Amjad Bashir is Conservative Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber.

Few people will shed tears when the UK delegation of Conservative MEPs is eventually disbanded.

On the day we demonstrate with actions as well as words that Brexit means Brexit, I shall collect my P45 and rejoice that my country has regained control of its destiny.

As a sitting MEP, I spent the referendum campaign as a very vocal turkey urging Britain to vote for Christmas.

Yet there is one important aspect, as I and my colleagues say our farewells, which I shall regret deeply.

When we stand down, our Party will be losing possibly its most diverse and representative group of elected politicians. There is a range of talents, cultures and experience there which I believe can continue to stand the Party in good stead as we strive to extend our reach. I hope it will not be wasted post-Brexit.

Among the 20 of us there are four brown faces, including three practising Muslims. Our number includes six women, three Roman Catholics and one openly gay man who is  Vice President of the Parliament’s  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Intergroup.

In age we range from our 30s to our 70s. As we sit together, no other delegation in the parliament so apparently reflects the society they represent as we do.

And contrary to what Nigel Farage asserts, we ALL had proper jobs before we went to Brussels.

We have former lawyers, former investment bankers, an academic, a geologist, an aerospace consultant, a former Army Brigadier, a jobbing journalist and a range of self-made business women and men, including me. We even have our own in-house psychiatrist.

If our MPs were as diverse we would would have 30 per cent women instead of 20 per cent, and 20 per cent Black and Minority Ethnic instead of less than five per cent. If the entirety of the party were as diverse we would be better off still.

This is not to say that we have a particular problem with women or with race – that would be the Labour Party. We can be hugely proud of our ability to harness talent from a broad range of backgrounds and for promoting women twice to the very top job.

What it does say is that we must do all we can to continue to broaden the appeal of our party, so that no corner of society should justifiably feel excluded from what we do, what we say or how we look. Mixed groups like our MEPs must become the rule rather than the exception.

That is why, while we have a strong new leader and Labour flounders, we need to consider how we ensure our party is one where more people can feel at home, to think about how we engage with those difficult demographics of both class and culture.

I see it as my mission to help our party reach out to sections of the community which may not, at first appearances, be natural Tories.

As my colleague Syed Kamall has said, this must include a refusal to recognise any electoral no-go areas, either socio-econimc or geographic.

We must engage with our communities day in day out, right through the electoral cycle. We will not progress as we should if we remain the people who turn up every five years, stick a blue leaflet through the door and run away before it is answered.

It is up to individual Conservatives to decide how best to do this – but it must involve being visible and getting stuck in with the projects and issues that concern people in areas where people don’t find life so easy. We have to become helpful and relevant before people will trust us with their vote or want to join our ranks.

I intend to do all I can to help the Party in that process, not only now but long after I hand in my European Parliament voting card.

25 comments for: Amjad Bashir: As a British MEP, I welcome our coming abolition. But don’t let our talents be wasted afterwards.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.