Picture 1 Tariq Ahmad is Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Cities and Diversity and also a Director of Sucden Financial, a commodities trading firm in the City of London.

The last week has been an interesting one for politics in relation to the issues of diversity in representation hitting the headlines.

On Sunday at a special meeting convened by the BNP, the party announced that it had “changed” its constitution so as to allow members from ethnic minorities to join its ranks, indeed we hear its first "non white" member is waiting in the wings.

However, one does not need to delve too deeply into some obscure sub-text to discover the farcical nature of their announcement. The BNP had been under threat with a court injunction over its whites-only membership policy by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The party must now wait until March when the courts will decide if the new rules meet race relation laws.

Action though is judged by intent, and the Leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, was very obliging in clarifying any lingering doubts of real change. The only reason this change was affected, was merely because of, in his words, “legal reasons.”

However, in making this change the BNP have shown that they are seeking to not just retain their somewhat up to now (thankfully!) limited political representation, but broaden their appeal and acceptance. It is therefore essential that the BNP's true “raison d’être” and identity is not forgotten in light of this announcement. The fact remains that the BNP needs to ensure that it can function under the laws of our land.  No one expects or believes that there will be lines of potential members from Britain’s diverse ethnic communities queuing up to join.

The BNP are attempting to present themselves as a party which is responding to changing times. Although the site of The Times’ Journalist, Dominic Kennedy being bundled out of the meeting by the bullying minders of the BNP, demonstrates at best their lack of being media savvy, but more accurately the thuggery of their approach. Any change is superficial; the ugliness of their message and approach is very much alive and kicking.

Let us be clear, the BNP are and remain a party that wishes to divide Britain and Society on the basis of race and more recently religion. They have at their core a bigoted ideology. We cannot and must not let such ideology take root and it is our responsibility to ensure we counter their activities. Of course concerns exist, some are deep rooted. There is a growing fragmentation of communities occurring in our country and our cites reflect some of these divisions. In challenging economic times, social exclusion and a lack of opportunities in terms of employment and access to services become more acute. And of course there are genuine concerns over the debacle of our immigration controls and fear of growing extremism.

As a party, the Conservatives are alive to these challenges. What is required is that we articulate our policies to the British electorate effectively and consistently.

Our focus on social action as a key part of our core activities, demonstrates our seriousness towards addressing the inequalities we see gripping Britain. We also have a clear immigration policy which puts British interests first and also resonates with the diverse communities which make up our country today. Our defined and well reasoned polices on immigration go hand in hand with a firm line on extremist activities. Indeed, we should be clear that if any group or individual seeks to abuse the freedoms and liberties our country provides to propagate acts of violence against any other community – well they will be dealt with as criminals, firmly and decisively.

The Conservative Party is poised to be the next government and over the next 80 days or so we need to instill in the electorate faith in our polices and belief in what the party stands for.

Moreover, actions speak louder than words and despite media furore behind candidate selection in recent weeks; we have shown that the party is changing to reflect the face of Britain today. Whether it is the increase in our women candidates, or the notable success in the selection of ethnic minority candidates in both safe and winnable seats, the party has changed. Indeed the likelihood is that we will see at least 13 new Conservative MPs drawn from the ethnic communities of Britain. These are not tokenistic gestures, or changes necessitated by law. This is the Conservative Party of today. A party that is relevant to the concerns people have through both the policies we present and in the candidates we are selecting up and down the country. The Conservative Party is very much a party for all Britons.