Diary of an Ambassador
Journalist and reservist Army officer Clive Lewis who served in Afghanistan over 2009, spent the last 6 months as a Parliamentary Ambassador on the OBV Parliamentary Scheme shadowing Labour Leader Ed Miliband.
Earlier this week he gave his view on the Labour Leader, today he eyes-up the Coalition Government.
This Coalition Government should have come with a health warning on for black people
I have a terrible admission to make.
When I recently wished friends and family a ‘Happy New Year’, at the back of my mind a little sarcastic voice said: “Oh yeah, really? You sure about that?”.
Shockingly cynical I know but hardly surprising given where we find ourselves.
History will probably look back on 2011 as the year Austerity Britain kicked, in. The year the Coalition cuts really began to bite.
Central and local government has now had time to analyse its budgets and make decisions on where the axe will fall.
It’s not going to be pretty.
Here in Norfolk the sheer depth and severity of the county council’s proposed cuts has been staggering. Just one example is Youth Services. It’s expecting to be dismantled in its entirety.
Whilst close by regional authorities like Norwich, Harlow, Corby, Great Yarmouth, Breckland and Fenland have been hit hardest with the maximum cut of 9%.
Across the country it’s a similar story.
But of all the communities left reeling from these cuts, I fear it’s the black community that’s going to get it hardest of all and here’s why.
According to the most recent figures of the Annual Population Survey (Oct 2008–Sept 2009) 42.2% of black people in Britain work in public administration, education and health. We're talking nurses, doctors, teachers, tube workers, civil servants and cleaners. That compares to only 29.5% of white people in those sectors.
You can see where I’m going with this.
By slashing public spending and public sector jobs, this government is disproportionately hurting black people and their families.
So OK, the state isn’t perfect. But compared to much of the private sector it pays better and has better equality of opportunity. It’s a social driver and its growth over the past 13 years has been a good thing for many groups, including our own.
Take Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMAs). We all know the depressing statistics of underachievement amongst some black students. In the past school leavers from low-income families faced a stark choice; sign on or take a low paid job. EMA gave them a third alternative - study.
This coalition government has just taken that choice away by abolishing EMA’s.
Figures for 2008 show that 43% of all 17-18 year-old full-time students received EMA's. But for black students that figure was around 65%.
You do the maths - more black teenagers and their families are losing out than any other group.
The realty is we’re living in a country governed by the most ideologically and economically repressive right-wing Government my generation has ever seen.
Now of course I understand black people are not politically homogenous, that we won’t all agree on that statement. I mean, just look at the make-up of parliament and the (albeit small) number of black people sat opposite one another in the chamber. At one level this is to be welcomed. It is, after all, what OBV is about – multi-spectrum political representation.
But I have to ask myself how some of those MPs can sit on the Government benches and, hand on heart, look their communities in the eye.
To piously sit there and tell us these catastrophic public-spending cuts are a ‘necessary evil’ and that ‘we’re all in this together’ is quite frankly an insult.
The more you look at it the more you realise the Coalition should have come with a health warning on it: ‘This government will seriously mess you up, especially if you’re black.’