Cliff Johnrose: My day with Operation Black Vote


Allow me to start with a brief history on how and why I got to spend a day in OBV with Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, and his colleagues.

My name is Cliff Johnrose and I have worked in the Civil Service for over 24 years, starting as an Admin Assistant and working up to middle Management as a Senior Executive Officer. Last year I entered a Whitehall wide competition as part of Black History Month ran by HMRC and to my surprise I won the first prize, spending a day with the Director of Operation Black Vote, Simon Woolley. Initially I thought why didn’t I win the second prize, which was a bottle of West Indian Rum? Ha ha ha.

On my way to the OBV offices, I started to think about when I became politically aware. To my recollection it was around the age of 15, when I, along with a few friends started what was to eventually become Tower Hamlets Youth CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

I gained a taste for politics from my father who was a union man and once I started working, I too became involved in union activities. As part of my visit involved going to a school, I was curious as to how politically interested they would be.

The talk was at Mossbourne Academy in Hackney and Simon spoke with passion to the young people about signing the voting register in order to have their views heard by the political elite. Simon entertained the audience with history and facts surrounding the need to participate in the political process. Along with a short film on voting, in addition Simon provided an example on the importance of voting by telling a story of a politician asking him, to thank the Black community for not voting, as he didn’t have to listen to them and their views. The meaning being that without a political voice, you as an individual or as a community do not have a say in how and what happens in the country or your local community.

As I reflect on my day, I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure to have been involved in OBV even only for a day. It has re-ignited my passion in politics and the part it plays in our day to day lives and as part of the Black community it’s up to me to make a difference in my community wherever that is. Be it the community I live in or the community where I work, my word carries power to change those communities so I hope these few words start that change in me as well as the communities I’m a part of.

Cliff Johnrose