnic organisation based on one ethnicity and one religion
can hope to deliver.
I hope this idea of a British Ethnic Congress is accepted as a way
forward by all ethnic minorities.