By Simon Woolley
Operation Black Vote
FOR OVER 20 years people have been telling me that voting doesn’t make a difference. I’m often told that, “if voting could make a difference they’d ban it”.
It’s a clever, smug, supposedly an anti-authoritarian response, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Even with an electoral system that could easily be brought into the 21st century, with automatic voter registration, digital and proportional voting, the system still allows for great upsets on a local and national scale.
For example, the last two elections have either had no overall winner, hence the 2010 coalition government, or the Conservative Party’s David Cameron’s victory in 2015 was won with a mere majority of 12, out of 650 parliamentary seats.
The present prime minister Theresa May, has called an election precisely because she has concluded that going into Brexit negotiations with the slimmest of majorities leaves her incredibly vulnerable, not least from her own party Brexit detractors.
The black vote becomes increasingly powerful once we fully realise that many parliamentary seats are won and lost by a few hundred or a few thousand votes – most parliamentary constituencies have an electoral of more than 50,000.
In 2015, the seats highlighted were won or lost by a few hundred votes, all of these areas have significant BME populations, and could have swayed which the vote went: Derby North (41 votes), City of Chester (93 votes), Croydon Central (165), Ealing Central and Acton (274), Bury North (378), Halifax (428), and Brentford and Isleworth (465).
Another way of looking at the potential power of the BME vote is through the Brexit lens. Whether you voted to leave or stay, and most BME communities voted to stay, the vote was won more 1.2 million votes. Sounds a lot until you realise that 13 million people didn’t vote . Many young men and women particularly from BME communities didn’t vote, and there vote might have changed history.
So the question is now, in the six weeks running up to the General Elections, will we fully realise the power of the BME vote? If we do, then we can force political parties and therefore the next government to ensure any Brexit negociations do not disproportionately impact negatively on BME communities.
For example, some of the EU employment rights, such as holidays, working hours and maternity leave have the biggest impact on poorer people, to which we make up large numbers. These things affect us and therefore we should act.
If we do act, by registering to vote and voting we can effectively demand that any incoming government undertake a comprehensive race equality strategy. For example, one that will close the grossly unequal unemployment gaps, which not only affect all young BME individuals but also BME graduates too.
Other areas include housing, health, and middle or top business management, all of which are subject to race penalties.
In so many ways this has been an extremely turbulent year: Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as US president and the unprecedented rise of xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Worse still, it’s not over yet. Even if the Brexit discussions go better than expected, the road ahead will be a very bumpy ride.
If they go badly it could be an economic disaster .
And if we do fall again into recession as we did almost a decade ago, austerity and more austerity will be not only be blamed on immigrants and BME communities but also we’ll be hardest when local and national policies austerity policies are rolled out.
Our goal in this democratic discussion must be first and foremost to demonstrate our political power and a clear frame work for greater racial justice.
If first step must be register to vote in huge numbers and show political parties we’ll be a big political player.
Interestingly, the BME vote doesn’t need to be overtly party political, but we do have demonstrate that we will vote and that we have a set of demands.
This approach will ensure that voting will make a difference. And what a fantastic difference it will make.: More BME MPs, councillors, our young men and women in work, and not with those zero hour contracts.
More BME business leaders inspiration a generation to follow. When we vote and demand, our civil rights voices actually give a frame work of decency and values to which all society benefits.
I hope more than ever our communities fully realise the power of our collective BME vote.