Since 2010, the Conservative Government – and the preceding Coalition Government they formed with the Liberal Democrats – have pursued a regressive ideology, with disastrous effects for the levels of poverty and inequality in our society.
The past seven years of austerity have hit women of colour hard. The public sector, once a progressive career pathway for thousands of women of colour, has been scaled back by Tory retrenchment. The result of these decisions is that thousands of women of colour have been disadvantaged by redundancies or limits to public sector pay awards.
Those who have held onto their jobs are more likely to be paid less than their white colleagues, according to the Trades Union Congress.
Labour has a fully costed plan to abolish university tuition fees altogether, giving real opportunities to young people. We will re-introduce Education Maintenance Allowance and take further steps to support teenagers to get the grades they need to get into the best universities or to find a well-paid job.
The Conservative Government’s policies have resulted in a grave social and economic crisis for ethnic minority people. This isn’t just my view: the situation is so grave that the United Nations has expressed concern about rising inequality in the UK, citing years of austerity and criticising the Government for potentially contravening the public’s human rights.
Black and ethnic minority voters have real choices in this general election. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for more of the same. Spending cuts have been a political choice by the Conservatives. These cuts have started to dismantle equal opportunity, restrict social mobility and undermine black women’s status and advancement in society. The latest Conservative manifesto commits to further public spending cuts, but it doesn’t have to be this way. A vote for Labour is a vote for change and opportunity, and to repair the damage done by the Conservatives which has sown the seeds of division in our communities.
The trend of growing inequality and racism has become apparent for some time now. My colleague Dawn Butler was mistaken for a cleaner by another MP when working in the Houses of Parliament. This is an experience that will ring a bell with many successful women of colour, often not recognised for the status we deserve.
Growing up in the 1980s, I experienced my share of racism. Real progress was made towards eliminating societal prejudice by a Labour Government, but these historical gains are being rapidly eroded by the Conservatives.
These days, black men and women’s experience of nightlife in London can be nothing short of traumatic. My friends, family and constituents have experienced discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity from bouncers and club promoters. Racism and prejudice are masked by some clubs enforcing strict door policies which exclude black clubbers. This type of discrimination is not obvious or in your face, it is implied. It is the type of discrimination the Tories refer to as “political correctness”.
These shifts in culture and practices can only be eliminated under a Labour Government. We will immediately go about improving diversity on and off-screen. We will work with the film industry and public service and commercial broadcasters to address the lack of diversity in parts of the creative industries so that regressive and biased views do not once again become the norm.
Unlike the Conservatives, Labour will not scapegoat black or ethnic minority people, nor blame them for economic failures. We will prioritise and nurture the aspiration of black and ethnic minority entrepreneurs and set up a National Investment Bank in every region. These will be tasked with identifying and lending to small businesses where other lenders fail, unlocking the talent of our small and medium-sized business owners who have been let down by the so-called business friendly Conservatives.
Jeremy stands for the best of Labour. He has a vision for building a fairer society, and he understands that to enact real change we need to break through the political disenchantment of 21st century Britain and build a mass social movement.
I stand with Jeremy. Like he stood by my mum Martha fighting racism on the front line.
So there is a clear choice in this upcoming election. It is a choice between a Conservative Party, bolstered by UKIP supporters, which has not done enough to address racism and inequality in our society, or a Labour Party genuinely committed to unlocking the talent of women of colour.
Don’t let the Conservatives hold you back. Oppose entrenched institutional racism and vote Labour wherever you are on Thursday 8 June so we can build a fairer and more equal country.