I was pleased to announce this week that the Labour Party is launching the Bernie Grant Leadership programme. This national programme is about empowering more Black, Asian, minority ethnic members to take on leadership positions in the Labour Party, develop skills and join a network of talented members and community activists across the country.
This programme is named after Bernie Grant, one of the UK’s first Black British MPs. He campaigned tirelessly for the elimination of racism both in Britain and across the world. We draw strength and inspiration from the struggles of Black campaigners for equality over the centuries, and Bernie Grant is one of those individuals to whom we owe so much. He was a champion of his community, a dedicated constituency MP and has encouraged a generation of BAME leaders.
The party is seeking applications from BAME members who are ready to lead and fight for Labour values in parliament, local government and communities. The programme’s first focus will be on supporting members seeking selection as Labour candidates and empowering members to take other leadership positions in the wider movement and community.
It will pave the way for BAME activists to develop skills and learn from each other so that together we can build a society that truly works for the many, not the few. This is part of our vision to ensure that parliament and other positions of power are as reflective as possible of the people they represent.
When it comes to gender representation, for example, the Labour Party now has more female Members of Parliament than all other parties combined. But now we must make more progress in all areas.
The Labour Party also has more MPs from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds than all other political parties combined, but we are committed to building on this success and improving diverse representation at all levels of the party.
I am pleased that so many people of colour will be listed in the history books. Mohammed Sarwar as the first Muslim MP, Rushanara Ali as the first MP of Bangladeshi origin, and many more firsts. As the first elected Black woman to serve as a government minister, I know and appreciate just how important it is to lay the foundations for those following in our footsteps and to celebrate each other’s achievements.
The Labour Party has still to elect an MP of Chinese origin and we are falling behind in representation of African Caribbean men in parliament. People may ask why is it important: it is important to have diversity of thought and diversity of lived experience if we are truly to represent the country that we serve.
One of the simplest steps that could improve diversity in our politics is to enact Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, which includes a requirement for political parties to publish the demographic makeup of their election candidates, for instance, BAME people. Transparency can be a driving force for change.
We know the task of addressing the current imbalance of both MPs and local councillors is a challenging one, but we hope the Bernie Grant Leadership Programme will go some way towards this vital aim.
Applications for 2019 for the Bernie Grant Leadership programme are now open. If you are interested in applying, or know someone who may be interested, visit the website for further information. Applications for the programme must be received by 11.59pm on Monday 22nd April.