Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The worst thing about Ashcroft is that his behaviour is legal (Independent)

Johann Hari asks whether we are missing the bigger picture when it comes to Michael Ashcroft. His behaviour may be "revolting", but under Labour and Conservative governments alike his actions are perfectly legal.

2. The root of the Tories' dire Ashcroft gaffe is our medieval party funding (Guardian)

Warming to the same theme, Simon Jenkins notes that the Tory leadership was warned 1,000 times not to embrace the "Belize-based slot-machine millionaire" too close.

3. The special relationship is now starting to seem very one-sided (Telegraph)

Tony Blair may have promised to fight "shoulder to shoulder" with America post-9/11, writes Con Coughlin, but when it comes to the Falklands, Hillary Clinton's intervention shows the US will side with Argentina.

4. What would Foot have made of it now? (Independent)

Michael Foot, writes Matthew Norman, was the last great bridgehead to an age of political belief and principle. The politics of today -- as described by Andrew Rawnsley's latest book -- would have left him astounded by the "monumental tininess of the characters and their arguments".

5. The painful truth is that taxes must rise (Telegraph)

Andrew Haldenby, director of the think tank Reform, plays spoilsport; he shatters the dreams of Telegraph readers hoping for lower taxes and bigger monthly pay packets under Chancellor Osborne.

6. The base rate has never been so low for so long . . . (Daily Mail)

Alex Brummer asks why, despite another decision to hold the base rate at 0.5 per cent, the banks are allowed to charge borrowers such exorbitant rates.

7. Bob Geldof's a pain: but Live Aid changed everything (Times)

He may be a "smug, hairy git", writes Hugo Rifkind, but everybody must concede that what Bob Geldof did at Live Aid was "a good thing".

8. More than porn and housewives need debating (Guardian)

While it is well worth having an angry debate about the pornification of contemporary culture, it is notable that the male contribution is either limited or unrepresentative, writes Libby Brooks.

9. Unseen technology is shaping the UK poll (Financial Times)

Forget Twitter, urges James Crabtree. The coming election will be swung by far less glamorous technology: search engines, databases, email and, yes, the telephone.

10. Persecute me -- I'm after the Brownie points (Times)

Christians have always worked best as an unpopular minority. The comedian Frank Skinner, Roman Catholic and regular churchgoer, votes against the motion "England should be a Catholic country again".

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Shazia Awan
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I'm a Welsh Asian - so why doesn't the Welsh Assembly have a box for me to tick?

A bureaucrat's form clumsily equates being Welsh with being White. 

As someone born in Caerphilly, who grew up in Wales, and is learning Welsh, I feel nothing but Welsh. I am a proud Welsh Asian – and yet the Welsh Assembly appear to be telling me and many like me that that’s not an option.

An equalities form issued in Wales, by the Welsh Assembly, that does not have an option to identify as non-white and Welsh. What kind of message does this send, especially at a time of public worries about integration? Sadly, I am not so surprised at this from an institution which, despite a 17-year history, seems to still struggle with the very basics of equality and diversity.
 
By the omission of options to identify as Welsh and Asian, Welsh and black, Welsh and mixed heritage (I could go on), the Welsh Assembly's form has told us something wider about the institutional perception of our diverse communities in Wales. There are options on the form for "Asian or Asian British Indian" and "Black or Black British Caribbean", to give but two examples. And also for "White British", "White Irish" and "White Welsh". But not for "Asian Welsh", or "Black Welsh". Did it not occur to anyone that there was something wrong? 

It seems like a monumental error by the Welsh Assembly Commission, which designed the form, and a telling one at that. 

A predominantly white institution (there are two non-white Assembly members out of 60 and there has never been a female Black, Asian or minority ethnic Assembly member) has dictated which ethnic group is deemed to look Welsh enough to tick their box (for those of us Welsh Asians, it seems the only box to tick is that most Orientalist of descriptions, "Other"). 
 
Over the summer, meanwhile, we saw the First minister of Wales Carwyn Jones rather clumsily assemble his Brexit advisory group. This group was made up of predominantly white, middle aged men, and not a single person from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background. It seems that despite the box ticking exercises, the First Minister is taking advice from his “White Welsh” group. 
 
And it matters. The Welsh Assembly was established with a statutory duty to promote equality in Wales. In June, 17 out of 22 local authority areas in Wales voted Leave. Post-referendum, our proud Welsh BAME communities have been affected by hate crime. The perpetrators wish to draw a distinction between "them" and "us". Our national parliament is doing nothing to challenge such a distinction. Does it really think there are no non-white Welsh people in Wales? 

In Wales, we have a huge sense of overwhelming pride in what it means to be Welsh, from pride in our rugby and football teams, our language, to our food and our culture. Many friends over the years from different backgrounds have come to Wales to either study or work, fallen in love with our country and chosen to make it their home. They identify as Welsh. The thing about those of us who are Welsh and proud is that we understand that we are stronger in our diversity and stronger together as a Welsh nation. It’s a shame that our Welsh Assembly is not operating with that same sense of understanding that we have in our communities in Wales. 
 
No doubt the nameless form creator simply copied a format seen elsewhere, and would argue the omission is not their fault. Yet in these tense times, such an omission seems to arrogantly suggest Welsh is something exclusively White. 
 
The Welsh Assembly has a long way to travel on the road to creating a fairer society. From these kind of blunders, it seems clear that it is not even off the starting line. 
 
Shazia Awan is an equality activist and Consultant advising on equality and diversity issues. She is launching Women Create, a social enterprise to help women and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into enterprise and employment. She  is Vice President of the Council for Voluntary Youth Services in Wales, is an Ambassador to Show Racism the Red Card and she was the first Asian woman to address a Welsh Tory party conference. 

 

Shazia Awan is an equality activist. She is launching Women Create, a social enterprise to help women and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into enterprise and employment. She is Vice President of the Council for Voluntary Youth Services in Wales and she was the first Asian woman to address a Welsh Tory party conference. You can follow her @shaziaawan.