Thursday, February 11, 2010

Discussing community cohesion in Norfolk

Tonight I was pleased to be on a panel discussion the issues of race, community cohesion, immigration and minority rights at a public meeting in Norwich. Also on the panel was a Labour MP, LibDem MP, a Community Activist and a Green Councillor.

What amazed me is the amount of agreement there was on the key issues of diversity in Norfolk and especially the role of the police. We also discussed educational attainment and how to get minority groups involved in politics. There was a great appreciation of the work that David Cameron has done in broadening the appeal of the Conservatives too.

There were some dividing lines - over the issue of targets for ethnic minority recruitment (I was the dissenting voice arguing that targets create tokenism) and also about the wearing of burkhas and hijab in which Charles Clarke was strongly taken to town for his views that some circumstances - like the court and the classroom - were not suitable places for people to hide their faces. There was a great feeling he has misjudged why people wear these; not to hide at all but as a sign of their beliefs.

It was fun and lively, so thanks to the Runnymede Trust for organising it. The audience was heavily political - 3 LibDem City Councillors, the Leader of Broadland Council, a couple of Tory activists, 2 Green City Councillors, some Tory County Councillors amongst the guests. Why not come along and compare the candidates next time - and make the audience "more diverse" between politicians and the public!

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