Lockdown won’t stop our faiths from uniting

Original artilce published in Evening Standard on 24th April 2020

Last night marked the start of Ramadan and of course Covid-19 is having a significant impact on it. The pandemic has affected the way all faith communities engage with important rituals and celebrations. This year there have been no large gatherings for the opening of the fast. Instead, the iftars will be virtual. We are lucky to have contributions from the Prince of Wales, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi and Cabinet figures — join tonight at nazlegacy.org.

Over the last few weeks we have seen Christians unable to gather for Easter mass; Jews for the Passover Seder meal; and Hindus and Sikhs for Vaisakhi. But these circumstances have enabled faith communities to display their adaptability and creativity. Places of worship have been quick to respond to the pandemic by closing their premises and using technology to reach out to congregations. It has been excellent to see them continuing to provide key services for their communities, whether it is Hindu temples translating the Government’s briefings into Gujarati, or mosques in Bolton offering to convert their premises into temporary hospitals.

In difficult times, people rely on their faith more than ever. it is crucial that institutions of worship do not close their doors spiritually, and find innovative ways of honouring timeless traditions. We’ve already seen virtual Easter and Seders. Initiatives like these boost spirits and nourish them with strength to keep going, as the lockdown shows no signs of letting up. During Ramadan, Muslims face 30 days of exacting fasts without the daily gatherings to break fast and pray which are so crucial to creating a sense of togetherness and solidarity. Virtual interfaith iftars will help all communities unite in our shared struggles and celebrate what we have in common. We want to revive the Ramadan spirit of togetherness and empathy for one another, and not just for Muslims: this ethos is needed across our country in these challenging times.

Events like the virtual Ramadan iftar, create new possibilities for people to connect across boundaries

Our world is increasingly driven by technology. Figures show that in recent weeks, many people have actually been in touch with family more than ever, because of the convenience of apps such as Zoom. One lesson from lockdown is that the tech so often blamed for creating distance and division can bring us together. Through virtual religious celebrations, perhaps we are creating new possibilities for people to connect across boundaries, even after lockdown is over.

Charities need to adapt to survive the virus

Orginal article published in the Eastern Eye on 7th April 2020

The last few years have been volatile for the charity sector, with 2019 seeing a twenty seven per-cent increase in charity closures from 2018. Against this backdrop, the sector is now grappling with the implication of the Covid-19 outbreak. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), has predicted that the voluntary sector will face a £4.3 billion drop in its income over the next twelve weeks. Most charities do not have the savings or tangible assets to sustain these sorts of losses for more than a few weeks, meaning that many of them might be forced to close down. Could Covid-19 spell the end of the charity sector as we know it?

The third sector is of massive social and economic value to the nation, with nearly a million employees and £50 billion in total income.

Over the coming weeks and months, these charities will be providing crucial auxiliary support to help our infrastructure deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also important to remember that these charities are an important support system for the most disadvantaged in our communities. It was great to see the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announce bold measures to protect jobs over the coming weeks, and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden ensuring that these measures will apply to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the charity sector, whilst also offering charities support to coordinate volunteers, in aid of their response to the crisis.

Oliver has a track record of understanding the importance of the charity sector; he was the tutor for the first Patchwork Foundation Masterclass at Downing Street, where he inspired several disadvantaged young people to go on to work in Whitehall and even in his own Department of Culture.

Despite this, the NCVO, senior charity leaders and many MP’s have argued that without drastic sector-specific measures, such as an immediate cash injection, many charities will be forced to close.

Charities and communities operating in London are going to have their hands particularly full, given the higher prevalence of Covid-19 cases in London. With this in mind it was good to see that the City Bridge Trust have pledged over one million towards a new emergency support fund to support community and voluntary organisations in London.

The Government have acted decisively to relieve some of the burden on the charity sector in the coming weeks. Charities themselves will need to adapt to the circumstances, making more use of the online space. Many forward thinking charities have already started to make this adjustment well before the pandemic, in recognition that this is the most effective way to support our new generations, who spend more of their time online. A good example of this is the Princes Trust, who had introduced an online mentoring services for young people across their programmes.

Perhaps the challenges of the coming weeks and months, will force more charities to become fit for purpose for the realities of our current society. For those that do not adapt, this may indeed spell the end.

School closures affect Muslims more than most

Original artilce published in the Time Educational Supplement on 6th April 2020

The coronavirus crisis impacts BAME communities – and Muslims in particular – in unforeseen ways, writes Harris Bokhari

A little over two weeks ago, the government announced that schools should close to all, except for children who are vulnerable and those whose parents are key workers “critical to the Covid-19 response”. It was the right decision, bearing in mind the potential for schools to become hotbeds of Covid-19 transmission.

However, it is also important to consider the disproportionate impact this decision will have on black and minority ethnic families, and Muslims in particular.

BAME children are more likely to live in extended family structures, with their grandparents and other elderly relatives. These children are now more likely to be in sustained close proximity with these elderly relatives, who are at greatest risk of experiencing fatal symptoms due to Covid-19.

We have already seen the heightened risk facing the Muslim community in particular, with the suggestion that up to a third of Covid-19 deaths so far have been from within the Muslim community. No doubt, this is in large part influenced by the tightly knit family structures that tend to dominate in the BAME groups that predominantly constitute the Muslim community. 

Muslim families hit by coronavirus

One has to wonder about the impact of these death rates on the children themselves. With the month of Ramadan approaching, Muslim families will have been preparing for a time of greater community spirit, with adults and children gathering in the evenings in mosques to share food and prayer; enjoying the solidarity of fasting and eating together. Instead, they will have to contend with greater isolation at home, and potentially seeing their loved ones dying.

Due to restrictions on funeral rites, in place to prevent transmission of the virus, saying goodbye to loved ones will be bereft of the usual closure provided by the elaborate Islamic burial rituals. I fear that this will be fertile ground for mental health issues to take root. Given that mental health awareness is still a work in progress in some BAME communities, this is of particular concern.

The government’s latest lockdown measures are unquestionably the right decision, given their effectiveness in slowing the spread of the disease. Nonetheless, they will entail greater disruption for BAME children and families. For many BAME parents, extracurricular faith and community schools can also provide an important social, cultural and moral education for their children. 

These evening and weekend schools closing, although the right move, will increase burdens on parents and potentially bring more vulnerable elderly relatives into childcare roles. Not to mention that these schools form an important part of the routines of many children, giving them the opportunity to build their confidence and feel a part of community life. Losing this will be a further blow, again with potential implications for their mental health.

Economics will also play a role in exacerbating these issues. With some exceptions, BAME children are more likely to be eligible for free school meals. Many of these children are in effect dependent on their schools to receive adequate nutrition. A closure of schools will put BAME households under greater pressure to ensure that their children are well fed. These households are less likely to own a house or have any savings, and more likely to use food banks. This makes them extra vulnerable to shocks to their income, or increased pressure on food banks and other public services that they are reliant on. I was pleased, therefore, to see education secretary Gavin Williamson’s guarantee that children eligible for free school meals will continue to be provided for while their schools are closed – and into the Easter holidays. This will prevent many children from going hungry in the coming weeks and months.

The government has demonstrated a laudable awareness of how measures taken in response to the Covid-19 threat will impact the most vulnerable. During these challenging times, we must also ensure that we remain sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable children, many of whom come from BAME backgrounds.

Positive immigration is the key to the NHS’ success

Orginal artile publisehd in the Eastern Eye on 6th April 2020

Given the tragic news of the youngest victim of the Coronavirus to be buried as well as the fourth doctor on the front lines to lose his life this week, many from my community were acutely aware that the one thing they had in common was that they were both Muslim Londoners.

Over the last few decades, our NHS has been one of the greatest monuments to the success of immigration in this country. From all over the world, it has welcomed doctors, nurses, porters and cleaners, who have ensured that it remains one of the leading examples of healthcare provision around the world. Without these contributions from immigrants around the world, our NHS today would not be capable of mounting the incredible fightback against the virus, that it has done. It has also not been lost on me that the first four doctors to fall to this virus have all been immigrants, and Muslim, two of whom worked, lived and sadly died in London.

It is important to remember that Muslims make up 10 per cent of all doctors in the NHS, despite being only 5 per cent of the population. Muslims form part of a large contingent of BAME staff in the NHS, in London BAME staff represent 44 per cent of the entire workforce.

The incredible contribution of Muslim and BAME staff to the NHS, is also something we must continue to remember and celebrate.

Speaking to NHS staff on the frontline it is clear that a significant percentage of Covid patients in ICUs have also been Muslim.

Immigrant contributions to our society are far too often overlooked, and it would be an injustice to continue to do so, whilst they give up their lives to protect us and our loved ones. We owe these immigrant NHS workers, as we do to all NHS staff, an immense debt of gratitude. There is no doubt, that these are heroes, who will be remembered in years to come for their sacrifices for this country, in the same way that we remember those who sacrificed their lives for us in World War Two. Just as our war heroes are recognised with medals, we need to seriously consider recognising our NHS heroes in the same way.

What all of this drives home, is the immense importance of immigrant and BAME communities to our society. London in particular, is the great city she is today, thanks to immigrants and their contributions.

In the run up to, and after the Brexit vote, we saw a polarising public discourse on immigration. What the Corona crisis has reminded us – is that if we want our nation to continue to thrive, we must remain open to those seeking to build a better life for themselves and their families. If we need reminding about their value and loyalties, let’s not forget that they were fighting on the front-lines during the greatest crisis our country has seen in a generation.

At a time of crisis we turn to the Royal Family

Orginal artilce published in the Eastern Eye on 6th April 2020

From a young age, when my late father would let me stay up late, I would watch the BBC end its broadcast by the playing of the national anthem. But staying up late also meant he would make me stand up for it, no matter how tired, out of respect for the Queen.

My father, an immigrant from Pakistan grew up at a time when the monarchy was the bedrock of stability of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The stability the Queen provided from a her early years as monarch as the embodiment of the “Blitz spirit” that she took on during her undertaking of public duties during WW2, has been at the forefront of her subjects’ minds no matter what difficulties the country has faced since.

So her message “that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country” in her special address to the nation on Sunday was the message we needed to hear from our greatest pillar of strength in our country.

Having had the privilege of interacting with Her Majesty, I’ve seen first-hand how her caring nature isn’t just reserved for our television sets, but it transitions to real life gatherings, with her putting guests at ease and comfort through her humour for example.

But the resolve of service is not something unique in the Royal family. Despite testing positive from Coronavirus HRH Prince of Wales has been working tirelessly to use the numerous charities he supports to protect the most vulnerable in the country while also preforming his public duties by virtually opening the new Nightingale Hospital.

He has also spent decades championing causes which have may been unfashionable at the time but proven to be now some of the more important issues facing our country and the world. From this consistent championing of the saving the environment since the 1980s, supporting Northern cities like Burnley since the 1990s, founding Mosaic after the 7/7 London bombing to promoting Muslim role models and highlight the contributions made by Muslim communities across the county to more recently revolutionise not just the awareness of mental health in the Asian Subcontinent but its treatment through his British Asain Trust.

The same hope the Queen has in the years to come that everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, is the same hope I have that our current young and future generations will see the contribution our Royal Family play in our daily lives.

Their role has never been more important in our of crisis as well championing and raising some of the most pressing issues of our times. I am confident and that those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any other and we had a Monarch and Prince of Wales to match them.

Ramadan may be ‘cancelled’ but faiths will stay united

Original article published on 20th March in the Evening Standard https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/ramadan-may-be-cancelled-but-faiths-will-stay-united-a4393206.html

Since the first wave of Muslimimmigrants arrived in London, Friday prayers in mosques and the celebration of Ramadan and Eid have become a feature of life here. But with the Government confirming that places of worship should follow advice not to hold mass gatherings, could we see Ramadan being “cancelled” this year?

There are more than a million Muslims living and working in London. Every Friday lunchtime more than half attend prayers at their local mosque. Many mosques will not be hosting them this week for the first time in their history, and many have already advised elderly worshippers and those at risk to stay at home. The risk of coronavirus affecting Muslim communities severely is great as many Muslims live with elderly family members under one roof. The danger of young, healthy people attending prayers and bringing the virus home is too great to ignore.

In the past five years, faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Westminster and Imam Mohammed Mahmoud have joined Muslim communities in hosting their own interfaith youth iftars — the sunset breaking of the fast during Ramadan — venues including Lambeth Palace, Archbishop’s House, St John’s Wood Synagogue and, last year, at St Paul’s Cathedral. These events not only brought tens of thousands together, they worked to improve intercommunity relationships. This leadership by faith communities has been all the more important post-Brexit, when we have seen a rise in faith-hate crime, particularly directed towards Muslim women, and the rise of anti-Semitism. 

Interfaith iftars provide a unique way for people of all faiths and none to interact with Muslims and each other in a way that does not happen at any other time in the year. The loss of this moment of community spirit will be keenly felt by Muslims at a time when solidarity from other faith communities is sorely needed. Muslims will not be alone this year, however, with church services over Easter and Jewish Passover festivities being cancelled as well. This underlines the need for Muslims to do more to engage with other communities and their faith traditions throughout the year, much in the same way that Ramadan has been embraced by all Londoners.

And, once this global crisis is over, it is incumbent on all of us that we reconvene as faith communities. Gathering again, when it is safe to do so, to learn from and support each other after a period of time that will undoubtedly have seen many of us lose loved ones, and feel an overwhelming sense of isolation.

We are facing tough times ahead, but in the spirit of humanity and community we will rise to the challenge, and I am confident our faith leaders will pave the way to building a stronger and more connected London.

Distinguished Alumni Award: 2020 winner Harris Bokhari

Harris has a simple aim in life: to make the world a fairer and better place. He does this through his charities – the Patchwork Foundation and the Naz Legacy Foundation – as well as his work as an advisor to senior figures in the British government.

Harris leads what some might consider a double life. “There’s a running joke in my house that, when I leave in the morning, my family asks if I’m going for my paid work or non-paid work,” he says with a smile.

His paid work is as an accountant, which is how he supports his family and philanthropic work. However, he devotes far more of his time to voluntary projects, which have earned him numerous awards including an OBE.

The wide variety of projects he’s involved in means that, more often than not, the answer to his family’s question is that he’s going to one of his voluntary projects.

Since leaving Imperial, where he studied Mathematics, Harris has established two charities: the Patchwork Foundation and the Naz Legacy Foundation, which was set up in memory of his late father.

He is also involved in many other projects, including Mosaic, the Prince of Wales’ mentoring charity, and as a voluntary member of the Community, Voluntary and Local Services Honours Committee.

Learning to listen

Mentoring is a cornerstone of the work he does. “Mentoring is key to making society a fairer place, whether that’s to raise aspirations or share learning experiences. I think for young people nowadays, it’s also about listening to them,” he asserts.

For Harris, mentoring isn’t a one-way street: “I know as a mentor that you always learn a lot more from the person you are mentoring than they get from you.”

When he was studying for his BSc in Mathematics with Management at Imperial, he had a mentor of his own. “I was fortunate to find a PhD student who decided to take me under their wing,” he says.

“They not only helped me in regards to lectures and my coursework, but they also encouraged me to get involved in a range of student societies. I’m happy to say that, since graduating, we’ve remained good friends.”

Harris talks very fondly of his time studying at Imperial, and especially about the friendships and relationships he formed there.

“I’m very lucky that a lot of the close friends I made at Imperial are the closest friends that I still have today. Imperial gave me a great opportunity to meet interesting people from across the world,” he says.

In fact, it was one of Imperial’s international alumni who inspired Harris to apply to the university: Abdus Salam.

“My father was born in Pakistan. When I was growing up, he would tell me about the achievements of Abdus Salam, who became the first Pakistani to be awarded the Nobel Prize in the sciences. He’d talk about how he was globally recognised for his work in Mathematics at Imperial,” he explains.

A positive early influence

Harris’ father and mother have been hugely influential in the path he’s taken, particularly in terms of fostering interfaith links and providing support to underrepresented groups, even though he admits he didn’t always realise it growing up.

Naz Bokhari OBE, Harris’ late father, has a legacy of his own. He was the first Muslim and Asian head teacher of a secondary school in the UK. He was not only a leading figure in the British Muslim community, but also in many interfaith organisations.

“As far as my sister and I were concerned, our father was just a great dad. Sadly, we didn’t realise the impact he made until he passed away, when we suddenly received letters from the former and current prime minister and a lot of different faith leaders. It was only at that point that we realised the impact he had made on the country,” he says.

Harris’ childhood is filled with memories of people and places associated with different faiths.

His parents were always introducing him and his sister to people of different faiths, encouraging them to visit various places of worship and read about faiths other than their own, and taking them to help at charitable causes on the weekends. Often this voluntary work centred on deprived minority communities. This “brainwashing”, as Harris affectionately calls it, is the foundation for everything he’s done since.

While he was at Imperial, Harris says it felt natural to provide support to foreign students from Muslim countries and help them make the most of college life while being observant to their faith.

Helping young people find their voice

After graduating, his passion for helping and supporting others grew, and in 2011 he founded the Patchwork Foundation.

This charity has helped over 40,000 young people from communities that are typically underrepresented in UK politics, raising their aspirations and equipping them with vital life skills. But it all started with Harris’ experience as a mentor.

“I’ve been very fortunate to mentor young people from underrepresented communities, and a lot of them felt locked out of the democratic process and society as a whole,” he explains. It was this realisation that led to Patchwork, which started with five young people who Harris had mentored through other organisations like the Prince’s Trust.

Many of the young people who have come through Patchwork – known as ‘Patchworkers’ – now have jobs in the civil service, working everywhere from Downing Street to City Hall, as well as at some of the leading firms in the UK.

When asked what he’s most proud of, Harris doesn’t hesitate: “Definitely the young people I’ve worked with, especially the ones who have had the greatest personal struggles.”

“When I see them turn around not only their lives, but also their families’ lives, and see them giving back to the same vulnerable young people they used to be two or three years ago, it motivates me. I’m proud of them, what they’ve taught me and what they’re still teaching me.”

Making an impact

Through his charity work, Harris has fostered interfaith links between communities across the UK. He has also had the opportunity to work with many MPs and permanent secretaries, as well as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Over the years, he has provided advice that, in some cases, has helped to shape government policy.

“Having a positive influence on policy and the actions of leaders through my charity work always motivates me and pushes me to want to do more,” he says. “But I think more importantly, it encourages the young people around you to see that they can make a difference.”

This isn’t without its challenges though. “I think the problem is that we live in a society where people demand instant results, so the hardest thing is to explain that positive things will happen, but you’ve got to be patient,” he adds.

One example of this is Harris’ work with the Community, Voluntary and Local Services Honours Committee. He’s been an independent member since 2017 and has been actively working to encourage better representation on the Honours list.

“The Honours system is a great way to recognise people who deserve recognition for their voluntary and charitable work, but we need to encourage better representation. We have to explain to the public that it’s an open process and that we need more people from underrepresented communities to be nominated if we’re going to see better representation in the future,” he explains.

Harris also takes great pride in seeing the impact that his Patchwork graduates are having on the country. “A lot of these young people are now either designing or implementing policy as civil servants, enriching the biggest firms in the City, or volunteering to support the most vulnerable people in their local communities,” he says with pride.

Growing the family

Family is a thread that runs strongly through Harris’ life. “I was very privileged to have two great parents. But you only realise how great your parents are when you meet young people who don’t have great parents or even any parents at all. We have the ethos within Patchwork and the Naz Legacy Foundation that we’re a family,” he says.

Harris reveals that there are Patchworkers in almost every government department, who provide support to those coming through a few years behind them. “This family, this network, continues beyond the programme,” he states.

It’s this idea that things will continue to improve without him that helps motivate him: “I’m very keen to make sure that, in all the charitable endeavours and voluntary work I’m involved in, when I leave the system is better and there are better people in place to take it further and improve it.”

Harris wants to spend more time with his family and always wants to make sure that the projects he engages with are sustainable and transferable. “I believe in being surplus to requirements,” he explains.

Harris Bokhari graduated from Imperial with a BSc in Mathematics with Management in 1999. He was a winner of the Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2020.

Diversity activist gets alumni award

Original article published on 6th February 2020 in the Eastern Eye: https://www.easterneye.biz/diversity-activist-gets-alumni-award/

DIVERSITY activist Harris Bokhari OBE has won the inaugural Imperial College Distinguished Alumni award, it was announced last week.

Bokhari, founder and trustee at the Patchwork Foundation, received the award from Imperial College London.

The award is given to alumni of the institute who have demonstrated “sustained and outstanding personal and professional achievements or contributions in their field(s) over a number of years”.

The campaigner has been recognised for his “relentless commitment” to working with young people, raising their aspirations and achievements through organisations such as the Naz Legacy Foundation.

Bokhari said: “Imperial College has produced a great many notable alumni over the years, which makes me even more honoured to have received this award. My upbringing and my education gave me a set of values that has defined who I have become today, and I hope to pass those values on to the next generation.”

Honours show how migrant communities make Britain thrive

Article originally published on 2nd February 2020 in the Eastern Eye: https://www.easterneye.biz/honours-show-how-migrant-communities-make-britain-thrive/

Last month’s general election not only saw the most diverse parliament ever elected but also gave the Government the mandate to reform the immigration system for the first time in decades.

Despite this New Year’s honours list seeing another drop in the number of people from ethnic minorities awarded it does include many migrants to London who have made a transformative and positive contribution to our country.

Floella Benjamin, for instance, newly made a dame, is one of the most recognised BAME faces on television. But what isn’t as well known about her, is her immense charitable work over the last 40 years, including running ten consecutive London marathons for Barnrado’s. Her damehood is also symbolic on a deeper level; after the Windrush scandal and her recent chairing of The Windrush Commemoration Committee, the importance of recognising the great contributions made by members of the Windrush generation with the highest possible national honour is significant.

The role of positive immigration to the City has also been recognised with the awarding of a CBE to Saker Nusseibeh. Born in Palestine, Saker came to London in the sixties. Since his appointment as the CEO of Hermes in 2011 he turned the investment firm round from a loss of £26m, to a profit of £29m. But the values he brought from his historic family lineage has shown other city firms that you can drive up profits in a responsible way delivering on holistic returns for savers while enabling a positive environment and societal impact. This has been in stark contrast to the industry as a whole.

The number of inspirational young people on the honours list can be summarised by the awarding of a MBE to Mete Coban aged 27. Born in Northern Cyprus he came to London with his family at the age of two. From being of one the youngest elected London councillors, to a key strategist in engaging young people in Sadiq Khan’s successful London Mayoral campaign, Mete went on to found My Life My Say, a charity which has engaged tens of thousands of young people in the political process across the whole of Europe.

These immigrant heroes have not just improved the lives of migrant communities in London but added richness to the fabric of our country, as we can only be seen as a healthy society when we lift up all of our most under-represented communities.

The honours system has more to do to represent our society as a whole. But, by highlighting the positive contribution immigration has made to our country we may be able highlight the need for a progressive immigration system in a post Brexit Britain.

Floella, Saker and Mete’s sincerity and commitment to improve society in the fields of arts, charity, economy and in our democracy, is an inspiration for us all. If you are inspired by their actions, as well as by many of our other diverse migrant communities, help make the honours system more representative and nominate someone today at http://www.gov.uk/honours

To gain trust of minorities, parties must look to policy

Article originally published on 29th November 2019 in the Evening Standard

Anyone from a Jewish or Muslim background will be finding this election very difficult. With both Labour and the Conservatives mired in racism crises, it is clear that more needs to be done to win back the trust of both these communities, as well as the trust of other black and ethnic minority groups across the country — and a start to this is to have a Parliament that reflects the society we live in.

Within the Tory Party it is well known that more needs to be done to engage with minority communities. During his time as party chairman, Lord Feldman was seen at nearly every BAME dinner there was. He was not only aiming to pick up support, but, in his own words, “increasing his waist size” along the way.  

Despite great strides, the steps forward turned into steps back under Theresa May’s leadership, resulting in diverse communities punishing the Tories at the polling stations in the 2017 election.

In his first act as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson appointed the most diverse Cabinet in British political history, to match the most diverse Parliament that has ever been elected. 

True to his commitment to make the Conservative Party reflect modern Britain, Johnson, with the support of party chairman James Cleverly, is fielding a record 74 BAME prospective parliamentary candidates — a 68 per cent increase from 2017. 

More importantly, out of these, three candidates from immigrant working-class backgrounds will be competing in “safe seats”.

The last general election saw Labour end up the party with the most BAME MPs — 12 per cent of their intake. They are looking to increase this again: 42 per cent of their last round of candidates selected since the party’s conference have been from BAME backgrounds.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are fielding a record 54 BAME candidates, with at least one competing in a “safe seat”.

These are welcome commitments, but they are nowhere near enough. Whatever changes the parties are making in Parliament, outside Westminster  minorities are feeling more and more excluded from party politics.

Parties will not gain the trust of these voters just by boosting the diversity of their membership and MPs, but by devising truly reformist policies and making a serious pledge  to root out any and all forms of discrimination within their own ranks. All parties are having to grapple with these issues, and all, therefore, have a chance to show leadership with sincere and direct action.

The question is: will Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, if either is elected prime minister on December 12, continue to bring about positive change in our politics — change that can help bring our communities together — following the most diverse list of candidates ever assembled, by implementing a reforming policy agenda to match?