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Phillip Lee: Introducing the CFOB

Commissioner_lee_and_mainDr Phillip Lee, a candidate and Project Director of the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh, describes the activities of the organisation.

The Conservative Friends of Bangladesh (CFOB) was established at last year’s Conservative Party Conference. At a well-attended launch event organised by Anne Main MP, the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP welcomed the creation of the group and supported its aims to both build better relationships with the Bangladeshi people here in the United Kingdom, and foster a greater understanding about the country of Bangladesh.

There are over half a million British Bangladeshis. Traditionally, Labour has been the political party of choice within the community. CFOB immediately recognised this and set about challenging that attitude. Bangladeshis are entrepreneurial, hard-working and family-oriented people and hence we believed that they should instinctively feel at home in the Conservative Party. Our growing membership since the launch is evidence that we were right. Up and down the country there are ‘key marginal’ constituencies where significant Bangladeshi communities live. CFOB has worked hard to make contacts and listen to the concerns of those communities.

One example was the widespread concern about climate change. Bangladesh has more to fear from global warming and consequent rising sea levels than most. Some estimates suggest that over 15% of the country will be engulfed by the Bay of Bengal by the turn of the next century. That would see a forced migration of some 17 million people. We have found that the Conservative Party’s recent emphasis on developing policies that would limit Man’s contribution to that potential natural disaster has been very much welcomed by the Bangladeshi community. By actively listening to such concerns, CFOB has not only successfully spread our fresh political message to Bangladeshi communities that have not previously considered voting Conservative, it has also helped to improve broader community relations at a time when the tolerant British society that we all cherish is under pressure from Islamic extremists. Interestingly, throughout the last year feedback from the Bangladeshis we have contacted has all been very positive.

CFOB has also been keen to encourage a stable and prosperous Bangladesh. It actively supports the principle of secular democracy enshrined within the Bangladeshi Constitution drawn up in 1971. Furthermore, it retains an independent voice in Bangladeshi affairs, as it has no affiliation with any Bangladeshi parties. Evidence of this active support by the CFOB for Bangladeshi democracy was demonstrated at the beginning of this year by a group trip to Bangladesh headed by our Chairman, Anne Main MP. It had been arranged to assess the political situation which had then become very unsettled. CFOB believes that an orderly and violence-free general election held at the earliest opportunity would be in the best interests of all Bangladeshis. For Bangladesh to continue enjoying the economic growth it has seen over the last 15 years, it desperately needs the relative political stability it had experienced until the recent unrest began. Since its inception, CFOB has provided much support to all interested parties in Bangladesh, and has plans to further strengthen ties with the country. Meetings have been held with leaders of all the major political parties and a further group trip to the country is planned for later this year.

In just our first year, CFOB has increased its membership base within British Bangladeshi communities, actively supported Parliamentary candidates throughout the country and forged strong links with Bangladesh. We have every intention of making our second year just as successful for we believe that the Conservative Party has plenty to offer the British Bangladeshi Community.


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