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 recent by-election?


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 unresolved.


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.