Nick Clegg, Lynne Featherstone and Parmjit Singh Gill

Last year the Liberal Democrat frontbencher Jenny Willot had the cheek to claim that “Labour are failing on ethnic minority employment”. Perhaps the so-called ‘real opposition’ should start by employing some ethnic minorities on their own green benches?

As Iain Dale blogged yesterday, Liberal Democrats do not have a single MP (or MEP for that matter) from a black or Asian background. The post was in response to comments from Lynne Featherstone, who was asked why this was the case:

“We don’t have any safe seats where you can just place people, you have to earn your spurs in the Lib Dems.” – Lynne Featherstone

Featherstone’s complacency clearly runs through the party’s top brass, which has no ethnic minority candidates in their top 25 target seats and only one in a conceivably winnable constituency. Plumbing the dark depths of the Liberal Democrats top 100 PPCs only turns up a total of just four minority candidates. In contrast, Labour have 12 black and asian MPs already. The Conservatives have two with an expection of  increasing this significantly in May 2010.

The only ethnic minority Liberal Democrat MP was Parmjit Singh Gill. Gill won a by-election in their current 29th target seat of Leicester South 2004 only to be beaten by Labour a year later at the general election.  He is contesting the constituency once more and a swing of 4.4% away from Labour would overturn a majority of 3,725 and see Gill returned to Westminster again. Assuming the Tories hold off marginal challenges from the Liberals, a swing of this magnitude would see Cleggover gain ten seats.

But no one else has a hope in hell. Zuffar Haq would need to unseat Tory Edward Garnier in Harborough (target #31), who, completely untainted by the expenses scandal, is sitting pretty with a majority of 3,892 and an inevitable national swing to the Conservatives. The other two PPCs are Afzal Anwar in Pendle (target #53) and Qassim Afzal in Manchester Gorton (target #73).

Gregg Dyke once said that the BBC was “hideously white”.

You can add the Liberal Democrats to that list.

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  3. So what? How many “should” they have?

    What is the correct number of Catholics or evangelical Christians they “should” have? Or what about Jews, left-handers, gingers or autistics?

    Stop worrying about the colour of their skin and worry about their political acumen.

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  5. Rebel Saint: there is obviously no “correct” number. We’re not talking about quotas or positive discrimination here but this issue is a huge embarrassment to the party. Part of the Liberal Democrat appeal is as a populist parliamentary bastion of soft left “right on”-ness. Is it not a problem for you that all of your MPs are white?

    Jonathan: I’m sure Harborough residents will receive some Liberal Democrat “bar graphs” to make this clear!

  6. And we shall also point out that in the by-election in Market Harborough last week Labour did not bother putting up a candidate even though the BNP were standing.

    Is it not a problem for you if the far-right wins council seats?

  7. Agree on BNP and not going to try and defend that, obviously.

    Cleggover has said this week that “Karen [Hamilton, PPC for Birmingham Perry Bar] represents a diverse community that is not yet fully represented in our party”. He obviously recognises there is a problem.

    So does Jonathan Fryer:

    This has not been dealt with for a while and is something to be laid at the doors Messrs Kennedy and Campbell rather than Clegg. But you’re seriously behind the curve on this. Even the Tories have moved on this under Cameron.

  8. Er, it’s not like the Libs ever failed to put up a candidate where the BNP were standing, er, not since that seat in Kent where Greens also failed.

    The Tories meanwhile have been taking POWs and reprogramming them. Though it is noticeable that “senior Lib Dem” Faraz Bhatti is not allowed to say a word HERE as Cameron and Pickles show off the “exotica” tm Hannan they have accumulated by offering a better career structure for the ambitious just now.

    The question this should raise in all right thinking Lib Dem watchers is:

    “Do these Lib Dem chancers have any political principles at all?, apart from Mr Calder and one or two others naturally” and

    “Do these folk just join the Lib Dems because their real party of choice, be that Lab or Con, is not competitive in the local area?”

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  10. “Is it not a problem for you that all of your MPs are white?”

    No. Should it be?

    Does it not bother you that none of your candidates are evangelical Christians? Does it bother you that none of them are ginger? Or what about transgender MP’s.

    Skin colour is no more an issue than eye colour, and I would have absolutely no problem if they all have brown eyes either.

  11. “Skin colour is no more an issue than eye colour”?! Ah, yes I remember those eye colour riots in Oldham a few years back(!) You are obviously entitled to your view but a number of people in your party – including your leader – appear to disagree with you.

    Read Lester Holloway’s “The defection spiral”, which is one of the most eloquent treatments of race in political parties:

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  14. This is an issue; we should have done more, sooner.

    We didn’t. We didn’t because we had an internal row over what to do and ended up doing nothing. That’s not right, but it’s the kind of mess-up that democracies have from time to time.

    We have finally got on the right-ish track with women candidates; there are many more than in the past, far more women MPs and target PPCs. I believe the plan is to apply the same model to other under-represented groups, especially ethnic minorities and disabled people.

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