|David Cameron: what are his views on race?
In the election campaign he played the equality card – but only on gender. Cameron wants more women MP's, but stayed silent on the even more pressing need for black and minority ethnic MP's.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Cameron is content with the current grand total of two BME MP's – Shailesh Vara and Adam Afriyie.
For all Cameron's puff about modernisation as long as he remains silent on race equality he will, by default, be seen as giving a green light to racism in his party's ranks.
Howard may hail from the Thatcherite right but he was more willing to promote diversity in his party.
He got the BME MP head-count from zero to two and fielded record numbers of Black and Asian candidates in this years general election.
Cameron talks about reforming the party but says nothing about one of the most fundamental aspects of that reform: race diversity. This is a deliberate and shocking omission.
He cannot be taken seriously on equality in general until he has moved his party forward on race in particular. To confront the gender-bigots but ignore the racists would take the Tories backwards.
Amazingly for someone who leads a major party Cameron has not yet volunteered his views on race equality in Britain. His recent lecture on 'Britishness' to the Political Studies Association failed to shed any light on the matter.
His remark that 18-year-olds should be “building hospitals in Rwanda” conjours up images of privileged white kids jetting in to help poor Africans which VSO have been desperately trying to move away from.
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Aside from that Cameron is a blank space when it comes to a key element of Britishness – diversity and multiculturalism. Until he says anything on race we can only look at his background for clues.
Last year a study by the Commission for Racial Equality discovered that nine out of ten white people did not have any white friends.
Last week the London Evening Standard ran a feature on David Cameron's friends. Only one person was non-white – and that was the owner of a Notting Hill gasto-pub. For a Londoner living near multicultural Notting Hill Cameron does not have any excuses.
Politically Cameron will need to urgently appoint a BME figure with the authority and mandate to review Tory policies on recruitment, retention and promotion of members, party officials and candidates.
He will need to appoint people who are able to liaise with race experts and reach out to the BME media to communicate what they are doing. And he will have to make serious public statements the subject.
Every day that goes past without action in these areas will risk hardening the perception that Cameron is less progressive on race than Howard. Once that mud sticks it will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Failure to hit the ground running on race will send out all the wrong signals to his party that, for them, it's business as usual: carry on discriminating. The clock is ticking.