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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Trevor Phillips says it is a disgrace"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 May, 2000, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Labour 'needs ethnic MP targets'
Phillips and Dobson
Trevor Phillips (left) is one of Labour's most senior black figures
Labour leaders have been urged to set targets for increasing the number of black and Asian politicians.

Greater London Assembly chairman Trevor Phillips, who on Sunday accused his party of erecting "institutional barriers" to aspiring politicians from minority communities, said 20 to 25 of Labour's 57 London MPs should come from the black or Asian communities.

Mr Phillips said something needed to be done to help aspiring politicians from minority communities.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday: "The point I am making is that Labour wants black and Asian people to represent it but somehow we are not getting the results.

"We have to ask what is it about the way we do our business, the way we selected people, that is producing this result."

Mr Phillips, one of Labour's most senior black politicians, said he was not calling for "special favours" for black and Asian candidates through quotas such as those used previously to encourage more women to stand for public office.

He welcomed efforts to help people from minority communities enter the political process.

'Clear public statement'

And he said Labour should now set a target for increasing black and Asian candidates.

He said: "Any organisation that wants to change things in this regard has to make a clear public statement that it wants something to happen.

"I am not arguing for quotas - I don't want to have people brought in simply because they are black or Asian.

"But the party should say clearly and publicly that it does want to have a more representative spread of Members of Parliament and assembly members and set some targets for achieving that.

"For example, we have 57 London Labour MPs, 40% at least of our voters are black or Asian.

'White-only areas'

"That would imply that maybe 20 to 25 London Labour MPs should be black rather than the current four."

In an article in the Observer on Sunday, Mr Phillips also claimed devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London were "virtually whites-only areas".

Mr Phillips said he was critical of Labour because other parties had made no progress in attracting black and Asian voters, while many supported his party.

"The problem lies in the nature of the party itself, and we need to take a hard look at why we are failing our most committed members," he said.

Mr Phillips - who ran as Frank Dobson's deputy in the London mayoral elections - said new selection procedures could deter potential candidates.

'Element of truth'

Home Office Minister of State Charles Clarke has conceded that Labour could be guilty of putting up "institutional barriers" to aspiring politicians from minority communities.

He said Mr Phillips' argument had an "element of truth in it".

Mr Clarke said: "I was a councillor in London some years ago and a large number of the councillors were in fact from ethnic minorities and we had a very large participation from the black community in local politics.

"But it's certainly the case that the recent London election gives rise to the question: how effective have we been at ensuring that we've got sufficient black participation within the Labour Party?

"It is a question the Labour Party has to look at but I think it's also important to say we've already made significant strides both in terms of MPs and in terms of ministers."

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See also:

02 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Operation Black Vote lifts off
20 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Phillips drops out of mayor race
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