The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

May 11, 2010 at 3:33 PM Leave a comment

The recent General Election has been hailed as a historic political night for Black Britain with the election of a record breaking numbers of black candidates being elected to Parliament. The numbers increased from 14 black MP’s to 26 with 15 Labour and 11 Conservatives being elected to the House of Commons.

Whilst the increase in number is welcome we should be cautious about the idea that increasing black representation in the halls of power will automatically result in better representation in Parliament on the issues that affect the daily lives of black people, or that this will result in more attention being paid by the political elite to the personal and institutional racism that results in the impoverishment of our communities.
Progress cannot be measured in numbers, but also has to be measured by the political principles black MP’s not only espouse but act on. Unfortunately all too often in the past Black MP’s have assured their black constituents that they are committed to fight against racism while voting for legislation that has resulted in the introduction of measures that result in even more oppression of our communities by the state.

The reality of the British political system is that it is based on patronage and the House of Commons is no different. The price demanded for those with the ambition to play a role in government is that they hitch their political allegiance to the shirt tails of a key political figure. Hence those entering parliament face a dilemma. Do they vote with the Government in the hope that by climbing the political ladder they can one day hold ministerial office and make a difference or speak up for those that are exploited and oppressed and risk being cast as a political outsider. Although this is not an easy dilemma to solve it is worth remembering that if you cast aside your ideals to get to the top you cannot stand on them later and the idea radical change can come about though individual influence rather than from collective action of those that are oppressed does not stand historical scrutiny.

So whilst we have had a record number of black MP’s in Parliament we should remember that whilst this is a positive change it may not lead to a positive outcome unless we ensure that on matters of race we organise to pressure these MP’s act on behalf of the best interests of the black communities. As Angela Davis so succinctly put it “when the inclusion of black people into the machine of oppression is designed to make that machine work more efficiently, then it does not represent progress at all”.

The test for these MP’s will come almost immediately as all the mainstream political parties are arguing that in order for Britain to become lean and competitive, public debt must be cut and that public spending is out of control. This, despite the fact that the deficit is as a result of bailing the banking sector out during the recent financial crisis.

In a statement to this year’s Black Workers’ Conference the TUC Race Relations Committee highlighted their belief that the threatened cuts across public services will have a heavy impact on working communities with a disproportionate impact on already impoverished black communities which rely on high-quality and accessible public services to look after their families. Specialist services provided by the black voluntary sector are already under threat and it is likely that Black Community Groups face extinction as a result of cuts to grant funding.

For black trade unionists and our families, public sector cuts means lost jobs, depleted services, devastation of the black voluntary sector, fewer rights and a new era of hardship.

Black trade unionists and community activists will need to unite and organise to motivate then black community to resist these cuts and defend public services which our communities are so reliant on to alleviate the effects of the economic recession that we are now experiencing.

As for those new MP’s the proof of the pudding will be if they stand up with us to defend public services or instead abandon our interests in favour of seeking patronage from the parliamentary political machine.


Entry filed under: Politics.

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