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The colour purple dominates as Ukip courts black vote

DOMINATION: Winston McKenzie of Ukip

AS ELECTION day draws ever nearer in May, Ukip is rapidly emerging as the keenest political party willing to dance attendance on the black community in its quest for the black vote.

The colour purple with a dash of yellow dominated an election hustings in West Bromwich organised by TickIT, a politically neutral voter registration campaign in the West Midlands, which is urging African Caribbeans to use their vote in six weeks time.

While the Conservatives and Lib Dems failed to respond to the invitation to speak at West Bromwich Town Hall, and two Labour MPs were busy in Parliament, Ukip was out in force with Peter Durnell, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Warley.

He was supported by a UKip entourage which included the flamboyant candidate for Croydon North, Jamaican-born Winston McKenzie.

When interviewed by hustings chairman Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, McKenzie won applause for saying he became involved in politics, latterly joining Ukip, because Labour had been taking the black vote for granted for too long.

The former amateur boxing champion, who recently lost his role as Ukip’s Commonwealth spokesman, said: “Black people cannot identify with anyone in politics today and that’s why we need more people like you have here in Desmond Jaddoo who is doing an amazing job in this region.

“I’ve been verbally abused, called an Uncle Tom, but I knew my agenda. I’ve helped people, housed people, got them jobs and that wouldn’t have happened under Labour.”

Ukip’s Durnell talked about his party’s pledges for the NHS and dropping university tuition fees for maths, medicine and science students, pledging that these young people would start out in life debt free.

While Rob Buckman, Green Party PPC for Warley called for a major shake-up in the Criminal Justice System, singling out prisons and the current police stop and search system. He said it was also crucial to reduce the stigma of mental health and remove the stigmatisation of worklessness.

Chester Morrison, a TickIT organiser, talked about a manifesto for 2015 launched by the black church’s National Church Leaders’ Forum (NCLF) which is encouraging all churches to actively engage in politics.

ELECTION: Hustings at West Bromwich Town Hall organised by TickIT

“Very often religion and politics does not mix,” said Chester. “But for us this is a very welcome approach. It is not just a collection of words and good intentions. There are some very good strategies in place. For every church congregation there should be an advocate for this manifesto.”

When questions went out to the floor people wanted to know what politicians would do about the disproportionate number of black boys excluded from school, along with the high number of black males in prison and the small number of black students at red brick universities.

When asked why there were no young people at the meeting, many said that politics needed to be taught in schools to in order to engage a new generation of ‘politically literate’ young people who felt part of the political system.

While Desmond Jaddoo said: “There is an inter-generational disaffection within the black community. If parents say they are not voting, how can you expect their children to go to the ballot box?

“Our community has been betrayed by the political establishment and until we realise that we will not move the agenda forward. I’m disappointed tonight that nothing has been said on how to engage our community into politics. Our contributions are not respected.”

Bentley Cunningham said he felt today’s politics lacked any ideology which failed to attract young people. He said: “We now just have ‘a mush’ which young people cannot decipher. All parties are the same, apart from the Scottish National Party which has young people out campaigning on the streets of Scotland and getting involved in elections.

“I remember politics at one time put people before street lights. Young or old, a person’s vote has to be in their own interest.”

Joan Blaney, CBE, who organised the hustings, said after the event: “People who have never been to anything like this before said they really enjoyed it and that is what it is all about – bringing the political process to the people and getting them engaged.”

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