David Cameron’s pledge to increase the number of ethnic minorities in Britain’s top jobs is an “ambition” against which he is happy to be judged, the prime minister has said.
Should the Conservatives be voted into power next month, the party would work to increase opportunities for Britain’s black and Asian communities so they were better represented in the police, defence and judiciary, Cameron told Eastern Eye.
In an interview at the Conservative party offices in central London on Monday (27), he explained details of his ambitious goal titled Vision 2020, aimed at the UK’s black and minority ethnic communities.
“I would like Britain to be the world’s most successful multi-racial democracy,” where talent drives achievements and success, not one’s background, ethnicity or religious beliefs, Cameron said.
“It happens in business and politics, we need to make sure it happens in the media, judiciary military, police. That should be the ambition,” he added.
“In some parts of the country you see that already. In politics, in one or two generations, they (minority community) are at the highest level in the land.”
Britain should be accessible to the talent of our people “irrespective of the colour of your skin or the god you worship or the community you come from”, Cameron said.
He was speaking after the launch of his party’s proposals for Britain’s minorities over the next five years, if the Tories win next Thursday’s (7) election.
At a campaign event in south London last Saturday, he said Britain will be an “opportunity country” under his party, with promises of more jobs, university places, apprenticeships, loans for entrepreneurs and better representation in the police and armed forces for minorities.
“I know that one day, we’re going to be the party of the first black or Asian prime minister,” Cameron added.
By 2020, the Conservative party has promised to also deliver:
• A 20 per cent increase in the number of BME workers in employment, or an additional 660,000 people in work
• A 20 per cent increase in the proportion of apprenticeships undertaken by BME – with 300,000 new BME apprenticeships started by 2020
• A 20 per cent increase in the number of BME students going to university – equivalent to over 18,000 more a year
• 20,000 Start-Up Loans for BME entrepreneurs
• 20 per cent of new police officer recruits to be from a minority ethnic background, and in the armed forces at least 10 per cent – and on the way to 20 per cent.
• 20 per cent of new Conservative Parliamentary Candidates in retirement seats to be from a BME background
Asked how he would achieve his “ambitious but realistic aspirations”, in particular with regards to recruiting more police officers from an ethnic minority background, Cameron said quotas were not the solution. Rather he believed in “setting an ambition and having a plan to meet it”.
“In the Metropolitan police, there is a good plan in place, recruitment is going up, but we need to do more,” Cameron said, highlighting the success of a new organisation, Police Now, a leadership programme whose aim is to push for increased recruitment from minority communities.
“I think the pace is picking up, and the Met commissioner knows it needs to go faster,” he added.
Currently, 8.3 per cent of new police recruits are from the minority communities, while among officers, that figure is 5.2 per cent – below the 14 per cent of the general population.
Cameron said: “We will also look to increase new armed forces recruits to at least 10 per cent and on the way to 20 per cent BME by 2020.
He told EE: “It’s no good saying we’re open to talent, you have got to get out there and headhunt the talent.
“It’s about role models – you need to see more British-Asian police officers in the streets. The more there are, the more people will think, ‘yes I can see that as a career. It’s not about a quota, but an ambition against which I’m happy to be judged,” Cameron told EE.
According to him, stop and searches by the Met – which have a disproportionately higher rate among black and Asian communities – have fallen by 43 per cent.
“This power is now beginning to be targeted much more effectively. And as (home secretary) Theresa May has made clear: if this progress does not continue, we will go further and we will change the law,” Cameron said.
In his opinion, while there have been instances of migrants succeeding in politics and business, there was work to be done in attracting top talent from ethnic minorities in the police, army and judiciary.
Cameron said: “The judiciary is the most difficult because everyone has to be appointed on merit and experience, so you are reliant on how many people are going into the bar and into the law in order to produce the pipeline of future judges.”
In the military, recruitment is rising, but much more needs to be done, Cameron conceded.
With just a week before the closely fought general election, leaders of all parties have been trying to attract ethnic minority voters who could hold the key to the outcome in several marginal constituencies across the country.
At last Saturday’s event in Croydon, Cameron said the Tory “mission is to make sure that as our economy recovers, people from every community share in that prosperity. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we all want the same thing – a good job, a great education, the chance to get on, the chance to make it.
“A truly successful multi-racial democracy isn’t just about living together; it’s about thriving together,” he said.
Britain was a “shining example of a country where multiple identities just work…. where you can support Man United, the Windies, and Team GB – all at the same time,” Cameron said.
Later, he told EE that the Tebbit Test was outdated and that the UK was a country where “you could have multiple identities – you can have a connection to your country of origin and have a connection to Britain as well”.
“We’ve always been good at that,” Cameron said.
While he acknowledged the contributions of immigrant communities, Cameron believed there was no contradiction in saying the UK must have a controlled and fair immigration policy.
“I think many British-Asian and ethnic minority communities support that. They want to know that our immigration policy is properly organised.
“The idea that ethnic minority communities don’t support action against illegal immigrants is wrong.
“I think you can celebrate both, migrants’ amazing contribution and also have a controlled immigration policy,” the leader of the Conservatives said.
Under the Tory Vision 2020 proposals are pledges that 20 per cent of party candidates in retirement seats at the next general election will be from a BME background, should the party win next week. This time around, the Conservatives are fielding the highest number of BME candidates ever in its history – it has 56 BME candidates in England and Wales.
In his speech to party activists, Cameron said “I’m not saying we’ve solved every problem or tackled every prejudice – we haven’t”.
He told EE he hoped to fix the gender pay gap, but that there were no “simple answer” to resolving it.
The father of three said: “I want my daughters to have every opportunity my son has. I don’t want them to be treated in a different way.
“The gender pay gap for under-40s has almost disappeared. In some places it has gone into reverse, but we need to eradicate for over-40s.
“There’s no simple answer to that. It is dependent on decisions about childcare, maternity and career choices we need to fix for the future.
“I want to get to a situation where there is no gender pay gap at all.”