Britain’s success, OBV’s success: Now let’s act together!


The historic gathering of BAME parliamentarians who represent a record number of BAME MPs and Peers will speak volumes to a nation that at times is struggling with race.

Politicians from all three main parties and from both the House of Commons and House of Lords came together in the hallowed Westminster Hall for an historic picture organised by Valerie Vaz MP.

Onlookers visiting our Parliament nudged each other with curiosity. A school teacher, shepherding a dozen primary students enquired, excuse me, what is going on? I told her these are our nations MPs and Lords from a minority ethnic background. And we’ve come together to both celebrate and record the number, but also to tell our society that we’re here and we want our democratic institutions to better look like our diverse society. An animated young boy politely asked me, ‘Are you an MP? 'No', I replied, ‘I’m a Lord’. ‘I want to be a Lord too’, he giggled.

But yesterday was more than a photo opportunity; it was recognition of decades of campaigning from the likes of Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott and many others too.

It was also a very proud moment for us at Operation Black Vote. When we started back in 1996, there four BAME MPs. 24 years later there are now 65, and 10% coming directly from our mentoring schemes.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s gathering and picture was the first step of a very exciting new chapter that will see this group convene on a non-partisan level to take up the priority challenges that our communities are particular facing in areas such as employment, education and criminal justice.

This photo of BAME excellence will only come into its own when we are genuinely working together.

Simon Woolley