Last October I had the honour of being elected as the Ethnic Minorities Officer for Cheltenham Labour Party. I am intending to start an Ethnic Minorities Forum (EMF). An EMF is a constituency-wide body open to Party members who identify as black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME). This forum will also be open to all Party members, affiliated trade union members and supporters interested in joining the party.
The Labour Party has been the natural home of BAME voters for generations – it certainly was for my grandparents and parents who were Labour voters before me. Equality and diversity have always been at the heart of Labour policy with minimum wage, civil partnerships, gender equality and maternity rights. Following the rapid rise in membership under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour now has an estimated 72,000 members from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The general election last June saw us maintain a strong lead among BAME voters, with 73% voting Labour, a six-point increase from 67% in 2015.
Cheltenham may not be a metropolitan or urban part of the UK with a high concentration of black, Asian and ethnic minorities. However, BAME members have a voice and should be represented wherever we live to make our politics act in the interests of the society we seek to represent and to be for the many not the few. We need to ensure that everyone has a voice and receives encouragement to stand for office. We must facilitate links and engagement within local communities and build relationships with relevant organisations to increase the vote share among communities.
I hope more BAME members will participate in the political process and become fully involved in the work of the local party. The more members we have involved, the more we can raise awareness of BAME priorities – wider representation, attendance at meetings and events, and empowerment to campaign for a fairer, more equal and democratic society.
I really look forward to receiving your thoughts, ideas and aspirations for BAME in the local party. We need you with us!