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Together We Made History

Kwame Kwei Armah leading Black Britain Decides

A watershed in British politics occurred last night at Westminster Central Hall. Two Shadow Chancellors – George Osborne from the Conservatives and Vince Cable from the Liberal Democrats, along with Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman gave an unprecedented pitch to convince Black Britain why their party’s would best serve Black communities. The event received video addresses from Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg and Leader of the Conservatives David Cameron.

Harriet Harman presented her parties record on race that included elevating a record number of Black and Minority Ethnic politicians to Ministerial level, including the first African Caribbean and Asian cabinet members. She spoke passionately about the contribution of the late Bernie Grant MP, and how he challenged the establishment by entering the House in African dress. She felt proud about her parties commitment to fighting racism and particularly confronting the BNP. In closing Harman reminded the audience that the Equality Act, which she had driven through, would be a legacy that would fast forward greater race equality.

George Osborne, found himself faced with a hostile audience, before he had even spoken a word. ‘This is even more lively than the House of Commons!’, he stated. But slowly and surely he won over his audience with an unequivocal acknowledgment that race inequality had not nearly been eradicated and that his Government, if elected, would do the work and spend the necessary money to achieve their goals.

He also announced a substantial initiative in partnership with OBV to roll out a ground-breaking internship programme for BME individuals in every Government department.

Vince Cable was last to speak from the party heavyweights, but didn’t disappoint. Speaking with great humility he acknowledged that the party had dragged its feet in regards to tackling its lack of BME Westminster politicians. ‘Your Director Simon Woolley hauled us over the coals over this issue, which was very uncomfortable listening. But he was right, and as a result I am personally taking responsibility for delivering, a more inclusive party. He went on to recount his own moving story about being married to an Asian woman and the racism they all endured both within their own families and on the street. ‘Thankfully, things have moved on from those days’, he said, ‘but the fight is not nearly over’.

Other speakers including Bishop Wayne Malcolm, Entrepreneurs Ken Olisa, and Terry Jarvis, Black Student officer Bellavia Ribeiro, OBV Chair Rita Patel, Saqeb Mueen from the MCB, the Green party’s Jenny Jones AM, Bishop David Shosanya, Bishop Shola and local magistrate Anita Prem JP. The event was brilliantly hosted by actor and playwright Kwame Kwei Armah and the welcome was given by organisers, Simon Woolley and Pastor Nims Ubungo.

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7 Responses

  1. After attending the Operation Black vote event last night at Westminster Cathedral, i have a few observations of the representatives sent by each political party.

    Harriet Harman – She opened her pitch by exclaiming ‘hello brothers and sisters’ which seemed peculiar and immediately set people off into laughter. I’ve not had any direct experience of her, but she came across as utterly useless. She was obviously under prepared and not well briefed. She spent most of her speech repeating the same things, in a rather incoherent rabble. It was a terrible speech. The most worrying thing about her speech was that she’s been the Minister for Equality for a couple of years now, and yet she utterly failed to weave a coherent and sophisticated narrative about race relations in the UK in 2010. I was shocked at the intellectual vacuity of her speech. She was heckled at times, not only because of her failure to properly defend the Governments DNA database position, but as a response to being disrespectful and under prepared for an audience of 2000 people. Shame on Harriet Harman!! I was intrigued to hear the ideas of someone who has been touted as a future labour leader, but i realise now that her game is in backroom deals, belligerence and being part of an inner circle. She was terribly unimpressive. As a labour voter, i would never vote for a Harman leadership.

    George Osborne – He had a pretty difficult task. He walked to the stage to a torrent of boos, reflecting the inactivity and sometimes obstructive positions of previous (and some would argue current) conservative members and policies. There were some strained moments where he spoke about staying at the same hotel Martin Luther King was shot at, and then recounted the disadvantage black and asian people had suffered since the 50s (most people wanted to know about what they will do). However, he was obviously better briefed than Harman and was able to entwine conservative polices and ideas around business growth, the idea of family and safer communities to concerns that effect black and asian Britons. Although he was intermittently heckled throughout, he was very impressive. He did well in a difficult environment and came across as pretty likeable.

    Vince Cable – He is obviously very confident in his own skin, and it showed. He spoke of taking personal responsibility for improving the Lib Dems dire diversity record in parliament. But for me, there were two things that stood out from his speech. He was able to intricately weave core liberal democrat values to reducing inequality for the most disadvantaged. Many audience members were concerned about DNA databases, stop and search, human rights abuses, and he spoke eloquently about how they were civil liberties issues, arguing they were at the core of what Lib Dems stood for. The audience were lively and regularly heckled and shouted at the speakers. But when Cable started to speak about his own background, his white supremacist father, going to Kenya in the 60s, falling in love with an Indian woman, the pain this caused his family resulting in his father not talking to him for many years, but followed by reconciliation many years after, and his belief that a diverse country is what is wonderful about the UK, the crowd was a absolutely silent and i even saw a couple of people cry. It was obviously very emotional for him too as his wife has died. He is a top man, charming, elegant and seemingly utterly himself and not racked by self doubt or self policing himself. I might not vote Lib Dem at the election, but i he is an extremely impressive man.

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  5. Five years from now, I am really looking forward to seeing what improvements will be made after this historic occasion. If another generation has to endure what I have had to put up with under this very heartless and incredibly racist Labour government, I promise to draw the attention of all to 28 April 2010; and how another British government has failed its citizens because of the colour of their skin.

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