Schooling the next generation of Black MPs

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Operation Black Vote in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government launched the Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme on Monday. Politicians from all three major political parties were in attendance to pledge their support for the scheme and their commitment to increasing the low levels of BME representation in parliament and local authorities.

The 25 BME Shadows selected to take part in the scheme were welcomed by Frank Dobson MP, who spoke candidly about life as an MP and the Westminster village, leaving them with few illusions about both rewards and demands of embarking upon a parliamentary career.

The Shadows were then whisked off on a whistle stop tour of Westminster Palace before heading to the Members Dining Room where they met their respective MP’s and listened to speeches from Simon Woolley (OBV Director), Sam Gyimah MP, Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan MP and Rt. Hon. Simon Hughes MP. In a rare moment of cross-party agreement, all three politicians spoke of the fundamental benefit to all communities of a genuine equal and representative parliament, described by Rt. Hon. Simon Hughes MP as both a prerequisite to a healthy democracy and long overdue.

OBV’s Director Simon Woolley welcomed the new intake with an inspiring yet demanding request,

“With all that has occurred over the last year, the cuts, the riots and the lack of hope within our communities, our society needs you to be supremely successful. We don’t want puffed up politicians who look down their noses proclaiming ‘I’m up here because I’m quite brilliant don’t you know, and you’re down there because you are lazy’. Your generation will be successful, but humble too. I also emphasis that your model of leadership should recognise that, 'I’m here because I was supported by you, and my role is to make sure that all our communities are afforded greater equality'."

The Scheme, which has produced, over a dozen councillors, MP’s Assistants and at the last election our first MP, Helen Grant, will run until March 2012. In that time the Shadows will embark upon a leadership project that will take them to the corridors of power in Westminster, local constituency offices and community centres around the country. They will have an important role as Parliamentary Ambassadors helping to raise awareness amongst BME communities about the value and importance of positive engagement in our democratic institutions.

Birmingham resident Ravi Kumar, 31, who will be shadowing Yasmin Qureshi MP said,

“As a community activist, and committed volunteer, the skills and experience I will learn from the scheme will aide me in empowering my community, engaging them fully in the political process.”

Francine Fernandes Head of Schemes for Operation Black Vote and a graduate of the Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme herself emphasised the important role that the participants will play in empowering their communities, particularly in light of the recent disturbances.

She said,

“The recent riots were indicative of an underlying frustration and alienation within our society, therefore this project could not come at a better time. It provides a much needed platform for BME communities to contribute and engage in the democratic dialogue and use their skills to make a positive difference, the benefits of which will be enjoyed by all communities.”

Banner picture: Shadows from the Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme outside the Houses of Parliament

Archived Comments

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Democracy & Diversity

It's great to see these socially engaged candidates taking their first steps on an exciting journey into politics. Britain's democracy is best served when all sections of this nation can take part and be part of the decision and legislative process. Good luck to all the candidates.

Sentiments Exact.

"It's great to see these socially engaged candidates taking their first steps on an exciting journey into politics. Britain's democracy is best served when all sections of this nation can take part and be part of the decision and legislative process. Good luck to all the candidates."

James,

I totally agree with you. This is the way forward and, thanks to Operation Black Vote, we have been able to get this message accross to the corridors of power.

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