Kanwal Gill is founder and Chairman, and Patrick O’Conner a Director, of the Conservative Diversity Project.
This week, the Government announced the membership of its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED). This was an important step in the process of shining a light on inequality in the UK.
The Commission will focus on areas including poverty, education, employment, health, and the criminal justice system.
It is timely that the Government is seeking to shed a light on ethnic disparities in our country. The expert membership for the CRED means they will make evidence-based recommendations to change lives for the better, and will be crucial in informing and improving the national conversation on race.
As Conservatives, notions of aspiration, opportunity and freedom are often discussed in the political arena. These are values which we inherently believe in. We as a Party understand that your success in life should not be defined by who you love, the colour of your skin, your gender, or whether you have a disability or not.
Yet, for too many people in this country, this is not their reality. When Theresa May first stood on the steps of Downing Street in July 2016 as Prime Minister, she recognised this. The burning injustices she acknowledged remain today. We have seen it in the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on BAME communities.
One of the ways in which we ensure that the challenges facing ethnic minorities and diverse communities in this country is through the formation of a politics that is truly accessible for all.
The Conservative Party has already done much to do this. The only two female Prime Ministers which this country has had have been Conservatives. Three members of the current Cabinet are from ethnic minority backgrounds, holding two of the great offices of state. We have had the first British Asian to hold the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
These are undoubtedly indicative of the progress we have seen in regards to diversity and inclusion – but we can do so much more. Only six percent of Conservative MPs are BAME, and less than one per cent have a visible disability. Moreover, the House of Commons contains just 65 MPs from non-White ethnic backgrounds. This is the highest number in its history, but if the House truly reflected the ethnic make-up of the population, there would be around 90.
We as a party should be championing diversity. We should be encouraging more diverse initiatives. We must constantly be asking ourselves: who is not in the room? The emphasis and value that is now placed on diversity and inclusion did not come quickly or easily. It is now our responsibility to ensure that these values are practised and upheld.
Labour have for too long believed that they have a monopoly on compassion and diversity. It’s time we tackled this head on. To say with confidence that this Conservative Party has, and will continue to, stand up for our diverse communities, to champion their voices, and welcome them.
Our Party is at its best when it is a broad church, not only on the political spectrum but when we have voices from all walks of life. As a party we should reach out and embrace the rich tapestry which is the diversity within our society. To champion the diverse voices around us, learn from their experiences and grow together.
It will signal to people of different genders, from the LGBTQ community, BAME communities, or the disabled that this party is here for them, that it welcomes them, and will champion them.
The challenges we have faced as a country and a global community over the course of the last twenty years has done much to change the face of our politics. The next twenty will undoubtedly change our society. Our party should be at the vanguard of these changes; embracing further diverse representation and tackling the issues which face our communities in this country, and abroad.
Our party has always stood up in the face of adversity, and led our country to new beginnings. As we re-emerge from COVID, and recalibrate our country for the future, let diversity and inclusion be the new frontier of progress. If we can do this, we can realise the vision of a country which works for everyone, built on the values of compassionate conservatism, with freedom and opportunity for all.
There is a clear appetite for change. The question now is how we foster greater diversity and inclusion in our party, and how can we translate this into greater representation at both local, and national levels? It will require a bottom-up approach, and the Conservative Diversity Project has been founded with this in mind.
The CDP will seek to understand the issues which are affecting our diverse members. By sharing the experiences and knowledge of diverse candidates who have stood before, we aim to break the barriers to such candidates standing for election. This is our attempt at building politics that is truly accessible for all.