Today's post is written by Runnymede's director, Dr Rob Berkeley
In his speech filled with allusions to wartime blitz spirit, and calling for a ‘buccaneering, deal-making, hungry spirit’ to the CBI yesterday, David Cameron announced an end to ‘equality impact assessments’. An announcement that was so good it needed to be made twice. An announcement that was not all that it seems, on either occasion.
The PM has been keen to make a link between efforts to promote equality and sclerotic decision-making in government. The argument goes that having to consider the impact of policy decisions on marginalised groups is a key hold up in creating policy that will lead us out of double- (and soon to be triple-) dip recession to the sunlit uplands of economic growth. This is the reason why government has failed to introduce an industrial policy worth describing as such, why there will be no decision on airport capacity until after the next election, and why the eurozone is failing to recover. Perhaps that’s unfair and I’m falling into the trap of prime-ministerial hyperbole, but the more modest claims that equality impact assessments are to the detriment of effective and speedy policy-making are similarly lacking in evidence. Radical reforms to our schools, university funding, welfare benefits, criminal justice system, armed forces, NHS, energy, and immigration systems have hardly been stalled by decision-makers having to give due consideration to the impact of these decisions on marginalised groups. What Cameron seems to be suggesting by re-announcing this measure is that policy-makers are still spending taking too long to think about the potential impact of policy changes on marginalised people. Given the direction of education, welfare, employment and immigration reforms this hardly bears much scrutiny.
Today's blog post is written by Runnymede research and policy analyst Phil Mawhinney
The UK Conservative Party is currently asking why only one in six black and minority ethnic (BME) voters plumped for them at the last election. As the BME population increases – 16% by 2016 – and parliamentary majorities remain elusive, they know they have to think about this properly.
So how does the party view BME communities? David Cameron’s 2011 speech at the Munich Security Conference , widely reported as claiming that ‘state multiculturalism has failed’, gives some insight. The basic argument, that ‘Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream’ was much-disputed at the time.
But recent research by social psychologists, discussed at an event earlier this month, critiques this understanding of multiculturalism, identity and ‘Britishness.’
Today's blog post is written by Runnymede's director, Dr Rob Berkeley. It was originally posted on Left Foot Forward
Today’s announcement of an integration strategy from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, marks a dangerous and ill-advised reversion to assimilationist policy, where all differences of ethnicity and heritage are subsumed into a majoritarian ‘mainstream’. Instead of taking the opportunity to further benefit from the diversity of the ethnic and faith backgrounds of its citizens, Pickles seems intent on restoring some notion of Britishness that is frozen in time and fails to take account of the nature of a modern Britain, its citizenry, or its role in the world. While in interviews Pickles points to last year’s Royal Wedding as a unifying moment for the British people, he would do well to also remember this summer’s Olympics, won for a London described as ‘The World in One City’.
His emphasis on ‘British values’ and ‘national unity’ in a series of interviews given to the Daily Mail and Express, suggests that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are somehow a threat to these values or to a unified country. This is despite significant evidence to the contrary and the significant contribution people from minority ethnic backgrounds have made and continue to make to Britain. Pickles seems to be advocating that the government, or perhaps he, or just the white majority, should be the arbiter of these values rather than the citizens of this country in all their ethnic diversity.
Our head of policy, Omar Khan, writes on the term 'gang' and the UK riots
Runnymede has been urging caution on speculating on the causes of the riots that are now hopefully over in London and other English cities. Politicians have been somewhat more careful in jumping to conclusions than our media, but today the Prime Minster showed less compunction in identifying the causes of the riots, an incaution that unfortunately spread across the government and opposition benches.
According to Cameron: "gangs were at the heart of the protests and have been behind the coordinated attacks". While there is some anecdotal evidence that some criminal gangs may have taken advantage of the riots on the second and third day of rioting, the majority of rioters were obviously not gang members.
We have warned in the past about the explanatory usefulness of ‘gangs’. As we put it in a recent publication, ‘Rethinking Gangs', '"the gang" provides a potent shortcut to understanding youth conflict, offering Hollywood style images of urban chaos and random violence, threatening to spill out from inner city ghettos, in the place of more complex explanations exploring the realities of this phenomenon.’
The suggestion that US police familiar with handling gang violence will be asked to advise on responding to these riots goes against consistent findings that there is no evidence of US-style gangs in the UK. But the idea that policy should tackle gangs more directly is not limited to importing a US police official, nor is it simply a Conservative fascination. Indeed, policymakers’ likely definition of a ‘gang’ will probably flow from that defined in a 2009 Act passed by the previous government. It defines ‘gang related violence as follows:
Today's blog post is written by public affairs intern Chris McLaurin
Prime Minister David Cameron last week argued that immigrants unable to speak English or unwilling to integrate have created a "kind of discomfort and disjointedness" that has disrupted communities across Britain.
Speaking to an audience of conservative activist in Hampshire, the Prime Minister vowed to “undo the damage” he claims the Labour government caused by setting immigration “too high”.
The PM conflated the issues of welfare dependency and immigration by claiming that a “woeful welfare system” has disincentivised work and created the problem of many low skilled migrant workers picking up the slack.
Runnymede Director Rob Berkeley responded to Cameron’s speech in the Independent on Sunday by arguing that the PM’s comments lacked an interest in addressing the reality of the immigration situation in the UK. He stated: “The Tories' lack of interest in the reality behind the numbers has done very little other than to confuse people further and triangulate the British National Party (BNP).”
He added: “Whether 200,000 people have arrived in the UK in the last year or not is simply not the issue. Nearly a million people are out of work and the bigger structural issues of the government are being disrupted by an immigration debate that suggests short-term thinking and electioneering.”
Don Flynn, Director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, also responded to the speech on his blog. He argued: “Like a lot of political speechifying, you wipe away the gloss and there’s not much substance left behind. A farrago of statistic which purport to demonstrate that a clear majority of immigrants come from outside the EU is expected lull us into the idea that net arrivals can be reduced by simply asserting more rigorous control of the UK visa system”.
Thirty years ago on April 11 we saw the riots, or uprisings, in Brixton. Thankfully those now seem to be distant days and the chances of another summer marked by racialised violence appear to be remote (though not many predicted the riots of 1985, 2001 or 2005).
What the riots made clear was that ignoring discrimination and social exclusion is not a recipe for building harmonious communities. We pride ourselves on the progress made since 1981, in terms of legislation and political representation, but is that progress as great as we would like?
After all, much has changed in the past 30 years, right?
Conservative MP Richard Fuller has highlighted the potential impact stop and search changes will have on ethnic minorities in parliament this month. The Bedford MP expressed his concerns in a Westminster Hall debate on the issue, which he tabled following discussions with Runnymede and StopWatch – an action group focused on ethnic disproportionality in stop and search.
Fuller pointed out that a black person is at least six times as likely, and an Asian person twice as likely, than a white person to be stopped and searched by the police. He added that plans to reduce the amount of information recorded on a stop and search form and the removal stop and account may result in the loss of important information needed to reduce these inequalities. You can read his full speech – which outlines in detail a number of other important concerns with stop and search – here.
The policing minister Nick Herbert MP responded to the speech by defending the government’s approach. StopWatch has a number of concerns with his response, which are detailed in full on the StopWatch website.
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
Croydon MP Gavin Barwell has expressed concerns around immigration in a recent parliamentary debate on the issue. The Conservative MP, making the comments in a House of Commons debate on immigration, however also partially defended the concept of multiculturalism during his speech.
Speaking on immigration, Barwell claimed that concerns over the issue represented the opinions of many of his Croydon constituents, adding that these concerns were not motivated by race but by worries that the resulting population growth would create about a strain on jobs and public services.
However, Barwell also highlighted the benefits immigration has brought to his diverse Croydon constituency, highlighting that many immigrants “have set up new businesses and created new jobs”, as well as having “connections with other countries” which he labeled as being “massively beneficial” to Croydon in this globalised economy.
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
In education oral questions this week, Education Secretary Michael Gove stated that he would “do everything in his power…to ensure that racist [teachers and governors] cannot poison the minds of young people”. Gove made the comment in response to a question from Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, who called on the Secretary of State for Education to condemn the presence of the BNP in “any school governing body”.
Gove added that the Government is currently looking at how to prevent BNP members from populating governing bodies, and added that they would also look to extend this to teaching. Criticising the previous government, Gove stated that whilst Labour decided the current legislative framework was “sufficient” in preventing BNP members teaching in the classroom, the coalition “do not take that view”.
MPs today discussed how the government’s new plans for higher education could impact on Black and minority ethnic (BME) students. In a Westminster Hall debate – which directly followed the government’s response to the Browne review into university funding – a number of Labour MPs expressed concern that proposed fee increases of up to £9000 would deter BME students from attending university. In addition, some argued that if Russell Group universities decide to charge higher fees than other institutions, BME pupils may seek to attend cheaper and less prestigious universities.
The former higher education minister David Lammy MP – who arranged the debate on widening participation – expressed particular concern regarding the current lack of black students in the UK’s most prestigious universities, stating that there are more Black students at London Metropolitan University than all other Russell Group universities put together. Lammy also highlighted the shocking statistic that only one Black Caribbean student was admitted to Oxford last year. Responding to Lammy, the further education minister John Hayes MP acknowledged that this is “a cause for concern”, adding that he thinks it should be an issue the government should look into further.
Lammy also called for universities to be given tough commitments on widening access, adding that they should receive penalties if they don’t meet this commitment – particularly in light of increasing fees.
Paul Uppal and other Conservative MPs argued that the reasons certain groups do not attend university – or, indeed, the best universities – are more than just financial ones. In particular, John Hayes highlighted improving educational attainment levels and careers advice at a school level as ways which would result in wider participation in higher education.
Runnymede will shortly be published a report on widening participation in higher education, which will be available to download for free on our website.
Home secretary and equalities minister Rt Hon Theresa May MP updated parliamentarians on the government’s work on race equality last week. In a joint meeting between the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) on Race and Community and Equalities, May faced questions from MPs and members of the public on issues including stop and search, gypsies and travellers, the Equality Act and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Of particular note, May shed more light on the fate of the EHRC following the government’s recent quango review which announced that the work of the body will be significantly reduced. Stating that the EHRC will be “radically reformed”, she announced that the government is looking at how some of its functions can be filled by the big society.
MPs David Lammy (Labour) and Richard Fuller (Conservative) focused on criminal justice, asking questions on stop and search and incarceration rates respectively. May did not answer Lammy’s question on whether a reduction of monitoring will lead to even higher disporportionality of Black and Asian people stopped and searched. However, May responded to Fuller’s question on the over-representation of Black men in the UK prison system by saying that a “holistic approach” is needed in dealing with the problem which focuses on sentencing, but also on opportunities for young people.
It is worth highlighting however that despite questioning from attendees on the issue, May tended not focus on race equality issues unless pushed. In her opening address to the group, May highlighted the work the government is undertaking in relation to other equality strands – such as gender and LGBT issues – but said nothing on its plans on race. It may be that the issue is not a priority for the government or – as May said in response to a question from Race on the Agenda – it may become more of a priority in the future. However given the stark racial inequalities that exist in the UK today, if now is not the time prioritise race equality, when is?
Runnymede acts as Secretariat for the APPG on Race and Community. For more information on the group, as well as a podcast of last week’s event, visit our APPG webpage.
Posted by Vicki 12 October 2010 : Conservative ,
The “big society” and localism were hot topics at last week’s Conservative party conference. With a number of fringes on these related issues, as well as a mention in David Cameron’s speech, party members and the media alike debated the pros and cons of these agendas in a debate that promises to continue.
But what are the big society and localism? Both intend to devolve power away from the centre to the local. However, whilst localism intends to shift power to local authorities, the “big society” aims to take power from politicians and give it to people – particularly local charities and community groups.
In an article in Runnymede’s most recent issue of its Bulletin magazine I explored the potential implications of these concepts for race equality, which you can read in full here (p 14). In short I argued that whilst these initiatives could provide opportunities to reduce race inequalities, it is crucial that a) those delivering services are properly held to account for the decisions they make and that b) Black and ethnic minority people participate and have a voice in localism/the big society in order to ensure local services reflect the communities they serve.
Mark Hoban MP, Financial Treasury Secretary to the Treasury, has stated that a quarter of all households in the UK have no savings. Speaking at a Policy Exchange fringe event, Hoban also mentioned that the government is working to promote ways to “nudge” people towards saving more effectively, such as through improved financial advice and an annual financial health check.
Hoban’s comments come at the same time as Runnymede has published new research on ethnicity, savings and pensions. Following Runnymede’s finding earlier this year that 60% of Black and Asian people have no savings (in comparison to a quarter of UK households overall), our new research into pensions found that:
In addition, our new report on savings found that many Bangladeshi, Caribbean and Chinese people are less likely to engage with formal or mainstream financial institutions than the white population, often because they lack trust in banks and are reluctant to get into debt.
Posted by Vicki 04 October 2010 : Conservative ,
Greg Clark MP, minister for decentralisation, has called the localism agenda a key dividing line between the coalition and Labour. In a Demos fringe event Clark also stated that localism - the government's agenda for devolving service provision and decision making to local areas - will result in services more effectively tailored to local needs, adding that the welfare state as it currently exists "stiffles innovation" and is overly expensive.
Responding to a question from the audience on how the government plans to ensure that diverse and disadvantage communities don't lose out under localism, Clark stated the pupil premium will help encourage schools to select pupils from deprived backgrounds. However, Clark did not go into to detail on how to ensure local decisions are not solely dominated by the middle classes, instead arguing that he believes people from all communities will take up the opportunities of localism.
At the event Clarke also stated that there will be some areas of policy where power should not be completely devolved, such as child protection, due to the extremely negative consequences which would result if such a service were to locally fail. Whilst Clark did not go into details on what else would not be subject to local control, there would be a strong argument to make for retaining power over various equality measures in order to avoid local areas overriding such requirements.
Runnymede's thoughts on the localism agenda have been outlined in more detail in our response to the communities and local government select committee's inquiry into the issue, which is available here.
Runnymede will be attending all three party conferences this year, and members of the team will be blogging throughout to keep you updated on all the developments.
Keep an eye on The Runnymede Westminster Monitor over the following dates:
If you're attending conference this year, be sure to attend Voice4Change's fringe events on equality, fairness and the big society - Runnymede will be speaking at this event across all three conferences. The event will take place on the following days:
In the final wave of answers to parliamentary written answers from the government last week, home office minister Baroness Neville-Jones provided figures for the amount of funding paid through the Prevent scheme, and re-iterated the government’s commitment to review the scheme by January 2011.
Responding to a questions from Conservative peer Lord Sheikh, Neville-Jones said that funding specifically paid through the Prevent counterterrorism programme by the Home Office, Office for Security and Counter-terrorism (OSCT), in the financial year 2009-10 was approximately £30 million. She added that Prevent activity is also funded separately by other government departments.
Today’s blog post is written by Runnymede’s public affairs intern Farrah Sheikh
In equality oral questions yesterday in the House of Commons, the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone was quizzed by MPs about ways to increase recruitment to the civil service from black and minority ethnic communities. In response, Lynne Featherstone reiterated the government’s commitment to create more internships for people from BME backgrounds within the civil service and added that the civil service is gradually becoming more diverse following a drive to target BME people.
Elsewhere, newly elected Conservative MP Nicky Morgan received an answer to a written question on government policy on helping people from BME backgrounds gain senior positions in both the public and private sectors. In reply, Lynne Featherstone outlined the coalition government’s commitments to promoting equality and opportunity for all under represented communities. In addition to internships, she added that the government will provide mentoring and funding for entrepreneurial BME people who want to start a new business.
During the past week, the Conservative MP for Southend West David Amess has received answers from the government to questions on anti-Semitism and higher education and on the government’s plans to reduce anti-Semitism overseas.
Arguing that “there is no place for racism of any form, including anti-Semitism, in higher education”, the skills secretary David Willetts MP stated in response that universities have “primary responsibility” for ensuring students are not subject to abusive behaviour on campus, adding that the government would expect them to vigorously tackle these issues.
He added that the previous government provided updated guidance to higher education institutions on “Promoting Good Campus Relations, Fostering Shared Values and Preventing Violent Extremism in Universities and Higher Education Colleges”, available here. He also stated that a meeting between the Jewish community and high education stakeholders is in the process of being arranged.
In response to David Amess’s question on international anti-Semitism, foreign office minister Jeremy Browne said that combating all forms of racism remains an “important part of the government’s human rights agenda”. He added that the government supports the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitism in its work tackling the issue across Europe.
Watch senior politicians debate race equality in a 12-minute video of our Norfolk United event.
At the "Question Time"- style discussion a cross-party group of politicians, including Charles Clarke MP and Norman Lamb MP, went head to head on the state of race equality in Norfolk.
Other panelists included Conservative councillor Antony Little, Green Party councillor Samir Jeraj, community activist Gita Prasad, and panel chair and BBC reporter Clive Lewis.
The debate, held on in February 2010 and organised by Runnymede in association with the Norwich and Norfolk Race Equality Council, was the first in a series of regional question time events debating race equality in the UK.
Runnymede would also like to thank CMedia for putting the video together.
Just a quick post to draw attention to the Operation Black Vote rally which took place in Westminster last night. The event – called “Black Britain Decides” – was attended by around 2500 BME voters and focused on a number of issues including representation and the DNA database.
In what looks to be the largest political rally of the campaign, high-profile representatives of all the major parties took part including Harriet Harman, George Osborne and Vince Cable. OBV have frequently pointed out that marginal seats across the country could easily be swung by ethnic minority votes, including Finchley and Golders Green, Solihull, Battersea, Crawley, Harlow, Bradford West, Ealing North, Birmingham Yardley and Hove.
Following blog posts written by Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg for the Operation Black Vote blog outlining their parties’ race equality policies, Theresa May has today highlighted how the Tories plan to help BME communities.
May – who is the party’s equalities spokesperson – argues in the post that the Conservative Party is committed tacking discrimination and promoting equality. She states that there is clear evidence that race is a “key influence” on individual achievement, highlighting the disproportionate number of black children excluded from school and the low numbers of BME students attending Oxford University.
She states that the party supported the Equality Act in parliament and adds that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will have a continuing role in protecting the rights of individuals and groups.
Today David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and a number of parliamentary candidates signed up to an asylum election pledge.
Coordinated by Liberty, the Refugee Council and the Scottish Refugee Council ahead of tonight’s second prime ministerial debate, the leaders have agreed to “never play fast and loose with the proud tradition of a nation that must always offer succour to those in genuine fear of persecution”.
In addition to the party leaders, scores of parliamentary candidates up and down the country have signed the pledge which will be open until May 6th. Elfyn Llwyd, parliamentary group leader of Plaid Cymru, and Alex Salmond, leader of SNP, have also signed the pledge.
Those of you who read my posts last week on the party manifestos will have noticed that aside from immigration and civil liberties they included few direct policies on race equality. The notable exception to this rule was of course the Lib Dems who released their own race equality mini-manifesto.
Readers may therefore find it useful to read a collection of papers written for Runnymede by the three main parties specifically on race equality. Released earlier this year, the papers were written by Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham MP (Labour), Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative) and Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Spokesperson Lynne Featherstone MP.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past few days, you will have noticed that the UK’s first ever election leadership debate took place last night. The first of three such debates over the next two weeks, Brown, Cameron and Clegg went head to head on home affairs issues including immigration, crime, education and the NHS.
Of direct interest to race equality, the three leaders locked horns on the contentious issue of immigration. Defending the government’s record, Brown stated that "we are a tolerant, we are a diverse country, but the controls on migration that I'm introducing - and I will go further - are the right controls, the right policy for Britain."
Cameron outlined his vision for an immigration cap, stating that: "we need to have not just a points system, but also a limit on migration when people are coming from outside the European Union for economic reasons."
Clegg highlighted the need for a regional approach to immigration, saying that under such a system “you only make sure the immigrants who come go to those regions where they can be supported."
The big idea in the Tory manifesto is re-distributing power from the state to individuals, families and local communities. The party argues that by giving people more power over their public services poverty and inequality will decrease. The manifesto also argues that by promoting equality and tackling discrimination, everyone will be able to “play their part” in this new society.
Other relevant measures announced in the manifesto focus on crime, immigration and civil liberties, including an increase of prison capacity.
The government’s controversial Crime and Security Bill received Royal Assent last week. Of particular interest, the bill allows DNA profiles of convicted offenders to be kept indefinitely and for the profiles of those who have been arrested but not convicted to be kept on database for a fixed period of time.
The bill also introduces a mandatory parenting needs assessment when young people aged ten to 15 are being considered for an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) and parenting orders where they have breached their ASBOs.
Runnymede recently held an e-conference on ethnic profiling in the criminal justice system, which touched on issues including the DNA database, ASBOs and stop and search. Of particular interest, Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green MP wrote an article as part of the conference calling for a smaller and more targeted DNA database, whilst Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne MP outlined his thoughts on stop and search. You can still access the e-conference on our website.
I recently noticed that Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury has written a letter to the Conservative Party regarding its policy on Gypsies and Travellers. The policy, outlined in a green paper earlier this year, states that the Tories will provide stronger enforcement powers to “tackle unauthorised development and illegal trespass”.
In his letter, Avebury – an ardent campaigner on the rights of Gypsies and Travellers – argues that in its paper the party has expressed "no acknowledgement of the exclusion suffered by Gypsies and Travellers due to a national shortage of sites" and accuses their policy of being under-researched. He also argues that their stance will provoke community tensions in the run up to the election.
Criticism of the policy comes weeks after the government launched guidance encouraging local authorities to use ASBOs against Gypsies and Travellers. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain wrote to the government criticizing the decision, a letter which was supported by Runnymede.
The issue of immigration was raised today in the final Prime Minister’s Question Time before the general election – highlighting that the topic is likely to be political football throughout the coming campaign.
Tory shadow immigration minister Damian Green MP questioned Gordon Brown on his previous claim that Labour aims to provide “British jobs for British workers”, to which Brown responded that net migration has fallen under Labour. He also criticised the Conservatives’ proposals for a quota system for immigration, adding that a points-based system will be more effective.
In light of the attention likely to be given to immigration throughout the election campaign, it is worth pointing out recent research published by Runnymede which suggests that it is not the amount of new migrants in an area that causes tension between different communities, but rather a failure to manage integration properly.
And they're off! Gordon Brown has confirmed this morning that the election will take place on 6 May 2010. Flanked by his cabinet, Brown made the announcement outside Downing Street where he emphasised his "ordinary background", adding that he will fight hard for families on modest incomes.
Cameron launched the Conservative campaign outside the Houses of Parliament where he argued that the Tories will be fighting for "the great ignored... the young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight".
In the meantime, for coverage of announcements impacting on race equality and the BME community during the election campaign don't forget to keep checking back to this blog!
This week Anne Begg MP introduced a parliamentary debate on the Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation. Some of you may remember that the Speaker’s Conference recommended in its January report that more must be done to encourage local political activism and to prevent discrimination against potential parliamentary candidates who do not fit the traditional mould.
In this week’s debate, Begg – who is also Chair of the Equalities All Party Parliamentary Group – argued that diversity in parliament is “fundamental to our democracy” and a “matter of justice”.
David Cameron addressed black voters yesterday at an event in Peckham where he answered questions on issues facing the local and wider community. The Evening Standard has reported that at the event Cameron pledged to call an end to police using terrorism laws to search people not suspected of terror-related offences. He also stated that he would increase powers to prevent BNP members from becoming teachers.
Also of interest, Cameron announced in an article in the Guardian that if elected he will introduce a national mentoring programme for black people wanting to start a business.