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Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK

UK Politics

Operation Black Vote lifts off

There are just nine black and Asian MPs

Parliament is attempting to shed its image as a predominantly white institution.

Twenty-one young Asian and black people will be selected this week as part of Operation Black Vote to spend six months shadowing high-profile MPs and peers.

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy: "The next generation want change quickly"
The campaign is an attempt to address the under-representation in politics of ethnic minorities, who also fail to vote in large numbers.

There are just nine black and Asian MPs, and four MEPs. No members of the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly come from ethnic minorities.

Operation Black Vote is asking each of the three main political parties to donate 5,000 towards the campaign.

Simon WoolIey of Operation Black Vote said: "If we are to inspire a cynical generation towards politics, then we must say to them that you will have a voice, you will be heard both inside and outside of the decision-making process."

'Male, white and middle-aged'

Claude Moraes, who became the first British Asian MEP in June's elections to the European Parliament, says all the parties need to do more - including introducing targets to increase the number of candidates from ethnic minorities.

"There's a complex set of barriers that face black candidates, just as they faced women candidates in years gone by," he said.

These barriers include black candidates being seen as part of a group and not on their own merits, said Mr Moraes.

Trevor Phillips, who is looking to become Labour's candidate for Mayor of London, says selection panels have pre-conceived ideas about what an MP, MEP or mayor might look like.

"That image tends to be male and white, and probably middle-aged."

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