George Osborne – Operation Black Vote
It’s great to be here with Operation Black Vote today.
Let me be absolutely clear: prejudice is unacceptable, and it will not be tolerated by a Conservative government.
We want every child in Britain to have the best possible chance in life, irrespective of background or the colour of their skin.
There’s a powerful leadership role that political parties can, and should, play.
When David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives over four years ago, he put reversing the tragic under-representation of minorities in our party at the top of his to-do list.
I call it tragic because it we were denying ourselves so much talent.
But it was also tragic because it mean that many young black men and women looked at this party and thought: “they must have a problem with me”.
That’s why we’ve worked so hard to encourage more people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to step forward and get themselves selected as candidates to be members of Parliament.
And although there is still further to go, we’ve made real progress on that front.
Today, there are 43 Black and Asian Parliamentary candidates standing for the Conservative Party at the general election.
And if we win, with even a small majority, we’d have 15 Conservative MPs from minority ethnic backgrounds – that’s more than any party has today.
So I’m really proud that young black men and women in Britain can look at the Conservative Party – with Shaun Bailey in Hammersmith, Kwazi Kwarteng in Spelthorne and Helen Grant in Maidstone – and say, they made it to the top, and I can make it to the top too.
And I’m also proud that the same is true for young British Muslims, who can see Sayeeda Warsi, the first ever Muslim woman to sit in a Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, and can see Sajid Javid standing for us in Bromsgrove, Zahid Iqbal in Bradford West, Nadhim Zahawi in Stratford-on-Avon – and say yes, I am a Muslim, I’m British, and I can make it to the very top.
That’s real change. Positive change. And I’m proud of the part that the Conservative Party is playing.
But if we’re really going to make a difference, we need to go even further to empower people, and break down racial barriers.
Take enterprise, for example.
I passionately believe that one of the best ways to make something of yourself is to work for yourself.
My father started his own business from our kitchen table, and I’ve seen firsthand how he realised his dreams.
Unfortunately, too many people are denied this opportunity in Britain today.
This isn’t because of a lack of ambition.
Research shows that one-third of black people in England want to start their own business – compared to just one in ten white people.
Yet just four per cent of black people manage to start-up.
That’s lower than any other ethnic group.
According to one study, black entrepreneurs are four times more likely to be denied a loan outright than white entrepreneurs.
I think that’s scandalous – and we’ve got to do something about it.
That’s why a Conservative government will launch a national mentoring scheme for black would-be entrepreneurs.
So we can send a clear message to Britain’s black community: if you want to start your own business, we’ll give you the support and advice you need to access finance and work for yourself.
In opposition, the Conservative Party has been organising internships with the Social Mobility Foundation, so that bright people from poor backgrounds have been able to do work experience with our Shadow Cabinet.
In government, I want to us to continue this good work.
So I can today tell you that a Conservative government will partner with Operation Black Vote to arrange internships in every single Whitehall department for young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
This will open doors and tear down barriers at the highest level of government.
It will create new opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life.
And it will help make our government better, and our society fairer.
We should all be proud of the progress we’ve as a society made when it comes to tackling prejudice and overcoming racial barriers.
But we should equally be resolved to do more, and go further, in future.
It will not always be easy.
But I can make you this pledge: a Conservative government will bring new energy to the task of making Britain a fairer and more equal country.
We will use every lever of government to make a difference.
And we will give away power and build a Big Society so that everyone can play their role in promoting fairness.
Together, we can make a huge difference.
Together, we can make Britain a fairer country.