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OBV left 'high and dry'

CHALLENGES: Simon Woolley said OBV would survive despite losing a third of its staff

THE 'HOME of black politics' in Britain has become the latest victim of cutthroat public spending cuts throwing the organisation into a nine-month battle for survival.

Operation Black Vote (OBV) has lost a third of its staff including deputy director and co-founder Ashok Viswanathan and its head of communications Winsome Grace Cornish, a former Voice editor.

Its 15th anniversary has now been overshadowed by the funding blow that has left it “threadbare”, said Simon Woolley OBV’s director.

He said: “At a time when we should be celebrating, we have are losing the valuable staff that has helped make our organisation what it is.

“But let me be clear, OBV is not going anywhere. If there is anything we can say about black people is that we are survivors. We have enough to keep us going for the next nine months and we are working to secure funding to ensure we carry on.”

From a small organisation, the non-partisan organisation has built a reputation for increasing black and minority ethnic (BME) participation in political life through initiatives like its MP shadowing scheme.

It actively encourages and helps mobilise Britain’s black community to use their vote and challenge legislation or institutions to improve their standing in society.

Most recently it helped lobby confectionary giant Cadbury into issuing an apology to Naomi Campbell after it compared the supermodel to a chocolate bar in one of its adverts.

Woolley said: “Naomi actually said to that we were like the British equivalent of the NAACP. She said: ‘You’re all we [ethnic minorities] have got. When we call for help, you are there.”

He added: “It is at times like this that if people value the work we do, that they make that public. We can only exist if people support us.”

Activist Lee Jasper said: “Operation Black Vote received an endorsement from none other than PM David Cameron who praised it for being exactly the sort of organisation that the Government would support.

“Now what we have found is that OBV has been left high and dry by the coalition Government. It has betrayed us and done nothing but pay lip service to the black community.”

When OBV was founded there was just five black and minority ethnic MPs. At the last general election there was 27 across all parties.

The organisation has helped get 70 black and minority ethnic magistrates working in the British judicial system.

Earlier this year, the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) was at risk of closure after its funding was pulled.

But the black community rallied round helping the charity – who aims to increase the number of black and mixed-race organ and bone donors – to raise in excess of £80,000 to keep it afloat.

Founder Beverly De-Gale, who set up the trust in memory of her son, was later awarded an OBE from the Queen.

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