Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tories Have More BME Candidates Than Labour

Yesterday, Operation Black Vote eulogised about the 30 BME candidates Labour has standing for them at the next election. It was very strange* that the author of the piece, Lester Holloway, made no mention of the fact that at the last election the Conservatives had more BME candidates than Labour (41 to 32), a fact which is probably going to be repeated at the forthcoming election. The Conservatives have selected 38 BME candidates so far. I don't have figures for the LibDems, but if someone else does, let me know.

Here are the Tories...

Spelthorne - Kwasi Kwarteng
North West Cambs - Shailesh Vara
Windsor - Adam Afriyie
Bradford West - Zahid Iqbal
Bristol East - Adeela Shafi
Chippenham - Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
Dulwich and West Norwood - Kemi Adegoke
Gillingham and Rainham - Rehman Chishti
Hammersmith - Shaun Bailey
Hazel Grove - Annesley Abercorn
Maidstone and The Weald - Helen Grant
Reading West - Alok Sharma
Tooting - Mark Clarke
Twickenham - Deborah Thomas
Witham - Priti Patel
Wolverhampton South West - Paul Uppal
Streatham - Rahoul Bhansali
Burnley - Richard Ali
Bermondsey and Old Southwark - Loanna Morrison
Ealing Southall - Gurcharan Singh
Hackney South - Simon Nayyar
Holborn and St Pancras - George Lee
Brent Central - Sachin Rajput
Birmingham Hodge Hill - Shailesh Parekh
Sedgefield - Neil Mahpatra
Bradford East - Mohammed Riaz
Rochdale - Mudasir Dean
North Tyneside - Gagan Mohindra
Manchester Central - Suhail Rahuja
Warley - Jasbir Parmer
Oldham East and Saddleworth - Kashif Ali
Oldham West and Royton - Kamran Ghafoor
Stoke on Trent Central - Norsheen Bhatti
Ashton-under-Lyme - Seema Kennedy
Leigh - Shazia Awan
Makerfield - Itrat Ali
Bootle - Sohaili Quereshi
Liverpool Riverside - Kegang Wu

I would expect at least 13 of them to be elected, the same number elected for Labour in 2005.

In theory, if BME people make up 8% of the electorate each party ought to be fielding 52 candidates. There are still quite a few selections to go, but it is unlikely any of the parties will reach this number. Of course, the key issue is how many of the candidates are selected in safe or winnable seats. The LibDems have only ever had one ethnic minority MP, Parmjit Gill, who won a by election in Leicester South in 2004. Does anyone know if they have any in winnable seats this time? At least the Conservatives and Labour seem to have a ratio of at least one in three standing in winnable seats.

I'm not very much in favour of ghettoising political candidates in groups like this, but seeing as Operation Black Vote appears to be playing party politics with it*, the other side of the story needs to be put.

Let's just hope PinkNews don't get around to doing the same thing! They might get a shock. I have written in the past that in the next Parliament I believe there will be between 20 and 30 openly gay [God I hate that expression] MPs on the Tory benches. I've no idea what the equivalent figures might be for Labour and the LibDems.

* As Sunder Katwala points out in a comment, I have been unfair to OBV. They did similar articles on the Conservatives and the LibDems some time ago. Apologies.


OldSlaughter said...

Who cares? Surely it is racist to even count?

This score sheet is fairly crass. If labour get 8 more will they then be the most BME friendly party?

Sean said...

I hope we select candidates on merit. I really couldn't care less how many candidates of any sex, race or religion etc we have unless it appears that we are excluding a sector of the community from becoming candidates.

So I don't think we should get plaudits from having a few more candidates than average from any community any more than we should get brickbats from having a bit fewer.

the shade of dr kelly said...

why is there such a thing as "operation black vote" ? surely it does not matter what colour your skin is??? at least that is what we are always told.

or are they saying that white peole are different to BME people?

Stuart said...

More nonsense.

Statistically the BME population is geographically concentrated, so you would expect significantly fewer candidates than you suggest...

Vulpus_rex said...

Don't know what BME stands for but if it somehow means non white then I know of another who should be on your list:

George Lee - ethnic Chinese Conservative candidate for Holborn & St Pancras

OldSlaughter said...

"ethnic Chinese Conservative"

I want to tick that box on my census form! Definitely ethnically conservative.

Sunder Katwala said...


I think you have mixed up your facts in this post,

(1) you are not comparing like with like in the main claim. The OBV list of new Labour candidates did not include the 12 BME MPs who plan to stand again, while your Tory list does include the two current MPs. Perhaps you should make that clear and recalculate, which shows the overall numbers very even (though as you say it is winnable seats which matter).

(2) You are unfair to OBV in saying they are playing party politics. They run similar pieces and profiles marking progress in all parties. This was a Conservative piece and a LibDem piece.

It may not be for me to say so. OBV have very often crossed swords with me because they strongly disagree with my opposition to all black shortlists, but I think you would find they try to be very fair in that respect, and that the Conservative Party has stressed its positive engagement with the group. Their efforts on mentoring, placements, etc are one of the reasons we are seeing progress.

(3) I have often heard Simon Woolley and Lester Holloway say that the Tories could be ahead on this agenda, partly to keep up pressure in Labour too.

That is, in my view, an exaggeration: only Labour has passed the 8% mark (10%) in selecting new candidates so defeating any "ethnic penalty", though the Tories (at 5% when I calculated it at end 2009) have made impressive progress, as I have stressed in my evidence to the Speakers conference.

On the whole, the data and evidence on black and Asian candidates is of much faster recent progress towards 'equal chances' than for women, though debates often suggest the opposite.

I have also very much stressed the welcome progress the Conservatives have made. You will find very few people engaged in this agenda who think ethnic diversity in one party is a healthy thing, since the idea of "fair chances and no unfair barriers" - on whatever grounds - in all parties could be common ground.

................................. said...

Many more and we'll have to change the green leather to pink :)

Rebel Saint said...

I still think ginger candidates will be under-represented; and left handed candidates.

Leave all that kind of thing to Hormonal Harriet.

Mick Turatian said...

Don't know what BME stands for

Nor do I and neither is the full version mentioned in the post.

So what we have here then is a bit of shorthand for policy wonks and the race-relations industry that melds political correctness and tokenism into an unappetising emulsion.

Libertarian said...

Bored Mad Etonians?

Not a sheep said...

This sort of counting exercise really pisses me off. Do we need MPs selected in exact proportion to the Country's ethnic mix? What about ensuring that 50% of Muslim candidates are female or 20% of Jewish candidates MPs are Sephardic not Ashkenazi Jews or that the right proportion of Sunni and Shia Mulsims are selected as candidates? What about selecting homosexuals in the correct proportions? Transexuals? Can I as a Jew only be represented by a Jewish MP? Of course not. Can a Muslim MP only speak for Muslim constituents? Of course not.

This sort of balkanisation of the UK is part of the problem, not the solution.

Pete said...

Google tells me that BME = Black and Minority Ethnic


OldSlaughter said...


You call it 'progress' that the Tories have passed the 5% mark.

Thing is though we don't have PR here in the UK. My MP represents my constituency.

I cannot vote for an MP that is 50% male and 50% female, I cannot vote for one that is 5-10% BME.

I can vote for one MP and only one. Therefore all you culturally divisive lefties that still bring up simplistic nonsense about percentages (feminists still talk about 50% of the top jobs etc), have to deal with a contradiction that you never seem to even recognise.

Please tell me, why is a 'BME' unable to represent me, a white person?
Why is a woman unable to represent me, a man?

If you are suggesting that they can represent me, please explain why a white male is somehow unsuited to represent women/BMEs.

In our system we have representatives of populations within geographical areas, if you want a system based on representing merely those things with which YOU choose to use to divide and describe people, then fine, but you can't have a system attempting to achieve both.

At the moment all this second rate 80's appearance politics is succeeding in doing is undermining the success of any BME who has achieved success though talent and work. Furthermore it is assisting in the survival of race politics. (How will we ever get post racial with people putting out your nonsense)

I have no thoughts about being represented by any particular group other than those aligned politically. In fact, if it does occur to be on any level it is the concern of getting a second rate candidate who has been pushed forward to satisfy your window dressing principles. Again, how fair is that on hard working and talented folk.

If those identifiers of race, gender and sexuality should be entirely irrelevant to one's politics, and they are to mine, why are they not to yours?

Snotrocket said...

BME....WTF....IMHO..CRAP. However, if BME means BY MERIT EMPOWERED, I am all for it.

Ian....get your head out of your a*** and support a meritocracy. Otherwise, where DOES your logic end with the representation of minorities?

In fact, what you are saying is, as a minority person, I can ONLY be fairly represented by someone of a similar minority. What a load of BLOX!

hatfield girl said...

Black is tendentious as anyone is more or less black and more or less white. But what counts as 'minority ethnic'? Serbs? Irish? Cornish? North Walians? Or does it include only the blacker end of the spectrum but not present in very large numbers?

Mark Senior said...

Bit surprised at the ignorance shown by Iain Dale in this post .
The first BME MP was in fact Dadabhai Naoroji elected as a Liberal way back in 1892 for Finsbury Central . Of course the Conservative Prime Minister at the time Lord Salisbury attempted to play the race card but the Conservative smear campaign failed and he was elected .

Iain Dale said...

Mark, you never disappoint do you? Why not defend your party's woeful record in this area in recent years, rather than resort to a desperate defence stretching back more than 100 years.

Sunder Katwala said...


In fact, I make many similar arguments to yours in my argument against all black shortlists, which is hostile to the idea of 'ethnic representation'. I would be interested to know whether you disagree with the argument of that piece.

But the numbers are still an important indicator of whether 'merit' is coming through. Like Iain, I think 'fair chances and no unfair barriers' would roughly result in broadly proportionate intakes (give-or-take) over time: if the result was always 0% there are reasons to suspect a meritocracy is not in place, and to ask what the barriers are. So I am suspicious about whether the Tory "class of 2001" made up of 38 white men and 1 white woman should be defended as a fully meritocratic outcome in the party, for example.

My study of the BME numbers provided the first detailed evidence that almost all political and media discussion has been too pessimistic. Almost every opinion former in this debate has repeated the soundbite 'we can't wait 75 years' for a Parliament that looks like Britain: the evidence just does not support that out-of-date claim. One needs to dig into the numbers to show that: nobody had done that.

So I think it is great that Operation Black Vote can celebrate the progress they have contributed to; but it does also weaken their own argument (against me) that we can never get equal chances without quotas or all black shortlists.

In answer to Mark, the LibDems have in this Parliament done much better on selecting women, but will again have an all-white PLP. They are stuck on this. The LibDems' problem is that they select large numbers of BME candidates often on an old-fashioned ethnic faces for ethnic seats model (they had most candidates in 1992), in seats the party can't win, and not in winnable seats. I think there is a straightforward way out of this problem (para 17) and I hope the LibDems might adopt it.

Having recently looked into this for a Total Politics history piece, I think the Indian home rule campaigner Dadabhai Naoroji may have won a Liberal nomination in 1892 partly through radical and Fabian entryism in the North London Liberal party, in those pre-Labour party days!

The Tories first Asian MP was elected in 1895, Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownagree (1895-1905). I have argued that he could have taught Steve Hilton a thing or two as a somewhat opportunistic 1895-style Cameron outrider! He was, however, I think the very last non-white Tory MP until Nirj Deva in 1992.

Anonymous said...

If Iain's article left the impression that OBV were not celebrating the BME candidates selected by the Conservatives, please read this article:

Which was published at the same time as the one about Labour candidates that Iain refers to.

Oh, and we did the same for the Lib Dems as well, on that day.

If Iain's paranoia about being unfair to Conservatives still persists I'm happy to share links with very many more positive articles about BME Tories we've published recently.

Lester Holloway

Iain Dale said...

Lester, clearly you didn't read to the end of the article...

Anonymous said...

Iain, if you'd read my articles you'd know that I didn't compare any political party's BME candidates with the previous election.

That's another analysis for another day. So there... Lester treats Conservatives the same as other parties shocker.

Paddy said...

Why are they called BME - Black and Minority Ethnic - rather than BEM? Calling a group "minority ethnic" is surely bad grammar as it suggests that the noun is ethnic rather than minority. You would not call them "ethnics" as a group - not outside of a 1970s sitcom. When did this bad grammar take over?

Gareth said...

Sunder Katawala said: "But the numbers are still an important indicator of whether 'merit' is coming through. Like Iain, I think 'fair chances and no unfair barriers' would roughly result in broadly proportionate intakes (give-or-take) over time: if the result was always 0% there are reasons to suspect a meritocracy is not in place, and to ask what the barriers are. So I am suspicious about whether the Tory "class of 2001" made up of 38 white men and 1 white woman should be defended as a fully meritocratic outcome in the party, for example."

Ah... skin and race are measures of 'merit' now are they? Sounds more like an arbitrary, specious and skin deep measure of supposed virtue.

Each constituency is independent of the others. An overall reading of the situation is a statistically worthless exercise. You are suspecting 'barriers' but the figures you cite cannot support it.

Furthermore, each election is independent of the last. There is no rational basis for expecting a free system of politics and the picking of candidates to tend towards anything.

Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks for updating your post.

Am rather bemused that you acknowledge the relatively second order point of OBV's cross-party reputation.

Yet entirely ignore the point that (as you left out 12 Labour MPs who are standing again, while including their Tory counterparts), the basic thesis, headline and core information given in your post is wrong.

An accurate headline might be
"Tories not far behind and nearly neck-and-neck with Labour on overall BME candidates [under Cameron, having been ahead of Labour on candidates under Michael Howard in 2005].

May need subbing!!

Sunder Katwala said...


Sorry, that's silly.

Little known fact: It happens to be the case that, since 1918, 291 women and 4559 men have been elected as MPs.

You can argue that men and women have had equal chances to be elected in every election since 1918. But each Parliament contains more men than there have been women elected in the post-female suffrage history; and every cohort contains more men than women.

This is a statisticially significant correlation. It might be worth asking whether there are cultural and structural features in society. For example, should we take the clue that women did not have the vote before 1918 as one example suggesting the society has had different views about the legitimacy of women holding political office?

Do you really think a truly meritocratic system could produce 38 men and 1 woman MP in a party and society which is majority female? You can only argue that based on a premise that women are either less talented or [enormously] less interested when it comes to representative politics.

OldSlaughter said...


I was about to reply to you and saw that Gareth has already addressed the main point.

How numbers = merit is something you would have to explain.

I read your article although I agree that all anything shortlists are wrong, in my opinion preposterous, I cannot agree with your general views on this topic.

If prejudice is being reduced in this country it is not in my opinion because of shortlists, stunt casting or any other kind of positive discrimination. Even if it were, I would ask this fairly fundamental question. When does it end?

When does an organisation like OBV say 'our work here is done, now let's go earn a proper living'?

When will the Black Police Association be considered an inappropriate relic from a less enlightened time?

Surely eventually the Equalities Commission will have no purpose, what 'numbers' will prove that day has arrived?

OldSlaughter said...

Oh and as for targets/merits.

Margaret Thatcher did not need 50% women around here to prove her merit.

How did Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownagree get to represent people without pressure groups and numerical targets.

This is all piffle, it is only promulgated because it is for a noble cause. Set up a dichotomy where one position is apparently pro something noble and make opposition to that position anti that noble end and there is no limit to the nonsense one can get away with. Not to mention money.

Unsworth said...

So, more men than women in Parliament? So what? Have women put themselves forward as candidates? Is there an overwhelming refusal on the part of selection panels to consider women candidates? Do women want to be MPs - if so, why do they not put themselves forward as candidates?

normantheconqueror said...

When did it bcome BME?
I've honestly never heard it before, and I am one.

If there's been a meeting where my ethnicity has been given a new PC name someone could at least have had the manners to take minutes and then inform me what I am now to be called.

If it were not for my reading of this esteemed blog, I could have blundered on, crassly insulting myself without realising.

Joe Public said...

Pete @ 1:26

"Google tells me that BME = Black and Minority Ethnic"

In some constituencies whites are a Minority Ethnic.

Rebel Saint said...

Why are caring professions dominated by women? Why is manual work dominated by men? Why is primary school teaching dominated by women? Could it be because the sexes and even the races are ... hope this doesn't come as too much of a shock ... DIFFERENT? Could it be that women just aren't as interested in politics?

I long for the day when politics is more like sport. I'm surprised (well, actually I'm not surprised at all) that the equalities brigade haven't commented on how hideously black athletics has become!

Anglodutch said...

Um. I am a Dutchman who has lived in England since 1975. Does that make me part of the BME "community"?

HenniganDave said...

Lib Dems are putting a huge fight up in Gerald Kaufman's Manchester Gorton seat. Qassim severely dented his majority with a double figure swing and may well take the seat. Lib Dems also hold most of the Council Seats in the Constituency.

Last GE was:

Labour Gerald Kaufman 15,480 53.2 -9.6
Liberal Democrat Qassim Afzal 9,672 33.2 +11.9
Conservative Amanda Byrne 2,848 9.8 -0.1
UKIP Gregg Beaman 783 2.7 +1.0
Workers' Revolutionary Dan Waller 181 0.6 N/A
Resolutionist Party Matthew Kay 159 0.5 N/A
Majority 5,808 19.9
Turnout 29,123 45.0 +2.3
Labour hold Swing -10.8

Man in a Shed said...

Don't care what our candidates look like.

What I do care about is that they are smart, committed, compassionate with a strong moral backbone.