In the second of our Election 2015 blog interviews, Pramod Subbaraman (Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh South) shares his views on race equality in the political world.
Pramod explains: "I was born and raised in Southern India and moved to the UK in 2005 at the age of 28. I moved at that time as I was invited by the Department of Health to help fill the shortage of dentists in the English NHS. It was not an easy ride as there were a lot of hurdles erected for immigrants from outside the EU and that did take its toll, but I jumped over those hurdles, occasionally knocking a few and had to start again in places. I started working in England and then moved to Scotland in 2013. I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and am now the candidate for the General Election to represent the people of Edinburgh South".
1. What inspired you to stand as an election candidate?
There is a major problem in politics, and that is the lack of diversity. We don't have enough women and ethnic minorities at Westminster. Politicians and the Electorate always seem to find reasons and excuses and keep on selecting and electing white men from political backgrounds and political jobs to parliament. It just does not make sense. Just as the most successful businesses are those that reflect the diversity of their target populations in their workforces and on their boards, so too should politics be! But it isn't and I am part of the solution to that problem. I would represent the large Visible minorities as well as present one face for diversity in my party which in parliament is the least diverse of parties. Unfortunately the liberal democrat parliamentary party in Westminster doesn't seem to have moved on in representation from the types of people they had in the Liberal Heyday in the 19th Century! I'm standing to change that.
We need more women, more ethnic minorities and more people from non political jobs and backgrounds in parliament and I would like to represent that change.
2. What do you think are the main issues facing minority ethnic communities in your constituency?
Many minorities in my constituency happen to be students from overseas. I from personal experience have met so many friends who have studied here and then had to return to their countries as they could not stay on and work. Would you take a diamond from a mine, shape it to brilliance and then return it to the mine? Does that even make sense? I would fight for a post study work Visa of 3 years duration. Sufficient time in which the students can get valuable experience and then decide where they'd like to settle. If they choose to settle in the UK, we should welcome with open arms a hard working taxpayer. If they return to their countries of origin or move on further they will leave with fond memories of us and may even further the cause of business and cultural ties between our country and theirs!
The restrictions on spouse visas: it is just inhuman to tell a British citizen or permanent resident that they cannot bring their overseas spouse to live with them in the UK just because they have limited means. I would fight to get the financial requirement removed from such cases. There is also a stringent language requirement which I agree with in principle, but I would like to see better language learning facilities provided by British embassies and councils in those countries from where a British citizen would like to bring their spouse.
It is a sad fact that cultural stereotyping and racial discrimination are still prevalent in our society. It can range from indifference through to an unfriendly stare through to verbal and physical abuse. I have myself been a victim of all of that at various times both in England and in Scotland. This can lead to barriers to various things including jobs. We need to address these issues better
Many minorities in my constituency run small businesses and they are all constricted by increasing regulation. Getting rid of some red tape would help
Our minorities do need more community centres in which to mingle and express themselves
3. After the election, what would MPs from your party do to improve race equality in the UK?
It would help if they had a minority MP elected first! As anything else will only be talk! I have told my party that they are good at talking the talk but they must also walk the walk. The litmus test for that is the election of an ethnic minority MP. I look forward to joining the benches as one of them.
In the UK we have anti discrimination laws, but we are not yet in a position to ensure equality! Anti-discrimination by itself does not bring about equality. If equality will not be embraced as a mission by society and by business then it may have to be legislated for.
4. Do you have any tips for people from minority ethnic backgrounds who would like to get into politics?
Join parties and stand for elections. There is strength in numbers. Career Politicians may not always get other figures right! But the one thing they do understand is numbers of votes! So do join, do engage, do represent your communities and do raise your expectations! A pale male smiling at you and shaking hands with you is no good if that handshake doesn't also extend to a step up for you on the political ladder. But you must be in it to win it. Get in and DO NOT COMPROMISE. Do not become a convenience of the establishment!
CRER is a non-party political organisation. We not promote any political party or candidate. Minority ethnic candidates from all major political parties in Scotland have been approached to participate in our Election 2015 blog interview feature, and responses are presented unedited in the candidate’s own words.