Khan reaffirms the place of race on Labour’s agenda

15th May, 2014 7:04 pm

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The Labour Party hasn’t talked too much about race in this Parliament. After over a decade of equal rights legislation, it would be easy – too easy – for much of the country and even many in Westminster to think that issues around race were settled, and that legal equality and the passing of time would automatically deal with societal inequalities about race. That’s a dangerously complacent attitude – and one that Sadiq Khan has implicitly taken on in a speech to Operation Black Vote this afternoon.

Policy areas in which Khan pledged Labour would act on race include stop and search reform, and increased diversity in some of the most closed and/or elitist institutions in our society – the police, the judiciary, the civil service and – perhaps most tellingly – company boards.

Only a week after Policy Exchange explained the importance of ethnic minority voters to the future of British politics – Khan also contrasted Labour’s position on race, that “the impact of Government policy and work on ethnic minority Britons will be one of our highest priorities”, with Cameron’s government, for which such issues have been “barely been an afterthought”.

Khan – the son of a bus driver from Pakistan who became the first Asian MP to attend cabinet, via being Chair of Liberty – is a success story for the British Asian community, and shows that race need not be a barrier to success in modern Britain. But the challenge for Labour and Britain that Khan has outlined today is for successes like his to be far more common. When unemployment amongst BME communities rises as overall unemployment falls – leaving ethnic minority Britons more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white Britons – there’s still much work to be done.

Khan deserves praise for taking on an issue that Westminster often finds more comfortable to ignore. And with the party opening a Race Equality consultation– it looks like Labour will be talking more about race in future.

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