The last ten days have seen major stories of racism in both of Britain’s major parties.
What is happening in the Labour party – and Boris Johnson’s comments this week – are frightening to many Jewish and Muslim people living in Britain.
This is a reflection of the way the politics of identity dominates politics today and attracts comments, sometimes critical or offensive, about particular groups.
I expressed this concern 2 decades ago in two pamphlets for the think tank, Demos. I would stress now, as then, that liberals view people as individuals, rather than through the prism of their race, religion or sexuality.
The lazy use of group stereotypes should be unacceptable to us all. But we must not be blind to the fact that these issues affect our party as well.
The Liberal Democrats have always been at the forefront of the fight for equality, and we have a record on these issues of which we’re very proud.
But sadly, the truth is that a very small minority of our own members do hold some views that are fundamentally incompatible with our values.
Our party’s constitution is clear:
We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.
As a liberal, I respect people’s rights to hold different views to my own, but my message to everyone is that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, transphobia and bigotry are not welcome, and not tolerated, in the Liberal Democrats.
If the last week’s events have disturbed you, as they have me, then here are a few practical things we can do about it together:
- Stand up to prejudice – if you witness any of the issues listed above in this party, please, call it out. You will not find yourself alone – and you will always find allies in our members. You can also report these issues here: libdems.org.uk/complaints-compliments
- Ask someone from an under-represented group to join the party. We are a stronger political force if we look like the Britain we seek to represent. You can ask someone from an under-represented group to join here: libdems.org.uk/ask-to-join
- If you know someone who would make a fantastic candidate – and is from an under-represented group, encourage them to stand for election. They can start that process here: libdems.org.uk/become-a-candidate
Our party must be a place where every person regardless of gender, religion, race or sexuality is treated fairly.
The Alderdice report I shared with you earlier this year made it clear that we still have much work to do to change the culture of our own party on diversity.
I promise we will not shy away from this issue, no matter how tough it gets.