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.’

Archived Comments

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I Largely agree with the above but with a few differences. What is black? Some groups largely work in the private sector and are successful in business..it's proven time and time again for example with Indian and Chinese communities.

It is an insult as we have seen but I think its more to do with class and mobility. I am sure the impact on white children from lower-social economic groups is just as much.

Black? Do you mean African heritage or Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other groups.

Does black include Turkish or Middle Eastern Groups.

What are we using black for.

I would suggest that those who sit on the Conservative benches do represent their communities - such as Baroness Wassi....who I believe is all things to all people ( campaigning she is known to have said one thing to those of her ethnic origin to those to the wider public)...as they represent conservatives of whatever colour and have that opinion.

Is it divide and conquer tactic I don't know...I doubt it..I believe though that as people take on the trappings of the political and economic climate and are successful it gives them more options.

What is disgraceful that is social mobility is dying. I certainly believe that those who go to our independent schools whatever colour..due to connections fly.....combined with the racism and classism ( which many ethnic groups still fall into!) others are held back

Yes the cuts will hit black groups of certain groups harder....that is a disgrace..what is more of a disgrace is that during the boom years...more effort was not made in boosting black business opportunities or changing the rules..e.g..applying for jobs just using an NX number - so least people are interviewed.

I often wonder why during the good years money was not set aside for the lean years.

Everything is cyclical..and hopefully the economy will bounce back..we are where we are now..so we need to see what can be done for less money and use the talent we have

Labour were part of the problem.....Con-Libdems were never the right solution

Agreement with health warning

Clive is absolutely correct and this is identified by councils themselves in their Equality Impact Assessments. Authorities recognise that those from a black or minority ethnic background are more likely to be adversely affected by these cuts. Not just job losses, but losses to youth services specifically designed to support our black youths who have very few high profile role models in rural Norfolk.

Clive is correct in saying

Clive is correct in saying these cuts will impact to a greater degree on certain sectors of our society. In fact local authorities should and many have, identified this impact in their Equality Impact Assessment. It's not just the loss of jobs for those of a black or minority ethnic background, but the loss of youth services specifically designed to support our blacks youths who have no high profile role models in rural Norfolk.