Headlines: May 20th, 2008

A task force has been set up to try to persuade more women from ethnic minority backgrounds to become involved in grassroots politics and to stand as local councillors. The new group has been established by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Harriet Harman.

In a written statement to the House of Commons she said the taskforce would also work to identify and tackle barriers within political parties. Her announcement comes after a report from the director of Operation Black Vote, Simon Woolley, highlighted the extent of under-representation among ethnic minority women.

In the statement, Ms Harman said, “Black, Asian and minority ethnic women account for less than one per cent of England’s 20,000 women councillors. To be more representative of society as a whole, the number of black, Asian and ethnic minority women councillors needs to be increased more than five-fold, from 168 of all councillors in England to nearer a thousand.”

She accepted, however, that the problem was more marked in Westminster where just under 20 per cent of MPs were women but only two were from minority ethnic communities. “There has never been an Asian woman MP,” Ms Harman said.

The new taskforce will be chaired by the Labour peer, Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green. The membership will include include black and ethnic minority women councillors and former councillors from England, Scotland and Wales.