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8 July 2019updated 08 Sep 2021 2:53pm

Labour must reconnect ethnic minorities to Westminster politics

By Mahamed Hashi

These are difficult times. As the UK wrestles with the vicissitudes of a neverending Brexit saga, communities across the country are suffering from years of Tory-led austerity and all the while we are facing with the mammoth task of reorienting our modes of living to arrest the climate crisis. And these are only some of the reasons to be pessimistic about the lot of Britain today.

And yet, I am hopeful. What we have witnessed through these challenges is the dynamism and resilience of our youth. We have seen students force our legislators to take notice of climate change, and young people flock to support Jeremy Corbyn and his radical vision for the future.  Through my work as a youth worker in Brixton, and as a councillor in Lambeth, I see the potential of our youth to affect positive change.

However, discrimination and underrepresentation are still a scourge on our BAME youth. Vauxhall has also elected its first Kurdish, Eritrean and Somali councillors and the borough of Lambeth elected its first ever Kurdish Mayor. As Lambeth’s first Somali councillor, I know first-hand the impediments faced by people of colour working politics.

As we look down the barrel of yet another Old Etonian premiership, it is not difficult to surmise why so many young people, especially those from ethnic minorities, feel disconnected from Westminster politics. To encourage our BAME youth to engage in building a better future for Britain – ultimately, for themselves – it is imperative they see members of their own community, and people from backgrounds similar to their own succeeding in politics.

Labour has long been at the vanguard of fighting racism and promoting diversity, but this is yet to translate into significant parliamentary representation. With several Labour seats certain or likely to be open to reselection, such as Vauxhall, Streatham, Limehouse and Poplar, and many others, I urge Labour’s NEC to take advantage of this opportunity to facilitate the selection of candidates which represent our ethnic minority communities. 

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Young people have shown great support to this Labour Party, and it is imperative we do not squander it by failing to select candidates which speak to our diverse youth communities. 

I hope we can support the incredible dynamism and bravery our youth have demonstrated in the face of problems they did not create. We need to show our BAME youth that politics is changing, and the Labour Party will not only select candidates who represent them, but is the party that they may one day themselves represent.

Mahamed Hashi is a councillor in London Borough of Lambeth

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