Posts Tagged ‘operation black vote’

This government will mess you up – especially if you’re black

11/01/2011, 01:00:18 PM

by Clive Lewis

History will probably look back on 2011 as the year “austerity Britain” kicked in. The year the Tory-Lib Dem cuts really began to bite. Central and local government have now had enough time to analyse their budgets. And decide where the axe will fall.

It’s not going to be pretty.

Here in Norfolk, the sheer depth and severity of the county council’s proposed cuts has been staggering. Just one example is youth services, which is expecting to be dismantled in its entirety.

Nearby authorities like Norwich, Harlow, Corby, Great Yarmouth, Breckland and Fenland have been hit hardest with the maximum cut of 9%. All across the country it is a similar story.

But of all the communities left reeling from these cuts, I fear it is the black community that is going to get it hardest of all. Here’s why:

According to the most recent figures of the annual population survey (Oct 2008–Sept 2009) 42.2% of black people in Britain work in public administration, education and health. We are talking about nurses, doctors, teachers, tube workers, civil servants and cleaners. That compares to only 29.5% of white people who work in those sectors.

You can see where I’m going with this.

By slashing public spending and public sector jobs, this Tory-Lib Dem government will be disproportionately hurting black people and their families.

The state is not perfect. But compared to much of the private sector, it pays better and has better equality of opportunity. It is a social driver and its growth over the past 13 years has been a good thing for many groups, including our own.

Take educational maintenance allowances (EMAs). We all know the depressing statistics of underachievement amongst some black students. In the past, school leavers from low-income families faced a stark choice: sign on or take a low paid job. EMA gave them an alternative: study.

This Tory-Lib Dem government has just taken that choice away by abolishing EMAs.

Figures for 2008 show that 43% of all 17-18 year-old full-time students received EMAs. But for black students the figure was around 65%.

Do the maths: more black teenagers and their families are losing out than any other group.

The realty is that we are living in a country governed by the most ideologically and economically repressive right-wingers my generation has ever seen. I understand that black people are not politically homogenous, that we won’t all agree on that statement. Just look at the make-up of Parliament and the (admittedly small) distribution of black people sat opposite one another in the chamber. At one level, this is to be welcomed. It is, after all, what operation black vote (OBV) is about, multi-spectrum political representation.

But I have to ask myself how some of those MPs can sit on the government benches and still look their communities in the eye. To piously sit there, and tell us these catastrophic public-spending cuts are a “necessary evil” and that “we’re all in this together” is, quite frankly, an insult.

The more you look at it, the more you realise that the Tory-Lib Dem government should have come with a health warning on it: “This government will seriously mess you up, especially if you’re black”.

Clive Lewis is an army officer who spent 2009 serving in Afghanistan and 2010 shadowing Ed Miliband as part of operation black vote.

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