UK political leaders: Don’t shame us!


Open letter

In an unprecedented move race equality activists and campaigners have written to each of the main party leaders to demand better political leadership on issues such as race equality and immigration.

Tackling race inequality has all but fallen off the political agenda and the Immigration debate can only be characterised as a race to the bottom of a dirty barrel. The signatories also lament the silent, self-imposed toothless Equality and Human Rights Commission. Please feel free to join the debate and put your name to the list of signatories.

Dear Mr. Cameron, Mr Miliband, and Mr Clegg,

We are proud to live in a diverse Britain. Our society is more vibrant, dynamic and creative: our lives and values are richer for it. It is the reason behind London’s commercial success and why we secured the 2012 Olympics.

How quickly pride turns to shame.

We are now deeply worried about race relations, the rising tide of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment, which are fuelled by the open disdain shown by many politicians for policies which promote a more equal and inclusive society. We are ashamed of:-

  • ‘Go home’ immigration vans
  • the vilification of migrant workers
  • the persistent linking of Muslim communities with violent extremism
  • the ‘British’ values agenda
  • institutional tolerance of celebrity racism
  • the refusal of political leaders to challenge hostile attitudes to particular sections of the black and other minority ethnic communities.

The reins on racist behaviour have been loosened: anti-immigrant and Islamophobic fervour, propagated by certain sections of the media and some politicians are in danger of unwittingly – and at times wittingly - inciting racial hatred. It is now open season for racists.

There is an Equality and Human Rights Commission, but it is silent, weak, aloof and ineffective. There is a Government Equalities Office but it has no vision for an inclusive society beyond women on boards. There are political leaders but no leadership.

This toxic environment is damaging British society and, potentially, its international reputation. We urge you to take immediate action to avoid serious harm to community relations by:

  • a commitment not to use the politics of ‘difference’ to marginalise communities
  • the release of the GEO Programme Fund to projects which promote good relations
  • a manifesto commitment to implementing a race and good relations strategy
  • restoring the power to promote good relations to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and ensuring that the EHRC uses its powers effectively.

Above all, we ask you not to choke the voice of reason and tolerance.

And, in case you think we do not matter, remember that the ethnic minority vote matters in key marginal constituencies.

Yours sincerely,


Zita Holbourne, Co-Founder, BARAC

Sado Jirde, Director, Black South West Network

Belfast Migrant Centre

Tony Lindsay Project Manager, CHESS

Serah Kimuyu, Advice and Support Officer, Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC)

Professor Nira Yuval Davis, Director, The Centre for Research on Migration Refugees and Belonging, University of East London

Sarah Soyei, Head of Partnerships, EqualiTeach

Karen Chouhan Founder and Director Equanomics UK

Sameena Choudry Founder, Equitable Education

Chris Whitwell Director, Friends, Families and Travellers

Kamaljeet Jandu, National Officer, GMB

Robin Richardson Director, Insted Consultancy

Liz Fekete Executive Director, Institute of Race Relations

Ratna Lachman Director JUST West Yorkshire

Peter Williams, Chair, Kingsgate Community Centre

Don Flynn, Director, Migrant Rights Network

Suresh Grover Founder and Director,The Monitoring Group

Patrick Yu, Director, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities,

Paul Crofts, Vice Chair, Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council

Janie Codona MBE One Voice 4 Travellers Ltd

Simon Woolley, Director, Operation Black Vote

Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race On The Agenda

Omar Khan, Director, The Runnymede Trust

Peter Herbert, Chair, The Society of Black Lawyers

Joy Warmington, CEO, Brap

Ratna Dutt, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation


Olu Alake

Mohammed Aziz

Maud Blair

Ralph Braunholtz

Liz Brooker

Barbara Cohen

Dr. Tony Cotton

Dr. Jacqui Cousins

Lindsay Edkins

Angela Crum Ewing

Alison Graham

John Haywood

Ibrahim Hashi Jama

Makbool Javaid

Saleema Karim

Jane Lane

Harmesh Lakhanpaul OBE

Esther Maynard,

Mahalia France Mir

Rehana Minhas

Sarah McMurchie

Leander Neckles

Graham O’Neill

Brenda Parkes

Phil Pavey

Constantia Pennie

Professor Andy Plikington

Anthony Robinson

Pamela Strangman

Professor Sally Tomlinson

Jonathan Mcdermott

John Canoe