It must be love

On Tuesday history was made, and I couldn’t be prouder. A majority of Members of Parliament filed through voting lobbies supporting the right for all people to marry the person they love. It is moments like this that lift my heart and remind me that parliamentary politics can change people’s lives for the better.

The classic narrative of boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after isn’t quite the reality for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in this country. What happens if that one person you fall in love with, the person who makes you weak at the knees, the one your heart skips a beat for is the same gender as you? Recognition of your love, your truth and your happiness has been denied equality by society until now.

Labour has a proud record on equality, from removing Section 28, equalising the age of consent and introducing the civil partnership and adoption legislation in government we moved public opinion in a generation. I’m proud to be in a party that values and respects love.

However, last weekend I was shocked, saddened and upset by the comments of one Labour Party member whilst out canvassing and I feel I have to speak out. Whilst door knocking for Labour he assumed I shared his opposition to marriage equality on the basis of us both being people of faith. When challenged with “it’s difficult for people like us when it comes to gay marriage” I was stunned to be assumed to be anti-equality, and further when he referred to gay people as “people not like us”. Needless to say, I was quick to correct him!

I am happy to be open about my Christian faith but never assume that means I share your homophobia. If anything it is quite the opposite, I believe in a loving God, who gives us many gifts the most important of those gifts is love. It’s ok to be a Christian and it’s ok to be gay, it’s also ok to be a gay Christian.

How can it be we can open the doors to our churches every Saturday and marry heterosexual couples who don’t believe, yet turn away our Christian brothers and sisters who are in loving same-sex relationships? The Church will tear itself apart over “gay marriage” until we draw a line under man-made Victorian morality and return to the message from God. God so loved the world he sent his only Son to die for our sins and give us eternal life.

If you believe you can pick and choose who you will love then you can’t know what love is.

As for anyone who considers themselves progressive, socialist or socially liberal and who opposed marriage equality this week needs to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. If you want to build a more equal, fair and just society that must mean equality for all. Equality for men and women, gay and straight, disabled and able-bodied, for all social backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities.

Practice what you preach and demand marriage equality for all.

Love is probably one of the most difficult concepts to articulate, which is probably why there are so many love songs in the world. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love. In the name of love, one night in the name of love. Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. How can our parliamentarians possibly articulate in debate, or I in one column. the power of love?

Time for Labour to adopt All-Black Shortlists?

I recently read an article on the Operation Black Vote (OBV) website which suggests that sections within the Black community are furious with the Labour Party.

They are angry that they are being overlooked when it comes to being short-listed, even to Labour safe seat.

But this has always been the issue we have had within the party even before I got active in 2010.

In 1984 the Labour Party NEC refused to endorse, Russell Profitt, former chair of the Black Sections, in Lewisham East. He later went on to lose the marginal seat to Colin Moynihan in 1987.

Martha Osamor, a Nigerian councillor at Haringey, wanted to stand as the Parliamentary Candidate for Brixton in 1989. She was democratically elected as the Parliamentary by-election candidate by the local Vauxhall constituency party, only to be removed by the powers that be in the National Executive Committee (NEC) for Kate Hoey who remains the MP till now.

The most recent case was in Rotherham, where Cllr Marof Husain was kept off the shortlist. Strong black candidates who made the shortlist were not selected in Lewisham East and Manchester Central, and in Croydon North the area also happens to be the second largest Black and Minority Ethnic (BaME) community in London. Can you understand why these people are furious?

In the OBV article, Labour in danger of losing Black Voters, Head of BAME Labour, Kameljeet Jandu, says, ‘There is a real danger that the Black vote will desert the Labour party if winnable Westminster seats keep by passing BME candidates by’.

Sadiq Khan MP, once said, ‘A more representative parliament leads to better legislation and a better connection between politicians and citizens.’ I agree.

At present there are 27 BaME Members of Parliament (MP’s). Labour has 16, Conservative 11 and the Liberal Democrats whose forerunners had the first BaME MP in 1892 now have none. It’s shameful to say the least that Labour has not got more black MP’s, because 80 per cent of BaME votes go to the Labour Party.

Black voters naturally feel their home is the Labour Party. Each and every time an election is called we vote Labour in droves. For instance in my own home, any election is a cross for the Labour Party, regardless of who the candidate maybe and I know a few others that do the same. But things are changing and the younger generation are now embracing the fact that there are other political parties aside to the main three. So what can Labour do to keep our votes?

In 1983, a group of people comprising of Marc Wadsworth, Russell Profitt, Diane Abbott MP, Sharon Atkin, James Hunte, Paul Sharma and others, formed the Black Sections. They aimed to increase the representation of Black people (Black, the term used to identify black and Asians politically) at Parliament.

It was through the Black sections that we got our first four black MPs (Diane Abbott, Lord Paul Boateng, Keith Vaz and the late Bernie Grant) in the House of Commons in 1985.

The Black Sections submitted a black list that got Lord Boateng his seat. The black list helped Dawn Butler win the same seat in 1995 when Lord Boateng’s seat was vacant.

Twenty five years later and Parliament is still not reflecting the diversity of our wider society. Only 6 African-Caribbean and 20 Asians have joined the black tribunes, as they were dubbed. We need to revive the Black Sections.

It’s time that we started a grassroot debate about introducing All-Black Shortlists.

David Lammy MP has posed this as a potential solution, but I like many were shocked that it was not included in the 2009 equality bill. Instead Harriet Harman, then equality minister rejected it.

The All-Women Shortlist has been proven as the best tool to increase selection of women as party candidates. This makes the case for All-Black Shortlists dealing with the under-selection of black candidates – both men and women – all the more stronger.

Should we not ask Ed to adopt it?

By Juliana Lucas


Put race back on the agenda with Young BAME Labour

What a difference a year makes! In January, I remember writing about how following the Stephen Lawrence verdict we had a real opportunity to put race back on to the mainstream agenda, and get this coalition government to realise the need for greater racial and social justice.

Now, as the rate of unemployment goes up amongst young BAME individuals, the ever increasing disproportionate use of stop and search, stories breaking about the racism in every day society, from the football pitch to the police station; the Coalition government prepare to water down the remit of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, while removing the only Black and Muslim commissioners, all of this, for me to points to the Government slashing any commitment to equality and rewinding the equality agenda back years.

Furthermore, today, the Government has announced that they will be axing Equality Impact assessments which remove any need for the Government to assess their own policies.

All of this makes it all the more important that young, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members of the Labour Party come together on the 25th of November, for a unique one day conference. The day will aims to focus on developing policies and the organisation needed to recruit young BAME members to our party. The day will discuss how to empower our BAME members to take our messages back to their communities.

I believe that this is vital as we build towards the 2015 election, where, once again the BAME community will be the key to winning the election – holding the balance of power in the key marginal seats as with previous elections. So, for me, the day presents a real opportunity for young BAME members to feed into the on going process of rebuilding our party and regaining the trust of those 5 million lost voters. We’re all more than aware that this will be crucial to ensure a Labour win in 2015.

For too long now our party has taken the BAME vote for granted and the day will provide an opportunity to put race back on the agenda.

More information about the one day event and how to register can be found here.