Caroline makes good points; it's important that the party recognises that it's make-up is too white and too middle class.
However, the key point to recognise is that this has not been discussed to any degree by the party at any level and that there are no measures at all, in place or under discussion, to counter this. And it is absolutely not a matter of simply having 'policies which will attract BAMER members' and even less of selecting candidates for winnable seats.
Our formal policies are anti war, anti racist, redistributive and civil libertarian, all of which should make them/us attractive to ethnic minority communities. Indeed, our policies are, for the most part, indistinguishable from those of Respect, which had (and residually has) a small but significant base within Bengali communities in Birmingham and the East End.The difference between the two organisations is that Respect set out from the start to build alliances with the more progressive elements and institutions within those communities (in a rather opportunistic way in some cases, perhaps) and become, not attractive to those communities, but a part of them. We, on the other hand, have by and large followed the pattern of activity set by the three big bourgeoise parties, adding our own particular flavour of mildly sanctimonious abstract preaching. In other words, Respect's aim (obviously not achieved) was to become a party OF the oppressed rather than a party FOR the oppressed. The Green Party's aim has been simply to get the oppressed to vote for us rather than the big three because we are nicer than they are.
The fact is that both the internal culture and organisation of our Party is, in practice, unattractive to most working people regardless of their ethnic origins. In practice, we operate as a middle class sect - not as shouty, exploitative and exclusive as most of the sects of the far left perhaps, but a sect none the less. While Caroline's sentiments were wholly admirable we should not hold our collective breath for any strategy for the Party to break out of its current niche from our national leadership. We all have to find practical ways in our own branches of making them more welcoming for ordinary people, such as considering whether the one minute attunement ritual might be off-putting for all but visiting Quakers and whether we meet in the right places at the right times (Karen pointed out at her fringe that her local party meets in a middle class area that would cost people from the local housing estate £5 on the bus to get to and from). Most importantly we must start aiming the focus of our activity at the concrete issues that working people perceive as effecting their day to day lives, rather than those more general (and distant/abstract) issues that we and the rest of the left find easier to go on about.
21 Sep 2011
Posted by Derek Wall at 11:39 am