At the Liberal Democrat spring conference, members voted to make improving the party’s diversity one of our main priorities. Agreeing the principle is, of course, much easier than bringing about the reality.
As the Alderdice report highlights, we need a cultural change in the party which is the responsibility of all of us to bring about. A key part of that will be the future for the party body Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD).
Here Merlene Emerson, EMLD’s membership officer, writes about the plans to relaunch as the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE).
What’s in a name?
by Merlene Emerson, Membership officer, EMLD
As Roderick Lynch’s blog on Liberal Democrat Voice has announced, Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) is about to be relaunched as the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality or LDCRE for short. The reason? We still face huge challenges in bringing about true equality of opportunity. Looking just within the party, at all levels – members, activists and elected office holders – we fail to match the levels of racial diversity amongst the population. We need to progress further and faster than we have to date.
EMLD started life over 25 years ago as Asian Liberal Democrats, founded by Ramesh Dewan in 1992. A few years later it changed its name to EMLD in order to welcome members from other minority groups.
In 2001, Lord Dholakia and others such as Rabi Martins set up another entity known as Ethnic Minority Election Task Force to focus on the election of Parliamentary candidates of minority background. In 2004 Parmjit Singh Gill was elected in the Leicester South by-election, but he lost his seat at the next general election and he was the only non-white MP elected during this period. This was not due to a shortage of members: at the time of the Iraq War in 2003 under the leadership of the late Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrats the party reached more than one in ten ethnic minority members.
So the next effort was to try merging the two organisations together in around 2012, under the chairmanship of Baroness Meral Ece. Yet still there is so much more to do. Hence this new initiative.
We have seen other party bodies, AOs and SAOs, rebrand themselves as well over the years, Women Liberal Democrats as Liberal Democrat Women and LY as Young Liberals. For members not closely involved, such name changes can be different but confusingly similar. So, we did not want to be MELD (Minority Ethnic Liberal Democrats) or even MRLD (Multi Racial Liberal Democrats).
What we do want though is to fight for race equality, so that has to be in the name. But LD4RE sounded like Lib Dems for Religious Education!
As I write this, in the week of the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, we have had a flood of horror stories in the media of the injustices inflicted on victims of the Windrush Generation at the hands of a racist and callous Home Office. Fighting against discrimination and for race equality is as important and relevant as before. We now have in Roderick Lynch a dynamic new chair elected by the remaining executive members of EMLD. And since the party’s spring conference we have been getting the word around that we are reviving the membership base. An AGM and elections will follow soon.
This brings me back to our party and the Alderdice Report. We are gratified that Lord Alderdice has called on every member to take responsibility for a change in culture and for the elimination of any racist attitudes, behaviours and processes within the Party. We are excited about the future of LDCRE and hope others in our party are too.
We are looking forward to the AGM to introduce the name and constitutional changes scheduled for 9 June at 3pm at LDHQ. We are currently working on a new website but till then if anyone would like to have a say in EMLD’s future, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an application form to join us.