CONSERVATIVE CABINET: The faces who hold Black Britain’s future in their hands
WITH THE assembling of the first wholly Conservative cabinet in 18 years, a result no pundit, pollster or person predicted, Britain is facing five years of a pro-austerity government with David Cameron at the helm.
The questions now are the implications for black communities and whether the party will deliver on its pre-election pledges.
Speaking in the same building where Cameron unveiled his 20/20 vision for Black Britain a week earlier, Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell told The Voice that he was committed to ensuring the PM delivered on his promise.
“There’s a lot more that we still need to do and Cameron’s speech was an example of that,” he said. “Words are fine and easy but it’s doing it and making a reality of it that matters.”
Barwell, who held his seat with a wafer-thin majority of 165 votes, described the next five years as a ‘test’. “You have people who voted one way and nearly as many who voted another, so I think that it’s really important in your attitude towards the job that you try to be the MP for the whole area and accept that not everyone voted Conservative,” he said.
“The same principle applies to the black electorate – Cameron is our prime minister, whether you voted for him or not.”
Acknowledging that voters from black and minority ethnic communities are traditionally less likely to vote Conservative, Barwell added: “We need to turn that around…I believe we’re a one-nation party, a party for people from all backgrounds who share a set of values.”
Conservative activist and social entrepreneur, Samuel Kasumu, welcomed the surprise result, describing it as “a sign of the maturity of the British public”.
Kasumu, who once warned the party of the risks of failing to engage with the BAME community in his 2012 publication Winning the Race, said: “When it came to the policies that directly impacted the BAME community we were not as strong as we should have been in 2010. This time the PM launched a clear manifesto for the BAME community. I fully expect us to do whatever we can to make that possible.”
BACKING BLACK: Gavin Barwell
The 27-year-old also hinted that much could be expected of the party. “In the coming weeks and months you’re going to see a number of new things that ensure we maintain engagement with communities that traditionally don’t vote Tory,” said Kasumu.
The 20/20 vision formed Cameron’s election pledge to the black community and promised to deliver measurable representation and increased visibility of black Britons in public office, including within the party itself.
Left-wing political activist Adam Elliot-Cooper said: “I think that these proposed solutions are to put black Conservative faces in high places. What that means, however, for the majority of black people who do not benefit from such policies, is that things will continue to go on as they are.”
Such an approach, Cooper warned, would only produce an illusion of progress. He said: “Instead of white people cussing public services that black people are disproportionality employed by and rely on, it will be black people doing it, creating an illusion of racial justice when in fact it will be a continuation of the racial injustice.”
Lee Jasper, a long-standing race relations activist, added: “Democracy is a process, not an event. So for those thinking, ‘well, I cast my vote, we lost, there’s nothing else I can do’, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Jasper echoed the reservations of most non-Conservative supporters, saying that a Tory agenda would have a disproportionate impact on black and ethnic minority communities with the greatest risk being to anti-discrimination legislation should the party abolish the Human Rights Act.
PEOPLE POWER: Kenny Imafidon
“There needs to be a clarion call for black organisations and faith groups to come together to talk about how they can ensure that the future generation of black Britain don’t suffer the kind of ignominy and discrimination that was faced by ourselves or our parents,” said Jasper. “I think the main lesson that communities are going to have to learn as a consequence of this election is that our rights, if not fought for, protected, will be taken away.”
Britain’s top black student Kenny Imafidon shared Jasper’s faith in people power. The award-winning author said: “The biggest changes come from people not politicians.”
Imafidon also highlighted that Cameron’s slim majority meant there was space for a fierce opposition within parliament.
Looking forward, the youth activist added: “All we can do is put Cameron to the test and see if he shows that compassionate Conservatism that he talks about. For me, I would expect that to be looking after the most vulnerable in society.
“The Conservatives will be defined by the cuts that they make, the laws that they pass and what they choose to invest in.”