The founder and director of a national organisation aimed at inspiring people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to engage in public institutions has renewed a call for people to vote in today’s (December 12) general election.
Simon Woolley, now Lord Woolley of Woodford, the director and founder of Operation Black Vote (OBV), urged black Britons to put aside a long held cynicism and distrust of politicians and claimed that it was now more important than ever to express their views in the ballot box.
Lord Woolley told The Voice: “After 25 years of trying to persuade our communities to register to vote through OBV, the job today is not getting easier. In fact, in a Brexit divided Britain, with racism and certain inequalities such as police Stop and Search’ on the increase, the work has got harder. But the truth is this is not just my challenge, it’s our challenge.
Today we must engage with those who are cynical about political engagement, and tell them we are acting in a way in which those who do not have our interest at heart want us to behave: That we lock ourselves out of the only political power game in town.”
OBV, established in 1996, aims to address what it describes as the ‘Black British and ethnic minority democratic deficit.’
It focuses on issues such as voter registration, lobbying politicians and mentoring schemes.
An OBV analysis of the results of the last general election revealed a list of 50 seats where the number of BAME votes significantly exceeds the majority in the previous election.
These seats are spread all over the country, in rural as well as in major cities.
Among their number are 25 constituencies held by the Conservatives, 20 held by Labour, 3 by the Liberal Democrats and 2 held by Plaid Cymru where BAME voters can decide who takes the seat.
Woolley said: “Before anyone says our numbers are too small to wield power, I would remind them that this government and previous governments have won on the thinnest of margins. Either no parliamentary majority of very little.
“The power of the black vote- non white vote- could easily decide 100 seats. Roughly translated, if we so decide, we can have real skin in the political game, which gives us the clout to make our demands.”
He added: “In a democratic society political power is ultimately about the number of votes you can muster. Our system of ‘first past the post’ means you can win power with a handful of votes, or by just one vote. The same applies for the fight to lead the country.
Who becomes prime minister can be decided by having one more parliamentary seat than a rival.
That’s the simple mathematics, but it’s the power game around those numbers that can literally save lives, or open up meaningful opportunities such as better education, housing, employment and racial equality.”
Writing on the OBV website, Ade Sawyerr, a management consultant at Equinox Consulting, which works on a range of employment and community development issues, echoed Wolley’s comments.
He said: “We must be engaged in order to help shape policy, we must register to vote, we must read the manifestos of each party and we must vote for the party whose policies resonate with us. This is not about Brexit, a divorce after 40 years of cohabiting with Europe. This is about the rest of our lives and our children’s lives and the lives of our grandchildren and our descendants yet unborn. Please vote with your head and your heart.”