In Britain today, too many people are denied the chance to escape poverty and build a better life for themselves and their family. Sadly, this is especially true for people in Britain’s black community. Black pupils are permanently excluded from school at more than twice the rate of white pupils. Some 9,500 black children leave primary school every year unable to read, write and add up properly. And of the 3,000 students who started at Oxford in 2008, only five are black Caribbean in origin. This inequality extends to the job market too, with recent research showing almost half of young black people are unemployed, well over twice the rate for young white people.
What’s going wrong? To a large extent, Labour’s failure to address racial inequality echoes their failure to tackle inequality generally. Since 1997, income inequality, education inequality and health inequality have all widened, hitting the black community disproportionately hard.
A new Conservative government must do better. I want to take down the barriers that prevent so many black people realising their potential. In part, we’ll do this through our core reform agenda. By tackling the causes of poverty, like poor schooling, family breakdown, addiction and welfare dependency, we can succeed where Labour has failed.
But we won’t just rely on across-the-board measures to boost social mobility. We’ll introduce concerted action to overcome the racial barriers that exist in Britain today. One of the most obvious is when it comes to starting a business: Conservatives have always believed that enterprise is a powerful catalyst for social mobility. However, too many black people in Britain today are being denied the opportunity to start their own business and get on in life.
This is not because of a lack of aspiration. Research has shown that almost a third of black people in England want to start their own business, compared with just 9% of the white population. However, only 4% of black people do manage to launch a startup – a level lower than any other ethnic group.
Accessing finance and advice are the key challenges for would-be black entrepreneurs. According to one study, black entrepreneurs are four times more likely to be denied a bank loan outright than white entrepreneurs, while the UK Survey of Small and Medium Enterprises shows that as many as a quarter of black entrepreneurs report problems in accessing finance.
A Conservative government will help tackle these barriers by turning Labour’s failing welfare schemes into a radical plan to get Britain working. This will include funding for a national mentoring programme for black people who want to start a business. It will provide would-be black entrepreneurs with the targeted support, advice – and, crucially, role models – they need to access finance and work for themselves.
I’ve always believed that role models are incredibly important. You only have to look at how children copy their parents to see how big an impact role models can have. That’s why I’ve worked so hard to get more black and ethnic minority Conservative party candidates.
But increasing the diversity of our parliamentary candidates is not just about getting our house in order. It too is also about role models. We’ve selected successful black entrepreneurs – people like Sam Gyimah, Wilfred Emmanuel Jones and Helen Grant – as our candidates: not in Labour-held inner city seats, but in Surrey, Wiltshire and Kent. They’ll help inspire a new generation of black people to take on the world.
So a Conservative government will tackle the racial barriers in Labour’s Britain. We’ll bring new energy to the task of building a country where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, irrespective of the colour of their skin.
David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party and member of parliament for Witney.