Black Parliamentary Unity Key to Progress

Why A Black Caucus May Be The Most Significant Thing Right Now

By Thomas L Blair 12 July 2017 ©

Patrick Vernon OBE,
Patrick Vernon OBE

“Job’s not done”, said Patrick Vernon prominent Labour Party Black activist. “30 years on from the historic election of four black MPs, we have no call to feel smug about diversity in parliament”. And the Hackney councillor’s view rings true.

As the Black political future improves, the prospects of a gathering for unity brightens.  Yet, we know that the quest for unity has a problematic history.

Bernie Grant and his associates — Paul Boateng, Dianne Abbott and Keith Vaz — celebrated their victories and race equality views in the august halls of Parliament. They connected with political and academic followers in districts with large Black, Asian and minority ethnic people. However, they failed and disbanded after three years of internal strife.

Fifteen years later the intrepid Guardian reporter, Gary Younge, picked up the torch and said “Liberals won’t like it, conservatives will loathe it, but it’s time for black MPs to form their own caucus”. However, the struggling 12 Black and Asian out of 659 members had no appetite for this in 2002.

Now, the prospects for a coalition have increased after the 2017 elections. Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central has resurrected the “big-idea: a Parliamentary Black Caucus in the Commons and the Lords.

Organise and define a Mission Statement.

The post-election period is the best time  to announce new and difficult things. The first task is obvious. The caucus should be a gathering of individuals who come together to work for a shared objective – generally political in nature. They will need to create a formal structure to talk with each other, share common views and shape policy. They must guard against the race hatred and xenophobia that threaten to engulf political processes.  Moreover, members must make their privileged status work for the common good.

Declare a Mandate Against, Prejudice, Humiliation and Exclusion.

Race-based gaps are a feature of life in every part of Britain and its institutions. Black women MPs suffer more online abuse than whites.  Dianne Abbott, a 30-year veteran,  has received thousands of “mindless” death threats and racist and sexist rants.

Furthermore, British Caribbean entrepreneur Gina Miller who challenged the government’s Brexit plans was targeted by a noble Lord. He offered a bounty of “£5,000 for the first person to “accidentally” run over this bloody troublesome first generation immigrant.”

There is no doubt, the new Black parliamentarians must lead the fight against the internet lynchers and “tweeters of abuse”.

The Caucus must be transformative.

It’s when we turn to the next task that creative engagement becomes crucial. The coalition must connect with communities, build alliances, gain in strength, and lay the track for others to follow and meet the aspirations of people. Their responsibility is to address the inequalities and injustice that bar progress. This marks the shift from self-interest to mutual aid for aspiring, awakened Black people.

Address the overwhelming need for unity.

A unified caucus is essential. The new political generation will surely increase in number. In Gary Younge’s view, “We need it because while race does not determine their politics, it does inform them. They need to meet, not so they can agree but so they can discuss and disagree, force issues on to the agenda that would otherwise be ignored and help to mould policies that would otherwise be imposed. Together, they could add a black dimension to general issues and a general dimension to black issues”.

This double consciousness is arguably more important than almost everything else.  It heralds a paradigm shift in outdated statecraft. Black parliamentarians must be  protectors and praise-singers. Thus, the unity of the post- GE 2017  generation will increase their relevance to Black Britain and influence the course of democracy.

This ends the GE 2017 series dissecting the issues surrounding the snap general election.

Read more in the May-June articles in the Chronicleworld.