Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Issues Of Equality

The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence came to town to deliver a keynote speech at a conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the 'Reading Declaration on race equality' earlier this week.

The conference brought together original signatories to measure and assess progress in this area following the declaration, which was made after the 1999 Macpherson report into the 1993 killing of Stephen Lawrence - these included the borough council, health service, criminal justice services and Reading Council for Racial Equality.

Anna Roberts reports on the series of events at the conference. She notes Mrs Lawrence 'disgust' at the antics of the BNP, on which local bloggers resoundingly agree with her.

Cheif Executive of RBC, Michael Coughlin, said Mrs Lawrence's speech raised issues which still needed addressing, such as low black and minority representation in senior management. Other issues which were looked at in workshops were wealth inequality and inclusive citizenship.

Director of the Reading Council on Racial Equality, Rajinder Sohpal, who is a former Mayor of Reading, made a call "to hear what people think are the points for future progress."

The conference concluded October's Black History Month, which also saw a debate on the issue of Black Representation in Politics, attended by a panel of RBC councillors including Cllr Bet Tickner (Labour), Cllr Chowdhary (Conservative), Cllr Bayes (LibDem) Cllr Tony Jones (Independent).

Meanwhile LibDems held a separate event at Reading University's Palmer Building to discuss the issue of female representation in politics.

Cllr Daisy Benson was joined by her party colleagues Baroness Susan Thomas and Susan Kramer MP and notes some shocking statistics:
  • Only 19% of MPs are women
  • Britain lags behind Afghanistan, Australia, Rwanda, Belarus, Pakistan, New Zealand and 27 other European states (in terms of the number of women MPs we have)
  • There are only two Black women MPs, and there has never been an Asian woman MP
  • 30% of councillors are women (2008 Councillors Census)
  • There are currently even fewer Black/minority ethnic women councillors
She compares the issues facing different groups regarding underrepresentation and makes a strong plea:
"Equality is an important end in itself but I also think [with] a more equal Parliament this would lead to better decision-making and a more appealing political culture: better all round."
She concludes that we can't just "sit at home wishing we lived in a perfect world [because] it ain't gonna happen" on its' own.

And the problem of age and wealth inequality is also being highlighted by the recession as different groups suffer disproportionately.

According to Rachel Williams in the Guardian, "seven of the ten areas that have seen the highest proportionate rises in unemployment are in Berkshire and Surrey" and this is causing the gains made lifting people out of poverty over recent years to be 'wiped out at a stroke'.

Former Labour MP Jane Griffiths notes the efforts being made to allow younger people to speak for themselves about the issues which concern them.

She is critical of Reading West MP Martin Salter's 'campaign' to support youth debates in the House of Commons, as she feels this is designed to control the debate so that the powers that be can avoid listening.

LibDem student activist Neal Brown thinks Votes At 16 is the answer - he points out that 16-yr-olds can already join the army, pay tax, join the workforce, get married and have a family, yet they can't have a say in the decisions which effect them regarding which wars they may be sent to or what tax reforms should be implemented.


Update: Chairman Bill says there must be an evolutionary basis to the irrational preoccupations which lead to prejudice.

Oranjepan says:
The issues of equality are something that affect everyone - equally!


  1. Great post, OJ. You do such a good job sharing info with us.

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth.


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