Saturday, August 21, 2004

Ethnic Forums and Affirmative Action

Labour has accepted the idea of Asian and Black forums, a move welcomed by MPs. In an article from Diane Abbott points out the about face by the party, who once viewed the idea as potentially dangerous. Keith Vaz took the idea one step further, calling for affirmative action to get an ethnic minority candidate on each shortlist.

“We have to have affirmative action,” he told the World at One.

“I simply don’t understand why we haven’t taken that one last step. That really would make a terrific difference.”

All-women shortlists are attracting criticism but are getting women into Parliament. This Muslim News article claims all-women lists can be used to block other attempts at equality, with more from the Guardian. There is a massive inequality between the size of the Black and Asian (and other ethnic minority) population and their representation in Parliament, there are just 12 ethnic minority MPs at present.

With the acceptance of all-women shortlists can asking for one ethnic minority candidate per shortlist be that extreme? Perhaps a certain amount of discretion can be applied, asking that there must be at least one such candidate where the local ethnic minority population is over a certain percentage? All-women shortlists haven't helped Black and Asian women into Parliament: are we sacrificing one form of equality for another?

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