Desmond Jaddoo: Registering Black people to vote


Desmond Jaddoo, of the Birmingham Empowerment Forum (BEF) has twinned his project with OBV to help get the black community to register to vote in time for the election of the new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The Black Voter Registration Campaign was launched in October by OBV and Black-led Churches and has been galvanizing people since.

Jaddoo is an independent campaigner and founder and organizer of BEF, which aims to encourage support for political, economic and social change in Birmingham. Jaddoo is particularly concerned with the lack of civic engagement of black people in Birmingham and this is highlighted by the low voter registration figures across the community. The voter registration drive should see a change in this issue. He said:

There has been a really good momentum leading up to the deadline on the 31st October. The relationship with the Churches has allowed our message to spread further than we anticipated

The cooperation between different organisations and congregations has had a positive impact on the campaign. Jaddoo said:

With the different agencies coming together we have had a bigger scope. My radio show has also helped spread the message out and the listener’s feedback has been very positive. People from the Church have passed the information on to universities and other regions of the west midlands, and over half of those we have registered have been from outside Birmingham.

It is even more important that there are campaigners like Jaddoo helping people with the process because the forth coming PCC election will be using the Supplementary voting system which is new to Birmingham but more familiar to regions that have directly elected Mayors. They have been spreading information on how it works by directing them to

On the importance of political engagement, Jaddoo adds:

There is a twofold issue, getting people to register to vote and making sure that people actually vote once they are registered. Many people don’t register to vote or don’t vote once they are registered because they are fed up with the system and so don’t want to be a part of it

He recalls a lady telling him about how dissatisfied she was with politics and so she expressed it by not voting. He often comes across people from minority backgrounds who don’t feel comfortable living in Britain but he feels their abstention is not a protest but a passive acceptance of their position in society:

Not voting harms the individual and doesn’t affect the system. By not voting you just isolate yourself

Jaddoo hosts a political hour on his radio show at Newstyle Radio where he has had an array of guests discussing various issues affecting the ethnic minority community in Birmingham. He says:

There are quite a few issues where the ethnic minority community should be really holding the PCC accountable and these include stop and search, guns and gangs and the handling of deaths in police custody and in the wider political context, the cuts

These issues will not be prioritised unless the people they concern voice their opinions and hold those responsible to account. He wants constructive dialogue between the BME community and the PCC. The areas mentioned above have particularly strained the relationship between the police and the BME community so introducing a competent PCC could go along towards restoring the trust of the community back in the police force.

Jaddoo feels:

There is a real threat that a very small percentage of the electorate is going to make big decisions for us, and we need to get out and vote to make sure the system is more representative and to establish a real mandate

Voting in someone who is concerned and committed to tackling these issues will help challenge many of the assumptions the minority community have of the police and vice versa. But this can only happen if people vote.

The West Midlands Police Commissioner candidates are: Matt Bennett (Conservative); Bill Etheridge (UKIP); Cath Hannon (Independent); Bob Jones (Labour); Ayoub Khan (Liberal Democrat); Mike Rumble (Independent); Bishop Derek Webley (Independent).

Alan Ssempebwa