AS ONE of the closest general election races in British history inches closer to the May 7 finish line, representatives of the three main political parties last week sought to win over the hearts and minds of the country’s Caribbean community.
A panel comprising Conservative James Cleverly, Dawn Butler of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat Michael Bukola faced questions from the audience at Caribbean Question Time held in Westminster on Friday (March 27).
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, was invited to sit on the panel, chaired by Professor Kurt Barling, as a community representative.
Caribbean Question Time, sponsored by Jamaica National Building Society and GV Media, is an annual public forum to gauge the views of African Caribbean voters on the issues that most concern them.
Key themes that emerged were opposition to the crackdown on student visas as well as discrimination in the criminal justice system including stop and search, high black prison numbers and the challenges black law graduates face in becoming qualified solicitors or barristers.
There was consensus on a call to for black people to register to vote and exercise their democratic right.
Butler, the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PCC) for Brent Central, also encouraged the audience to go one further and actually join a political party to help make a difference.
Her call was echoed by Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, who expressed dismay that black voters did not “challenge our politicians enough”.
She added: “We don’t hold politicians to account enough…they do take black voters for granted so we have to make sure our voices are heard loudly in Westminster.”
In the audience was Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, who issued a rallying cry. “This is the tightest race in political history. General elections are a numbers game and we have numbers,” he urged.
All photos by Leon Hamilton