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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Black activists plan 'political assault'
Paul Boateng
Boateng is hampered by the system, says Mr Woolley
Campaigners are vowing to turn up the heat on the government as they press for action to increase the number of black faces in front-line politics.


We reserve the right to use the democratic stick and politically force the issue

Simon Woolley
Operation Black Vote
A series of rallies are being planned alongside Black History Month in October, followed by a march in London next April to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The campaign is described as "the country's first political assault to serve notice on politicians that they are unrepresentative and not listening to the concerns of the nation's black people".

And organisers say that, with US civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton and Marcus Garvey Jnr, son of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey invited to take part, the campaign can learn from the US civil rights movement.

Alienation

It is being organised by Operation Black Vote, the National Assembly Against Racism and the 1990 Trust.


the system doesn't allow black politicians to talk about the black struggle

Simon Woolley
Operation Black Vote
They want to see steps taken to help reverse alienation with politics in the black community and efforts to increase the number of black MPs.

Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, says the black community is not apathetic, but that there is "deep frustration with the fine words of politicians".

He said: "It is not just New Labour, but the government has not delivered. The only radical reform that has come out of Downing Street is for women only.

"It is about getting them to be bolder and more honest. You cannot say 'we want change', then not have the willingness to see the project through."

Talent

Mr Woolley said all political parties could immediately take action to restore some confidence in the black community by putting "black faces in high places".

"They could hand pick black talent and put them in power," he said. "It's not rocket science.

"There should then be a programme of recruitment, retention and promotion of black talent."

He acknowledges that the UK now has its first black Cabinet minister in Paul Boateng, but adds: "When Boateng came in he said 'don't judge me by my colour only'.

"His reticence over wearing his colour on his sleeve was because the system doesn't allow black politicians to talk about the black struggle."

Burden

"If a black politician talks about black politics it is seen as single issue politics, yet a white politician like Kate Hoey can comfortably give support to the Countryside Alliance and also be taken seriously on women's issues."

That, Mr Woolley says, is "symptomatic of the burden of the black politician".

He went on: "We have used the carrot, working with (Labour chairman) Charles Clarke, Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy on this.

"We are happy to continue working with them, but now we reserve the right to use the democratic stick and politically force the issue.

"Everybody can benefit from our success. We are not separatist with a warped agenda - it is about asking for a slice of the cake."

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See also:

29 May 02 | Politics
27 May 02 | Politics
29 May 02 | Politics

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