Mike Freer this week leant their support to a landmark new report on tackling racism and discrimination in elections. The report, launched last Tuesday by Commons Speaker John Bercow was also praised by the Prime Minister.
In particular, the report accuses the UK equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission of a “dereliction of duty” over its lack of action to prevent discrimination during election campaigns. They are encouraged to begin to issue guidance for local authorities. The Electoral Commission are said in the report to see tackling discrimination as too much of a ‘tick-box’ exercise.
Political parties were also criticised for failing to deal with the "culture of silence" and ill-preparing candidates for campaigns. The report called for cross-party agreement on a system for reporting discrimination claims to be investigated by named officials to a set timetable with the findings published.
The report marks the first time that such matters have been analysed in a systemic way by parliamentarians. This is in the face of disturbing reports of misconduct which blight all parties.
Key Findings include:
· That cross-party agreement on framework for reporting discrimination during campaigns should be brokered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This should incorporate a public reporting portal, named official responsible for assessing cases, a clear timeframe for investigation and publication of adjudication or sanctions. This would be part of an increased leadership role for the EHRC.
· That the Cabinet Office should secure agreement between the political parties to a voluntary code of practice, for political advertising across all media. (At present election-time advertising is not regulated)
· That the police should enhance and improve; training, monitoring, deployment of specially trained officers, data collection and public communications about avenues to report electoral and racist crime.
· That Political Parties should address the significant gaps that exist in anti-discrimination training, improve welfare support networks and encourage candidates to break the culture of silence over victimhood.
· That regulation of non-party campaigners be introduced in relation to the ‘local rules’ for elections, subject to a ‘workability’ consultation by the Electoral Commission
The panel of 12 cross-party MPs and Peers took evidence in May and June from amongst others; former Minister Parmjit Dhanda and Michael Greaves, the General Secretary for UKIP. Over 50 pieces of written evidence were received from NGOs, Academics, Government Departments and all the parties represented in parliament except Respect. Mr. Dhanda recounted the shocking story of how his children found a severed pig’s head outside his house after his election defeat.