'USE YOUR VOICE AND VOTE': MPs Chris Grayling (second from right), Chuka Umunna (centre) and Ed Davey (second from left) with young people from the Patchwork Foundation's hustings
AN AUDIENCE of young black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people interrogated senior politicians and challenged them on why they should vote for their respective parties.
The Patchwork Foundation's General Election Question Time took place last night (April 13) at KPMG, in Canary Wharf, and was hosted by senior political reporter Johnn Pienaar.
Justice minister Chris Grayling represented the Conservative Party, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna fought for his Labour Party and Ed Davey advocated on behalf of the Liberal Democrats during the passionate debate.
The three MPs were eager to prove to why their parties would most benefit BAME communities.
But it became clear that the diverse audience would be a hard crowd to please, expressing a lack of trust they had developed after being "constantly let down" by Westminster.
In March, Labour released figures which revealed the number of ethnic minority youths out of work for more than a year had risen by nearly 50 per cent since the Tory-Lib Dem coalition came to power.
In his opening speech, Grayling rejected the idea that his Government had not done enough to address unemployment. He said: "We [the Conservatives] have got unemployment in this country below what it was in 2010."
Recent data from the National Office of Statistics shows unemployment fell by nearly 190,000 last year, but over 40,000 BAME people between 16 and 24 years had been unemployed for over 12 months.
The figures show unemployment has indeed decreased in Britain, but BAME people were still persistently more likely to be out of work.
Edward Badu, co-chair of Citizens UK in north London, told The Voice he wants to "see a change" in unemployment levels and opportunities for young BAME people.
"I want to see young people being helped more, we need to be believed in more as we are the next generation and we need to be invested in," he said. "I want a party that understand the issues I face back in Tottenham."
During the debate, Umunna said: "Labour will make sure that less BAME people are out of jobs for over a year. We plan to change this situation and no other party will."
Annalisa Mensah, also co-chair of Citizens UK, said: "Opportunity-wise, Labour's plans don't just benefit the BAME group, but they will benefit youths in general."
Davey however claimed the Lib Dems are eager to "tackle unemployment and poverty" of those from BAME backgrounds.
"Diversity is important, we are a stronger society when we are more diverse," he said. "We have launched a pupil premium policy which benefits the BAME community."
Lib Dem policy claims it will provide funding to children from disadvantaged backgrounds to allow them to reach their full potentials by removing financial barriers.
Grayling claimed the Conservatives were now taking diversity extremely seriously. "We are taking diversity far more seriously than we ever have done before," he admitted. "I hope we will breakthrough as it's something we desperately need to do."
Immigration is another "core issue" for members in the BAME community.
The levels of immigration has risen since Cameron came to power, despite his pledges to cut it.
"If it were not for immigration, Britain would not be a multicultural society," Umunna said.
Francis Parker-Allotey, founder of the Parker Peace Foundation told the Voice: "I'm rooting for Labour, they are immigration friendly and that's what BAME care about mostly. The Conservatives aren’t doing enough, but they are trying.”
According to Operation Black Vote (OBV) the Tories have the largest proportion of candidates from BAME backgrounds, which suggests a concerted effort to address representation.
However, Davey suggested that in order for youths to get more justice in society more of them need to vote. His call was echoed by other panel members.
In the 2010 general election only 44 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted, compared with 65 per cent of all ages.