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UK: Labour accused of excluding ethnic minority candidates

Labour leader Ed Miliband has been urged by party activists to take action to ensure more MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds are elected amid claims some constituencies are excluding black and Asian candidates.

Labour has only nominated one non-white candidate to run in the May 2015 General Election out of the 34 seats where Labour MPs are stepping down.

The Conservative Party has selected five non-white candidates to stand in the 32 seats where MPs are retiring. While this presents a stark contrast with the Labour selection, the Tories recently came under fire after a Tory councilor suggested one candidate was not selected because she was non-white and female.

Furthermore, Labour has only selected a small number of ethnic minority standard-bearers in ultra-marginal seats, where Miliband stands a higher chance of winning new Labour seats.

David Lammy, the black Labour MP for Tottenham, said the latest figures were significantly worse than previous elections for the party, which has traditionally performed better than its rivals for the promotion of non-white candidates.

Lammy suggested in future Labour should guarantee at least one non-white candidate on the shortlist of constituencies with a poor record of choosing ethnic minority candidates.

He warned that the party may look “complacent” about its support from ethnic minorities.

Reuters / Owen Humphreys

Reuters / Owen Humphreys

“The party is in danger of looking incredibly complacent. Britain’s ethnic minorities have traditionally voted Labour but parliament is a long, long way from reflecting the nation as a whole.”

“If we are failing to select enough on a regional basis over a period of time, we ought to think about black and minority shortlists, with at least one on the list,” he said.

Speaking to The Independent, a member of Labour’s national executive committee called the party’s record “shameful.”

The Conservatives have chosen standard-bearers from ethnic minorities in South Ribble, Havant, Hampshire North East, Wealden and Richmond, where retiring Tory MPs are leaving their successors with comfortable Conservative majorities.

However, the issue of race is proving damaging to the Conservatives, too.

In November John Barnes, a Tory councilor for Bexhill and Battle, came under fire after he told the Financial Times the combination of Suella Fernades’ sex and ethnicity was a “handicap” which caused her to miss selection as a Conservative candidate. Fernades is of Mauritian and Kenyan descent.

The activist came third in the battle to replace Greg Barker MP in the safe Conservative seat, eventually losing out to Huw Merrimen, a local lawyer, who will stand for election in May 2015.

Barnes further said Fernandes put in a “wowzer performance on the night” after “battling three good men,” but added that “the double whammy of being brown and a woman probably handicaps her still.

A Labour spokesperson told The Independent it had more ethnic minority MPs, MEPs and councillors than any other party, but admitted there was still work to be done.

“We know there is always more to do and we will continue to work hard to ensure that we break down the barriers to political participation.”

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