Voice4Change England: A view on the 2015 General Election

After a gruelling political campaign the election is almost upon us. Voice4Change England encourages its members, and Black and Minority Ethnic people more widely, to exercise the right to vote. The electoral system has its’ flaws but, whatever the outcome of Thursday’s vote, the lives of Black and Minority Ethnic people will be affected.
For our part, in keeping with a deep commitment to a civil society and democracy that works for everyone, Voice4Change England has been active in a number of non-partisan election-related activities. We have interviewed Black and Minority Ethnic parliamentary candidates from across the political spectrum to ask election hopefuls how they plan to address issues that are important to members.
Gulnar Hasnain standing for the Green Party in Vauxhall rejected what she considers the politics of identity in favour of ‘the issues’. Uma Kumaran, Labour candidate for Harrow, argued for tougher laws against discrimination and, like Hasnain, expressed a desire to address the needs of all her potential constituents. The UKIP candidate in Luton South, Yasin Rehman, is far from the image of white stereotypical UKIP activists but does share the party’s anti-EU stance and concerns with what has become known as ‘Muslim radicalisation’. The Conservative Party’s candidate for West Ham, Festus Akinbusoye, is an entrepreneur and community activist who prefers to focus on dignity and respect for all rather than issues of ‘race equality’ – though he does admit to concerns about the tone of the immigration debate.[1]
These interviews reveal that there is no one type of Black and Minority Ethnic politics or politician and that there are no guarantees that issues of ‘race equality’ will take centre stage in campaigning. For this reason Voice4Change England has been actively contributing to the Coalition of Race Equality Organisations (CORE) Manifesto, ‘Racial Justice Matters’.
The CORE Manifesto calls for the next government to work with Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community organisations and contains eight specific ‘asks’ of the next government to deliver racial justice in areas such as health, education, immigration and employment. The Manifesto also calls on government to signal its seriousness about racial justice by developing a race equality strategy and placing responsibility for its delivery with a Cabinet-level minister.
Finally, for Voice4Change England and Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community organisations, activism is not just for elections. The period after the election is critical. Voice4Change England will be seeking meetings with new government ministers and key MPs taking to them the message that in the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Race Relations Act we need decisive action on racial justice and investment in Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community organisations to build a society that works for everyone.
[1] An interview was also carried out with a Liberal Democrat candidate. However, that article has not been published because the individual is no longer standing for election.