Celebrities join together to rally black vote

Operation Black Vote : Sol Campbell is one of the stars in white face for poster campaign © PA

Several prominent black celebrities have put out a series of striking posters to encourage black people to vote in the general election. Why do certain groups vote more than others?

‘If you don’t register to vote, you’re taking the colour out of Britain.’ This is the message four prominent black celebrities are putting out to encourage black people in Britain to vote in the upcoming general election. Ex-footballer Sol Campbell, actor David Harewood, rapper Tinie Temper and Paralympic athlete Ade Adepitan have launched ‘Operation Black Vote’. They have published striking posters of themselves with their faces whitened.

In the 2010 election just 51% of black people voted, compared to 67% of white people. In general, those who are old, rich and live in rural areas are the most likely to vote. And as black people in Britain are, on average, younger, poorer and more likely to live in cities than the general population, some have said that the racial element is overstated. However others say that the campaign has correctly identified a failure to engage black people with politics.

Ethnic minorities are under-represented in the House of Commons. Just 27 of the 650 MPs (4%) are from minority backgrounds. If the UK’s demography were truly represented, 99 MPs would be from ethnic minorities. David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham (who is himself black), has called for all-ethnic minority shortlists for candidates.

The voting divide goes beyond race. In the 2010 election 76% of old people voted, compared with a measly 44% of the young. This inevitably means that governments are more likely to tailor their policies towards old people.

There are also huge differences in the party for which people vote according to age and race. The Labour party has traditionally done very well among ethnic minorities, while old people tend towards the Conservatives, although there are very many exceptions in both cases.

Vote for change

‘How can people complain about what the government does if they did not even bother to vote in the general election?’ say some. The opportunity to change the direction of the country comes around once every five years, and grasping that opportunity is more than a right: it is a responsibility. If the groups who are under-represented in parliament do not vote, then the problem will simply continue. These are the people politicians should be targeting most of all.

If you went into a shop and found that none of the products on sale were what you wanted, you wouldn’t buy any of them. Why should it be different for political parties? If the political system fails to engage people, it is not the people who are at fault. Parties have consistently failed to offer policies and principles which appeal to certain groups, such as ethnic minorities or young people. Politicians are to blame for low turnouts, not the people who fail to vote.

You Decide

  1. Who is to blame for people not voting: voters or political parties?
  2. Why do you think certain sections of society vote less than others?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to a friend urging them to vote in the upcoming general election.
  2. Hold a class debate: ‘This house believes in compulsory voting.’

Some People Say...

“The right not to vote is as important as the right to vote.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I don’t know much about politics, but I want to vote. What should I do?
A great way to get informed about the upcoming UK elections is to watch the televised debates between party leaders. This will help you decide which party you favour. Everyone votes for different reasons: policies, principles or the individual personalities of party leaders. You could also take a closer look at some of the election coverage from The Day...
Are there some people who can’t vote?
Only those over the age of 18 can vote, although several parties, including Labour and the SNP, are campaigning for the voting age to be lowered to 16. Members of the House of Lords cannot vote and neither can EU citizens who are not also Irish, British or Commonwealth citizens. Prisoners are also denied the vote.

Word Watch

Sol Campbell
The former Spurs, Arsenal and England centre-back has been leading campaigns for better representation of black people among football managers. Campbell has confirmed his intention to run for Mayor of London as a Conservative candidate.
27 of the 650 MPs
This is 12 more than in the previous parliament. The first black MPs were all elected in 1987 for Labour in North London seats. These were Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and Diane Abbott.
David Lammy
42-year-old Lammy has represented the constituency of his birth since 2000. Like Sol Campbell, he has been touted as a possible replacement for Boris Johnson once his mayoral term ends.
Shortlists
In order to increase the number of women in parliament, some parties select seats where all their candidates to stand are women. Many have been calling for the same thing to happen with black and minority ethnic candidates.
Labour
In the 2012 election, more than two thirds of ethnic minorities voted Labour, while just 16% voted Conservative.

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