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Kate Osamor: We need to learn lessons of unity from the past

INTERVIEW: Kate Osamor

IN THE month that marks the 25th anniversary that four black MPs were elected into parliament, the daughter of Martha Osamor, the Labour parliamentary candidate who should have been the fifth Member of Parliament, speaks out.
Haringey councillor Osamor, a Broadwater Farm estate community leader in Tottenham, north London, was selected by the local Vauxhall party in Brixton, south London for a by-election in 1989, only to be controversially removed by national leaders Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley, sparking a race row.  
Here, Kate Osamor, who is standing for the ruling Labour National Executive Committee, speaks exclusively to Juliana Lucas.
What influence did the election of the four MPs have on you?
The influence it had on me was primarily because my mother was in Black Sections as its Vice-Chair.  I was around when they were discussing and fighting on their issues and trying to get their voice heard within the Labour party so I was aware that there were a lot of discrimination within the party and I felt that this was a great step forward, recognising black members of the Labour party and showing that there is diversity within.
Is your mum still involved in the party?
She is still a member of the party but she is not involved in the same capacity as she is a lot older now. She never left the party because she feels that it was the only place she can be politically.

The Broadwater Farm Riots - London - 1985

What change did the election make to politics?
I was a child at the time but I saw the hardship that my mum went through. I did not fall into it quickly I mean I am in my forties now and I joined in 2009. For me I was groomed without even realising it. I watched and I learned so I was mindful that there was a dark side to it if you see what I mean. The election of Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz encouraged more ordinary people to know that they themselves can take up political office as well.
How can the black community build on this achievement?
According to what I heard black sections was asking for 40 black Mps and got 4 Mps. We need to unite together. The reason why the black sections were successful was because they were all united together in their fight for equality.
What can the Labour party do to build on this great achievement?
 I think the Labour party needs to connect with the community a lot more. They need to connect with ordinary people a lot more especially because in poor areas, the Labour vote is very high and we saw that in the recent Greater London Authority elections and I think they are taking for granted. I think the black vote is taken for granted and we have got a lot of people in our community that will only vote for Labour but they (local government) are decentralised from the central government so I think there is a great way of Labour saying that we recognise our voters and the majority live in this areas and they vote for us so we need to connect with them and find out what are their issues.
They can nurture grassroots leaders, people that are working tirelessly in the community for little or sometimes no money. It is about identifying champions in the communities and working with community groups. Also maybe bringing money in, having a financial incentive. If you are part of the Labour party maybe they can open a youth club or something in their name where local people can benefit and be educated and through that it will have a knock on effect and it will have more leaders that.
It will come out of that so it is like a movement that is on the ground where the Labour party is organising and potentially getting new leaders or just educating their voters so they know the importance of that.

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