With the three mainstream political parties reaching out to black voters promising to tackle racial inequality the question must be asked why BME voters have to vote the same political parties in every election? Is it not time for BME voters to seek real political change by voting for political parties which are not mainstream?
The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were all fighting for the black vote yesterday at an event organised by Operation Black Vote, (OBV) called Black Britain Decides, at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, central London where a black audience questioned the main party leaders on issues such as Stop and Search and the DNA database.
According to OBV black voters can decide the outcome of election results in 113 seats all over Britain.
OBV must be applauded for their work and commitment in getting BME communities to vote and influence politics in Britain, but there is also a danger that their campaign undermines the main reasons why BME communities do not vote in the first place; for the simple reason that the three mainstream political parties do not relate to their concerns.
An Electoral Commission report in 2005 said that there is a huge gap between the voting levels of Black and minority ethnic communities (BME) in comparison to whites. The report found that a significant number of BME communities feel that political parties did not stand for the changes they would like to see.
Some of the concerns among BME voters relates to employment and according to a Trades Union Congress (TUC) report on July 5 2005, it would take almost 50 years for the employment rate of black workers to be equal to those of the general white population.
In terms of living standards BME communities live in the worse conditions. According to a report by the former Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), titled “A lot done, a lot to do”, “Currently, 67% of people from ethnic minorities live in the 88 most deprived wards in England.” (September 2007)
In the criminal justice system racism is pervasive and damaging to the future of young black and Asian youths.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report titled, “Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System” (2006-2007), is the first inquiry into the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system since 1981.
The report found that, “Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people…Black people constitute 2.7% of the population aged 10–17, but represent 8.5% of all those arrested in England and Wales…Black people are just over six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people…”
There was also evidence that, “Once they have been charged with an offence, black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to white young offenders and black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to white defenders.”
Adding to this it was found that, “…young black people and young people of ‘mixed’ ethnicity, when sentenced, are more likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people. Whereas black young offenders accounted for 6% of total offences in 2004–05, they received 11.6% of total custodial sentences.”
In education three out of four black boys are failing to meet the average GCSE pass rates in Britain and a recent study found that teachers are systematically marking down black pupils because of racial stereotypes. (read Black pupils marked down by teachers according to report)
Adding to this Maurice Smith, the former chief inspector of schools and an official from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), decided that it was alright for teachers who belonged to far-right organisations to teach last month. (Read Racist teachers allowed to teach)
Last month Tory campaign leaflets in areas where they are fighting the BNP showed only the pictures of their white candidates, leading to allegations that non white candidates were deliberately removed and Labour have used the same racial tricks to win white votes. (Read Tories tarnished in racial ‘airbrushed’ pictures row)
The mainstream political parties just cannot be trusted when it comes to race relations and this explains part of the reason why BME communities are unlikely to vote.
There are also key issues within the Muslim community regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for example which the mainstream political parties will not address.
There are key issues within the African-Caribbean and African community in Britain regarding British foreign policy overseas which the mainstream parties will not address.
The fact is all the three parties have lied about immigration and have used immigration to win over the white electorate. (Read How immigration in the UK is linked to corrupt British foreign policy overseas)
Yet in the run-up to the General Election OBV have only focused on the three main political parties and this is disappointing because these are the parties that have led to this disillusionment in the first place; and there is another alternative for BME voters which has not been considered or promoted.
The Respect Party was formed in January 2004, following the invasion of Iraq when the Blair government at the time ignored millions of protesters who opposed the war.
The anti-war party has three councillors in Birmingham Sparkbrook Ward, three in Newham, Green Street West Ward and six councillors in Tower Hamlets, most notably George Galloway.
Respect is the only party which opposes wars overseas for British corporate greed a policy which would sit comfortably with many BME voters who are still aware of the damage British foreign policy is doing overseas.
Here is an opportunity for BME communities to vote a political party which does not stand for British imperialism abroad or race based politics at home. It is a chance for BME voters to participate in politics with a clear conscience that they are not selling out.
BME voters have a chance to vote for real change rather than much of the same.
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