Imagine waking up to that! The newscaster’s voice on the morning radio cuts through your drowsy wakings and forces you sit up in bed. This is the kind of headline that you can’t ignore.
So you listen for more details.
“In an announcement today the Electoral Commission has decided to remove the right to vote from the millions of British citizens who are of Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent. The decision follows a long-term decline in voting by these ethnic groups that makes their continued involvement in the democratic process unjustified. This voting ban will come into effect on the 1st of April 2005 and will not be reviewed again until 2020. And now over to Tony with the sport”
There would be an outcry, letters to MPs, cases taken to the European Court of Human Rights, protest marches, riots even. The heads of the Commission for Racial Equality, Operation Black Vote and countless other groups would be on the TV, the radio and in the press denouncing the move, calling it “British apartheid”. There would be dissenting voices from all political parties and from people of all colours. Civil rights leaders from The USA, South Africa and elsewhere would descend on the UK to lend their support to those opposed to the move.
Ultimately the weight of opposition both within the UK and from overseas would prevail and the whole sorry idea would be scrapped, but the divisions that it had caused would take decades to repair.
All this is the stuff of nightmares and I am pleased to say that I cannot imagine the UK even coming close to this dystopia. But what cannot be ignored is that the level of voter turnout amongst “Black Britain” is the lowest of any other group in the UK and this worries me deeply. When voter numbers fall it plays into the hands of extremists, they are rewarded not so much by the passion of their supporters but by the apathy of those that oppose them.
The Electoral Commission far from taking the vote away from anyone is trying desperately hard to encourage people to use their vote; their new advertising campaign (If you don’t do politics, there’s not much you do do) is hoping to show people the importance of politics in their everyday lives.
I got involved in politics because I believe it is important, I caught myself using the phrase “someone ought to” once too often and decided that rather than relying on this phantom “someone” I ought to do it myself. And that is the point. You can go grey sitting and waiting for “someone” to set the world right, you can shout and point from the sidelines and have a heated debate with the TV but ultimately nothing will change. The only way to make a change is to get involved, as Eldridge Cleaver said, “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem”.
If you believe that there is no point voting because voting doesn’t change anything, I would recommend that you look to the recent general election result in Spain. The victory by the opposition part has brought about a complete change in policy over their involvement in the military operations in Iraq. I personally feel that their move is sending out a disturbing message to terrorists, but that does not alter the fact that the people of Spain spoke and the Spanish troops will be pulled out of Iraq.
I chose the Conservative party as my vehicle for involvement and I have found a warm welcome, I don’t intend to use this article as a party political platform so I won’t go into the policy reasons for doing so. I hope that you will be satisfied by me saying that if you look beyond the negative hype surrounding politics you will find that there are genuine political options for everyone. The Conservative party have in return invested a fair amount of time and effort in me and I have been selected to fight for Lewisham East in South East London at the next general election.
Not everyone has the time or inclination to become an active member of a group, political or otherwise, but I feel that the simple exercise of turning out to vote once every few years isn’t too much to ask of anyone.
The size of black Britain as a proportion of the UK’s population is growing and in many parts of the country it represents a very significant voice. If black people turned out to vote in numbers we will find ourselves hugely influential, a group of people that all politicians will want to listen to, a group of people who could wield real power. All of this influence and power is sitting there waiting to be grasped and all it takes is a short walk to the polling booth and a tick in a box. Just do it!