David Miliband wins BAME Hustings

Well it’s been an exciting day here in Leicester, as the Labour Party leadership hopefuls converged on the city, to take part in the first of a series of special BAME hustings (click here for a timetable of other upcoming hustings). Along with a number of other people I was Tweeting live from the event, primarily to get the message out, and let those in my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn networks follow the event.

Unsurprisingly a number of people on Twitter have been questioning the need for the Labour Party to hold a special BAME hustings. Equally unsurprisingly, most of those who appear to have an issue with the concept are either a) not from a BAME background or b) not Labour supporters.

As the Ethnic Minorities Officer for the Leicester West constituency, I know for a fact that the vast majority of Labour Party members and supporters have no issue with there being a special BAME hustings. Indeed it’s not even a new concept. I remember attending the Deputy Leadership BAME hustings in Leicester almost 3 years ago to the day, where both Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson stole the show, before both coming first and second respectively in the proceeding contest.

Today’s BAME hustings, which were held at Soar Valley college in Leicester where I’m proud to be a school governor, attracted a diverse mix of people from all backgrounds and all religions. The questions were also fairly similar to the types of questions being asked at other hustings up and down the country. There was of course an underlying BAME theme to the debate, and every candidate did a good job at tackling the big issues, and tying them in with the specific needs and concerns of BAME communities.

For me however, there was only one candidate who stood head and shoulders above the rest. That candidate was DAVID MILIBAND, who himself is the son of Jewish immigrants to Britain.

David spoke of the need to run our immigration system with humanity and the need to tackle international problems with international solutions. He also committed to a target for BAME MPs and promised to lead the drive to make Labour the equal opportunities party. On Labour’s record in Government David was frank and honest, saying that the “worst thing that ever happened to Tony Blair was George Bush”. He also lamented the ‘British jobs for British workers’ phrase, calling it a mistake.

And to minority communities here in Britain, David spoke of the responsibility that we all share to become part of the wider society. He praised Leicester’s proud history of multiculturalism and diversity, and challenged the city to lead the way and show the rest of the country how it’s done. David certainly has a lot of support in Leicester and beyond, and indeed earlier today nearly 200 members of BAME communities backed David Miliband for the leadership of the Labour Party.

Based on the applause and the dozens of people I spoke with at the hustings, it was clear that David Miliband had the most support from the hundreds who attended, with Diane Abbott a close second, particularly after a very well received closing speech. There was also a good deal of support for Ed Miliband, who had been out campaigning earlier in the day in the city’s Castle Ward, where Labour are contesting a Council by-election on 15 July 2010.

Overall it was a fantastic and well-attended hustings, generating a great deal of interest and excellent, purposeful debate. Like many other Labour Party members and activists across the country I look forward to an exciting summer ahead, and a time when the party of progressive politics is once again, back in power.

8 thoughts on “David Miliband wins BAME Hustings

  1. So if members of the public are a) not from a BAME background or b) not Labour supporters they have no right to form an opinion on the relevance of a hustings aimed at a particular ethnic group?

    As to those who questioned this (and I assume you mean the Twitter responses you replied to here: http://twitter.com/Sundip/status/16562162330) two out of six appear to be BAME and another is the Labour Lord Mayor of Leicester no less!

    You make no attempt to justify this event or even explain it’s relevance to a city where mixed race births are now outnumbering Asian ones, where 17/54 city councillors are BAME and where white people are likely to be a minority at some point in the near future.

    It would therefore be reasonable to assume that the event was a PR stunt which is fairly patronising to BAME people and belies the fact that only one of the five candidates is BAME anyway.

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  3. Ben, nobody in the Labour Party has to “justify this event” to you or anybody else.

    Of the dozens of Labour Party hustings taking place, a few of them happen to be themed to address the specific needs and concerns of the BAME communities. There are also targeted hustings taking place for women, for Christian Socialists and for unions, to name a few groups.

    The fact that you have highlighted that Leicester is a city “where white people are likely to be a minority at some point in the near future” sounds to me like you harbour some old fashioned resentment at that prospect, which frankly I find thoroughly naïve.

  4. I was at the husting this morning and I have a few issues with this blog but first let me explain who I am. I’m a 28 year old gay “white” male. I have recently joined the Labour party and I intend to vote for David in the leadership election.

    To call the husting today a “mix” would be accurate if by that you mean mix if Asian males. Women of all colours were absent on the whole and anyone who may be described as “black” were in a minority.

    The food you even served was Asian so let’s not pretend here. I have no issue with you holding an event for ethnic minorities but please make sure it is a fair mix.

    I and my friend commented the lack of eastern European people at the event, which considering Leicester West has a high number of them seemed odd.

    I feel that sadly this was explained by the first question of the husting…”is it right eastern European immigrants have the same rights as the from former British colonies”?

    Shame on you BAME.

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  6. I’m a white person, an ex-Labour supporter (current floating voter) and I’ve spent a large proportion of my adult life in Leicester. Acknowledging that “white people are likely to be a minority at some point in the near future” should never be dismissed as old-fashioned resentment. It is a statement of fact about Leicester and a number of other cities and pragmatically, if Labour really want to regain power it needs careful consideration.

    People – particularly traditional white working class Labour voters – need to hear that the deal remains, and will remain, fair. There is no problem at all with targeting any group of people, however they are defined, but, this can’t be all that is done.

    At best, it risks leaving a mass of people at home sitting on their hands. But I was living in Leicester in the 80s and I’m also very aware of what the worst can look like.

  7. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said Sue. Of course it would be absurd to leave “a mass of people at home sitting on their hands”. Believe it or not, there are those of us from BAME backgrounds who do in-fact understand, that the white working class community has to be the number one priority for the Labour Party over the course of the next few years and beyond.

    We have to win back our core voters but more importantly, we cannot in good conscience ignore an entire social group, which is both bigger than all the BAME communities combined and possibly less financially self-sufficient. We certainly need to practise what we preach, demonstrating to people from white working class backgrounds that their needs and concerns are just as valid, as those of other communities, and certainly more valid that those who haven’t lived, worked and paid taxes here.

    However I also think it’s important not to try to undermine or attack specific events or articles relating to BAME communities in a bid to divert attention elsewhere. It’s akin to turning up to someone’s birthday party with a present, only the present being for one of the other guests, rather than the individual being honoured.

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