Home Secretary Theresa May wants to see the improved diversity that more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) MPs have brought to Parliament repeated in all areas of public life.
May was speaking at a special celebratory reception hosted by Operation Black Vote (OBV) last week at the House of Commons to mark the historic number of BAME MPs who entered Parliament following the General Elections last May.
A record number of 41 MPs from various ethnic backgrounds are now holding Parliamentary seats compared to four in 1987 when the first black MPs were elected.
Giving the keynote address, May recalled that when she entered Parliament 18 years ago it was too white and too male
She said: “This was not healthy, was not sustainable and it was not desirable. Opening up parliament is something I firmly believe in. It is fantastic to see the number of changes which have taken place over the years. We now have the largest ever number of MPs from BAME background alongside the highest number of women MPs and the fact that we have this diversity is no accident. It is the result of the hard work by everyone present and beyond.
May also praised the work of Simon Woolley and OBV in helping to make politics more diverse.
She said: “He has worked painstakingly but carefully and courteously with the parties, making it clear to us what the
parties need to do, but he has done it in ways which raise the important issues that go to the heart of our communities, not just in terms of politics but in a variety of ways too. We have a number of people whose careers in politics can be traced back to OBV and the MP shadowing scheme and those are in addition to other work OBV has done including the Magistrate shadowing scheme which has produce more than one hundred magistrates which is a fantastic record. But we still have some way to go because it is important to recognise what has been done but also to recognise where we need to go, not just in politics but also in the business world and public service.”
Concluding her address May said: “We don’t want to stand still and neither does OBV. There are plans to get people into leadership positions….I am keen to help in any way possible and I would like to encourage business leaders, the House of Commons and the House of Lords to support this.”
A number of BAME MPs who succeeded at the last election made short contributions at the reception with each praising the work of Simon Woolley and OBV.
Among those were Sajid Javid, Adam Afriyie and Helen Grant of the Conservative party and Chuka Umunna and Kate Osamor of the Labour Party.
OBV Director, Simon Woolley, who chaired the evening said: “While it was an exciting event that so many BAME MPs were in Parliament at the seat of power, they should not be afraid to continue to raise the issues around inequality and not be pigeonholed into areas where they are comfortable with.”
Source: The Voice