Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
'Little progress' in UK race relations
Black and Asian political participation "vital"
Race relations in the UK have made little or no progress in recent years, according to a new survey of ethnic minorities.
The most negative response showed that 80% of 18- to 34-year-olds believe race relations have actually worsened, while more than 75% of the entire poll felt that little progress has been made.
The survey was commissioned by Operation Black Vote, an organisation that wants to increase black and Asian participation in UK elections.
Author of the survey, Professor Muhammad Anwar of the University of Warwick's Centre for Research in Ethnic Elections, said that ethnic minority participation in elections is vital.
His research found that high concentrations of ethnic minorities in inner cities were not making their political contribution felt, because more than 25% of blacks and Asians in those areas are not registered to vote.
A majority of the ethnic vote - 54% of blacks and 68% of Asians - said that they would be more willing to use their vote under a proportional representation electoral system.
A smaller majority of whites - 51% - would prefer to vote under PR.
OBV said the survey shows that political parties are failing to integrate the UK's 3.5 million strong ethnic vote, with only nine black and Asian MPs in parliament.
OBV co-ordinator Simon Woolley called for more ethnic minority political candidates and greater awareness of ethnic issues in political parties.
"The number of people who don't even register to vote is shocking, but these people feel that nobody is listening to them," he said.
The government defended its race record but said there was "no room for complancency".
The Home Office Minister, Mike O'Brien, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the government has already passed legislation to stamp out race-related incidents.
"It's about having a government which says clearly that racial and cultural diversity in Britain makes Britain stronger, that says racism is unacceptable, not just because it hurts black people, but because it challenges the very basis of what it is to be British in today's multicultural Britain," he said.