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OBV's election bus rolls into Birmingham

ON A MISSION: Paul Hensby, OBV commercial director; Maxie Hayles, OBV Birmingham co-ordinator; Cindy Asokan, OBV volunteer; Ashok Viswanathan, OBV deputy director; Desmond Jaddoo, of Birmingham Empowerment Forum get ready to meet voters in Birmingham

OPERATION Black Vote’s dazzling orange ‘pimped out’ eXpress bus rolled into Birmingham to spread the word on election education and to make sure BME communities use their vote in next month’s General Election.

OBV’s single decker has a single mission before May 7 – to get a million people registered and ready for the ballot box to vote for the would-be politician of their choice.

But time is tight as the deadline for registering to vote runs out on April 20, which is why the OBV team is stepping up a gear in its whistle-stop tour of the UK.

Team OBV is upbeat, as deputy director Ashok Viswanathan said: “We’re not being party political – we just want BME communities to vote and get their voices heard.

“The OBV bus team realises there is a lot of cynicism and alienation when it comes to politics, but we are hoping that the turnout for the bus registration campaign will be high.

“This campaign is about reclaiming democracy and making sure that all the political parties have a clear plan on how they will tackle race inequality, particularly in employment, education and the criminal justice system.”

The OBV battle bus has 12 laptops inside which are open on the Government’s voting registration website. So far, after each stop in different cities across the UK around 1,000 unregistered BME voters have been contacted by OBV staff and volunteers.

Maxie Hayles is the Birmingham co-ordinator for the OBV bus, which stopped outside the city’s African Caribbean Millennium Centre before going to Handsworth Library, Newtown shopping centre and Birmingham’s China Town.

“There is a lot of disillusionment among the BME community because they don’t trust politicians,” Hayles told The Voice. “Voting is a democratic right – it doesn’t matter who people vote for, it’s vital that their exercise their democratic right through the ballot box.”

Community activist Desmond Jaddoo, who is the founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, said: “Everyone has a voice, but if people don’t use it, they will not be heard.

“It’s important that we have reflective governance locally and nationally that reflects the demographic make-up of the city. The needs of the BME community must be placed on the political agenda.

“People from our community don’t vote because they feel why should they engage in a system that doesn’t offer them anything. There is an inter-generational disaffection where grandparents, parents and their children are not registered to vote and they’re proud of that. This attitude has to change.”

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