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Charles Kennedy considering support for race committee


LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leader Charles Kennedy will consider backing calls for race to be part of a new single equalities body.

Simon Hughes
Lib Dem president Simon Hughes: an influential voice on equalities issues

Lord Dick Newby, the leaders' chief-of-staff, told Blink that Mr Kennedy be would holding talks with frontbench colleagues to discuss whether to change his party's position and support calls for a race committee.

Mr Kennedy is believed to have privately told Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote that he was sympathetic to demands to recognise race within the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) structure.

Up to now the Lib Dems have supported the governments efforts to merge seven equality subjects together in one body.

But as support for a race committee grows among Labour MPs, Mr Kennedy recognises the need to revisit his party's position.

Last week Lib Dem peers Lord Navnit Dholakia, Lord Anthony Lester and MP Dr Evan Harris were sticking to their party's previous line in opposing the establishment of committees for each equality subject.


Campaigners are hopeful that Mr Kennedy will be able to impose his views on the party to support the need for a CEHR structure that recognises race.

Shahid Malik
Shahid Malik: said to support calls for a race committee and will lobby Meg Munn.

A source told Blink that Lib Dem president Simon Hughes is also warming to the idea of seperate committees, but party figures fear Lord Lester will dig his heels in and insist on sticking with the current position.

Rising Labour MP Shahid Malik is believed to have promised to lobby equalities minister Meg Munn for a race committee.

The number of emails Ms Munn has recieved over the issue has doubled in the past two days.

Officially Mr Malik was more circumspect. He said: “It's absolutely crucial that the different constituent parts of that Comission [CEHR] feel comfortable and confident about the work of the Commission.

“I’m aware that amongst Black and ethnic minority communities there is some anxiety about the possibility of race falling off the agenda.

“It’s essential that the Government seeks to give reassurance to these communities that the issues that are important to them are going to be equally important to the new Commission.”

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