Friday, 23 August 2013

How can the mainstream parties harness the BME vote?

An interesting article from the Guardian paper

Stop playing political football with black and ethnic minorities

........ (only part of the article below) ........

But how can the mainstream parties harness the BME vote? 

First, they can follow the example set by the Respect party in the lead-up to the Bradford West byelection. Party campaigners took to the streets of Bradford, galvanising the youth and women to the polling stations. They promised an end to Biraadri politics (akin to block vote of the unions), which was rife in Bradford. So complacent and self assured was the Labour party that its candidate did not feel the need to attend the public hustings. As expected, this did not go down well with the constituents of Bradford West.

Respect recruited Asian women, targeted community centres, visited homes, sent campaigners who spoke Punjabi and Urdu and most importantly asked the constituents what they wanted from their representatives. This one-to-one strategy empowered a sector of the community that had for too long been marginalised and disenfranchised. Up until then, the men of the house decided which party the family as a collective would vote for. The women of Bradford seized this opportunity and quickly spread the word that there was finally a party that appreciated their involvement.

Such was this appreciation that it was reported that it was the women of Bradford West who won the byelection for George Galloway. Sadly he quickly lost that support but the message was clear, Asian women relished the opportunity to take part in politics.

Let this serve as a lesson to mainstream parties: you can win the votes of the Asian women by engaging them in dialogue, by addressing their concerns and assuring them that their voices are valuable. And by Asian women I mean ALL Asian women, those who are educated, uneducated, those who work and those who are stay-at-home mums and carers.

Secondly, mainstream parties need to engage BME youth, many of whom worry about rising tuition fees, lack of employment opportunities, the glass ceilings they will encounter because of their backgrounds, racism and the discrimination they face.

I know from my own experience growing up with limited Asian role models, I was told many a time that I faced a tough road ahead not just because I was a British Pakistani female but also because I wore a head scarf. It is stereotypes and mentalities like this that parties have to address if they want to secure the minority vote. Muslim youth in particular feel marginalised due to the rampant islamophobic discourse evident in mainstream media and the public arena. This needs to be tackled in order for young people to feel confident that their concerns are heard and that their community is not scapegoated.

For our society to be truly democratic and representative it needs to reflect the diversity of our communities. Parties need to engage with the BME community in order to demonstrate that their voices are valuable and that they have a significant contribution to offer.

The Asian community in UK has a vast number of successful entrepreneurs who play a significant positive role in the UK economy.It is now clear that their way of creating wealth and employment is being appreciated by mainstream business and government to create global networks in the growing economies of the east and away from recession-ridden Europe

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