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Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour Party and British Chinese and East Asian communities. Our activities including fundraising, campaigning for the Party and raising awareness on issues that affect our ethnic communities. With over 400,000 ethnic Chinese in the UK it is the fastest growing ethnic minority population and on top of this are many other East Asians and those of mixed heritage.

As part of the Labour Leadership election campaign we asked the leadership candidates a series of questions. We've split the questions into two parts. The first part are more general questions directed to BAME communities, while the second released tomorrow are specifically related to the Chinese community.

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1. What should Labour’s response be to the Immigration Bill coming forward in this Parliamentary session?

AB: Immigration has made an important contribution to the UK, our public services and the diverse country it makes us, but we must address the real concerns of people across the country.  That is why I am seeking to reform EU rules.  Under my leadership we will continue to support free movement, but freedom to work will not be a freedom to claim benefits before contributing.

I will hold the government to account in delivering a package of reform that meets public concerns.  If David Cameron fails to address these concerns, he risks sleepwalking the UK into EU exit.

YC: Britain for centuries has been an outward looking, diverse nation – that is what has made it possible for our small island nation to punch above our weight on the world stage, for British inventions to lead the way from the industrial revolution to the world wide web, for the English language to become the dominant worldwide currency. In today’s global economy, that outward looking approach is more important than ever and migration is more important than ever.

But if we are to maintain it we have to tackle the challenges that globalisation brings, and the real problems in our immigration system which are in danger of undermining confidence. That means stopping the exploitation of low-skilled migration that hurts everyone, starting with making exploitation a crime. It means tackling abuse of the visa system to make sure confidence is upheld, and it means sorting out the Home Office so the system works properly and efficiently.

 JC: We should oppose it. The proposal to expel migrant workers who are not on a certain salary level is simply unjust.

If workers are underpaid then exploitative employers should be punished not the workers themselves for a second time. 

Expecting landlords to police their tenants is unworkable. It will increase discrimination towards BAME people in getting tenancies, as landlords will see non-white applicants as ‘risky’.

LK: For all the benefits that immigration brings, we should also recognise the impact of globalisation on everyone in society. Eliminating low pay would be one of my top priorities as leader, and I want to see more done so that workers cannot be exploited by unscrupulous employers.

The tough talking from Theresa May and the Tories on issues like student visas has been seriously misplaced. The UK’s universities are recognised around the world for their outstanding quality, and our efforts should be put in to making sure they continue to succeed, not making foreign students feel that they are not welcome to come here to learn.

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2. BAME voters have been part of Labour’s core vote over the past few decades, yet polling by British Future and Survation has suggested that they are beginning to swing away from Labour to the Tories in large numbers. This will obviously be significant (especially in marginal seats) as the BAME population is set to grow. What should Labour do to get them back?

YC: In the Labour Party we pride ourselves on our commitment to fairness, equality and social justice. But with over a million ethnic minority voters choosing the Tories at the last election, Labour cannot be complacent.   If we are not representative of our voters, how can we hope to keep their support

The Parliamentary Labour Party still falls short when it comes to the representation of BAME communities. As Labour Leader I will put that right. I want to see Labour more than double the number of BAME MPs in a Labour majority Parliament. I will oversee a taskforce engaging with BAME MPs, councillors, NEC members and local Party activists, to ensure a step change in support for BAME candidates and activists.  Labour’s BAME taskforce will report to me and will also look at measures such as bursary schemes to support aspiring candidates with training and support with selections.

LK: As an MP who has spent years building trust and respect in a constituency with a hugely diverse community, I was concerned to see that at the last general election our support declined amongst BAME voters. I have no doubt that this cost us the chance of winning many seats. There are many people out there who clearly didn’t trust Labour with their vote, many of them in the BAME community.

 We need to rebuild trust in our party across the electorate. That starts by building a credible alternative to Conservative government that works nationally, but we need to also understand how we can win back voters at a local level.

As leader, of course I want to see many, many more Labour MPs after the next election and I want more of those to be BAME MPs. I want to hear more from groups like Chinese for Labour on how we can address that issue of trust at a local level. I also want to hear how you think we build the national campaign needed the win a broader spectrum of the BAME vote next time around.

JC: Labour has a proud record of tackling racism and defending migrants' rights. We are the party that introduced the Race Relations Acts and the Equality Act.

But Labour has lost votes right across the country and from all ethnicities. We have lost touch with our supporters, been cowed by the press and powerful commercial interests. We need to reconnect with our communities right across Britain, involve members, affiliates and supporters in making our policy, and be proud to stand up for what we believe in.

We can win back support if we draw on our greatest strength: our people, listen to them and provide credible policies that meet their concerns.

 

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3. The government has resurrected Labour proposals on helping to close the gender pay gap by increasing pay transparency. How should Labour close the ethnic pay gap and how can we ensure that there is fair promotion and progression of BAME people in the both public and private sector jobs?

 JC: As well as the gender pay gap, there is an ethnic minority and disability pay gap too. That's why I have proposed equal pay audits be published by all employers so that discrimination cannot be hidden, both within pay grades and across staff structures.

By raising the minimum wage to a living wage and giving all workers equal rights from day one, we can address the low pay and exploitation that affects workers in many sectors.

But we know that there is further discrimination against BAME people.

YC: Equality for all goes to the very heart of my politics.  We must always do everything we can to improve diversity across both public and private life.

As Labour leader, I would place a legal requirement on police forces to increase diversity and will change the law to allow New York-style “affirmative action” in recruitment policies.  For our Armed Forces, we need change so that recruitment processes reach out to all areas of British society.  BAME representation in the civil service is still below the national average, especially at senior levels. So as Labour Prime Minister, I will require annual updates on progress from every Government department to improve BAME recruitment at all levels.

LK: The working-age population of ethnic minority groups is growing faster than the average but on current projections by 2022 the existing ethnic inequalities in the labour market will remain stubbornly persistent.

So as leader Labour I'd champion increased BAME representation across the public and private sector - working with businesses and the public sector to make all organisations - including the Labour Party - far more representative of the country itself.

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4. How can we encourage more diversity in the arts and media?

YC: We cannot underestimate the importance of diversity in the arts and media and more needs to be done in this area.  For example, we need to put the arts and media back at the heart of education, so children from all backgrounds have access to these fields throughout their lives.

I want to smash the glass ceilings of British society. Because it is only by improving diversity and increasing opportunities across all areas of society that Britain can finally become a country where people are able to fulfil their potential regardless of background, colour or their start in life.

LK: It’s essential that schools teach pupils about chances in life they might not know exist - there should be no door closed on you simply because you didn’t grow up in London, or that your parents didn’t know the right people.  Arts and media should no more be a closed shop to the BAME community than science and engineering should be to young women.

JC: The bias in arts funding against ethnic minority and diverse assets has been exacerbated by the cuts to the Arts Council. 

The first thing that’s needed is an economic policy to restore growth that can increase the funding available to government for the arts in general. We need an end to the Tory approach that only the market should determine what arts are available. This inevitably advantages the most commercial, mainstream and profitable cultural products and undermines minority, community and more diverse assets.

We need government to be a vocal champion of greater diversity in the arts and media. 

Our party has made great strides in becoming more representative of British society (and groups like Chinese for Labour have helped us achieve that), but there are still challenges to overcome in our party, in politics more widely, and in all fields of British life.

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5. Chinese for Labour has always held a strong interest in immigration policy and its links to the labour market. For example, during the early 2000s we lobbied for a points-based immigration system and a Gangmasters Licensing Authority. We’ve heard a lot from Leadership candidates about dealing with challenges of immigration. What do you think the benefits of immigration are and how would you maximise them?

AB: Over 80,000 of China’s brightest and best students come to study in our universities every year.  I condemn the current government’s unfair policy towards international students and believe we should instead look to develop our relationship with communities and connections around the world.

YC: Over many centuries Britain has benefited from the ideas and talents of those who have come here from abroad – including from the Chinese Community. We need managed migration to get the top talent and investment we need, for our world class universities to compete internationally, or to meet skills shortages in the NHS.

We need more brilliant students coming to study, to make sure we can get the top talent to grow our businesses, and ensure skills shortages are filled. And British citizens need to travel and trade to promote our exports, and seek new opportunities.

JC: Immigration has been of great benefit to our country economically, socially and culturally - and we must protect freedom of movement in any EU renegotiations.

We also need to improve the procedures for non EU migration. The attempts of the last coalition government to limit immigration to an arbitrary target figure meant they could not take account of business needs, undermined family reunions, and attacked economically beneficial migration such as students coming to study here. It has also undermined tourism from newly emerged economies like China, when visitors are put off by the hurdles they have to go through to get a visa.

We have just seen the ridiculous spectacle of the British government defending Ai Wei Wei in China then having to apologise for blocking his visa to come here. The tourism visa for visitors from China had to be overhauled. We should stop treating Chinese tourists like potential ‘illegal immigrants’ and start treating them like the high spending visitors they actually are. Rather than the hangover colonial attitude to China we should treat it and its citizens with respect.

The grounds for skilled migration need to be changed to include skills like Chinese cuisine and cookery. 

The proposal to expel long term migrants who are not earning above a certain amount is ridiculous and must be opposed. As well as the obvious injustice it will impact on the NHS in particular and on workers in restaurants and hospitality industry which need diverse language and cultural skills.

But we need to do more to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers: strengthening workplace and trade union protections; putting extra resources into enforcement of the minimum wages; and extending the remit of the gangmasters licensing authority.

We also need to ensure that the housing crisis is tackled by allowing councils to borrow to build a new generation of council housing. We must explain how austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity, and oppose any attempt to scapegoat migrant communities. We must never pander to xenophobia and racism, but address issues in a rational and open way.

LK: I’m very proud to represent a constituency in one of the UK’s most diverse cities. Immigration has not just been good for places like Leicester, it has been essential to them maintaining their place in the national and global economy. In order for that to continue, we need to make sure that we have an immigration system that is fair for all concerned. I think, for example, that Chinese for Labour were absolutely right to advocate a points-based immigration system as a means of making sure that we have the necessary skills for our economy to grow.

Tomorrow, our second set of questions to the leadership. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

 

Chinese for Labour: Leadership Questions

Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour...

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Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The ongoing selection process to is to replace London Assembly member John Biggs, who was elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and will be stepping down from his City and East London seat. It's a fantastic step for the Chinese community towards greater representation in our political system.

The next step for Ash is a formal nomination from at least one of the parliamentary constituencies that comprise the City and East area (City of London, Bethnal Green & Bow, Poplar & Limehouse, East Ham, West Ham, Barking and Dagenham & Rainham). If you want to help Ash get elected as the Labour candidate for City & East then please contact Ash at ashlbth@hotmail.com or 07703 438881. Here's more from Ash:

Dear friends,

I'm writing to introduce myself as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly.

The seat will become vacant next year when John Biggs steps down. John has represented us brilliantly at City Hall since it came into being 15 years ago, across policing, transport and economic development. I shall especially miss the sight of him getting under Boris' skin during Mayor's Question Time!

Making a Home in East London

 I wasn't born a Londoner but - like so many people in East London - chose to become one. I made a positive choice to study, work and live in this city of opportunity: a magnet for people from hundreds of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Like so many private renters I moved all around the city, finally settling in Tower Hamlets nearly two decades ago. I've lived in Whitechapel, St Katharine's, the Isle of Dogs, Bromley and Mile End and I've been privileged to represent the Labour Party as a local councillor in Limehouse. It is in Tower Hamlets where I ran Jim Fitzpatrick's successful General Election campaign, finally getting rid of the divisive George Galloway from the borough once and for all. 

I love London but increasingly we see its divisions and strains; the huge gaps of wealth and opportunity rising under this Tory Government and Mayor. It's not just the poor who are being left behind. In a Labour London everyone must have a fair share in our city's success. 

My Public Service

For the past fourteen years I have worked for the Metropolitan Police Service - expanding neighbourhood policing into every single ward across London, securing funding for Sexual Assault Referral Centres (including for East London at Whitechapel) and settling up the Security Programme for the Olympics, the biggest peace-time security operation this country has ever seen. 

I have also worked across the NHS to tackle inequalities in health; improving access to services for young people, women, black and minority ethnic communities and those with disabilities. 

Why I'm Standing

I've been lucky. Despite not having the easiest of starts in life I was able to get on with the help of an incredibly supportive family and a good comprehensive school education. This allowed me to come to London and study, to get a decent job and to settle down here. It is a travesty that too many of our children in London do not have the same life chances I've had. 

Labour must be ambitious for London. A Labour London could be a place where every child has the opportunity and security to succeed, where our transport system is affordable and works, where we deal with London's housing crisis for all renters and those who want to buy, and provide a better quality of life for a growing city. 

Through working in our public services and as a grassroots Labour activist and councillor, I have fought tirelessly for Labour values and for the people who depend on us to stand up for them. It would be a privilege to do so for you on the London Assembly. 

 

Vice Chair Ash McGregor for City and East

Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The...

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Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase in the number of free hours for childcare, and agreeing that the principle of non-domiciled tax status is unfair, are all policies that Labour first campaigned on. Now that the Tories (and the right-wing press) are in agreement with our side of the argument on these issues, we should push them to move faster and harder.

However, we should not get away from the fact that the Tories have unfairly punished the poorest in our society. The Chancellor attempts to obfuscate the issue by declaring the increase in the minimum wage, the ‘living wage,’ but the increase is well short of the actual living wage. Currently the 2015 living wage in London is £9.15/h, with the Chancellor promising to increase the minimum wage to £9/h by 2020, still less than the actual living wage. Furthermore, the Living Wage takes into account tax credits, many of which have been abolished or sharply curtailed. No matter how you look at the issue, the increase in the minimum wage cannot replace the loss of tax credits.

While, the Chancellor is right to ensure that our welfare budget is spent appropriately, withdrawing tax credits from those in need, without anything to replace them with is to vindictively punish the poorest in our society. The Chancellor has put the cart before the horse, choosing to remove tax credits without solving the underlying issues that necessitates their need.

The reality is that the Chancellor has produced a policy for short-term political gain, rather than long-term economic benefit. He has done little to address the long term economic problems with the levels of productivity less than France and Germany. True, the apprenticeship levy will help encourage businesses to invest in their personnel and help develop higher value and more productive workers. However, the Chancellor has little to say about addressing critical infrastructure issues. A mention of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in the budget statement sounds little more than rhetoric after the cancelled plans to electrify the northern railway network. Labour’s election pledge to allow for capital spend borrowing, makes increasingly more sense as it would have allowed for proper investment in our country’s infrastructure.

Yet the biggest indictment of Osborne’s short termism, is an alarming attack on the under 25s. The move from maintenance grants to loans, the loss of housing benefit and the ‘living’ wage only applying to over 25s all serve to punish the youth and will in the long term harm our economy. Is it fair for the poorest in our society to be priced out of education, when education is the most important factor in social mobility?

While the budget may be garbed with some of Labour's progressive policies, we should not shy away from the fact that the Chancellor has punished the poorest and youngest in our society for short-term political gain. If he truly wants to deal with the number of tax credits being claimed, then he must address the underlying issues, not remove them and hope for the best. 

Alvin Shum is the Communications Officer for Chinese for Labour. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Budget Response

Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase...

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