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1980s

Political Parties and Black People

Polling station © secretlondon123The political parties could not be trusted with securing racial equality as long as they tolerated inequality in their own ranks. While they increasingly competed for black votes at election times, their actual black membership remained low, and black people who did join the main parties did not have the same opportunities as white members.

These were among the conclusions of a report published by the Runnymede Trust in 1984, based on a study of black political involvement in the four main British political parties over an 18-month period including the 1983 general election.

The author of Political Parties and Black People: participation, representation and exploitation, Marian FitzGerald, suggested that only a small number of black people might be expected to become party members, just as only a tiny minority of the white population joined the political parties. However, these tended to be middle class, whilst black people were disproportionately working class. The implication, said the report, was that 'Black people are now and are likely to remain politically powerless in the mainstream of British politics precisely because they are economically powerless.'

The report suggested that the greatest obstacle to black involvement in the political parties and progress within them, was racial stereotyping. Black people were denied equality of opportunity because, often from the best motives, other party members at all levels evaluated them not in terms of the individual strengths and weaknesses they brought to the party but primarily in terms of their colour.

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