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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Black vote 'holds power balance'
Operation Black Vote's Ashok Viswanathan meets a resident
Operation Black Vote has its own manifesto and pledge card
There are 70 seats across the UK where black voters could decide the outcome of the election, campaigners claim.

"The black vote holds the balance of power and we don't have the luxury of not voting," said Operation Black Vote (OBV) founder Simon Woolley.

OBV has launched its own manifesto and pledge card and is touring the UK to call for "equality in our time".

It wants more black and Asian MPs, equality in employment and education and a Minister for Race.

'Taken for granted'

OBV said Respect have signed up to their 40 page manifesto, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour and the Conservatives still considering it.
OBV's study showed minority voters' biggest influence could be in Cheadle, Cheshire

The document includes pledges to ban the BNP and National Front, introduce black only shortlists in some areas and introduce an amnesty for asylum seekers whose claims are over two years old.

OBV spokesman Ashok Viswanathan said the Labour Party could no longer take ethnic minority voters for granted.

He urged members of minority communities to present OBV's pledge card - which includes demands for equality in schools, employment and democracy and for asylum seekers - to members of all political parties on the doorstep.

'Words into action'

Minority voters make up 7.9% of the UK population and OBV says they could have a "crucial" effect on the outcome of the election.

"Unless they put their words into action when it comes to voting when it comes to voting, decision makers won't listen to what they want," said Mr Viswanathan.

A survey conducted by OBV showed that 50% of black voters planned to vote on 5 May, while 30% said they would not.

OBV is touring marginal constituencies in a bid to boost participation among black voters, which it defines as African, Asian, Caribbean and other ethnic minorities.



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