I was delighted to be re-elected Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) at the AGM last Saturday, 25th November.
2013 has been a year of considerable achievement, not least a very well-attended race equality conference in partnership with the Social Liberal Forum which was launched by the business secretary Vince Cable.
EMLD were also successful in changing party policy on education and employment when our motion endorsing the Race Equality Taskforce report was unanimously approved at federal conference in Glasgow.
We were instrumental in preserving the “general duty” part of the Equality Act, which Conservatives wanted to abolish, and our lobbying also ensured that the Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments were not touched.
In the last month EMLD persuaded the communities minister Stephen Williams to ask radio regulator Ofcom whether the owners of Choice FM broke their licence when they turned a station popular with an African and Caribbean audience into something quite different.
Over the year we have met with several ministers to influence policy, and myself and other members actively participated in a range of committees and working groups – from the 2015 manifesto process to various working groups such as immigration and asylum, equalities and ageing societies.
We are supporting regional diversity champions, diversity training, and successfully persuaded the party to adopt equality impact assessments when formulating policy.
I want to see EMLD increase our influence over policy, continue to increase membership and build on our improving communications strategy so that more people are kept informed of all activities.
Our AGM witnessed excellent speeches by deputy leader Simon Hughes, Simon Woolley from the campaign group Operation Black Vote and Tim Snowball, the party’s director of communications.
Simon Hughes said EMLD had made huge progress and believed the party would benefit enormously from our participation in immigration policy.
Simon Woolley reminded those present that EMLD is the only minority ethnic group inside a coalition party and that we have a right to influence policy at the heart of government.
A recent Operation Black Vote report showed the full extent of the power of the BAME vote and that should inspire us to go out and encourage the community to register to vote and participate in politics. The absence of a government race equality strategy should motivate EMLD to push harder, he concluded.
I agree with both Simons, we have come a long way but there is a long way to go. Under the leadership of Baroness Meral Hussein Ece, and now myself, EMLD has earned respect while continuing to tell home truths about race inequality.
That combination of working with the party and being a credible voice has meant EMLD have considerable influence where people are actively seeking our views on policy.
I am proud of the talent and expertise on EMLD’s executive, which has now been strengthened further. The general election is in 18 months. It will be a challenging period but I am relishing it.
* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here
This article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice