OBV Board of Trustee statement on outgoing Director Simon Woolley


Thanks, sadness and celebration for Lord Simon Woolley as he takes on an exciting new role.

Many people will already be aware that Lord Simon Woolley, our co-founder and Director is leaving his role as Director of Operation Black Vote. The fact that Simon is leaving to a role where he will make history as the first Black man to be elected as Principal of an Oxbridge University is itself testimony to what we have witnessed first-hand of the outstanding person that he is. So, we, wish Simon all the very best in his new role as Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge University.

As Director of OBV, Simon has undoubtedly been a visionary leader who has led the organisation to its current standing as a major force in British politics. His contribution to the advancement of Black involvement in British political life is unmatched. We have witnessed Simon’s development from a passionate young activist to a seasoned powerbroker who masterfully deploys his considerable influence to reduce the democratic deficit that disadvantages black communities.

The challenge facing us back in 1996 was to persuade the Black community to recognise their electoral power and inspire them to participate in political parties. His leadership has been pivotal in this endeavour and his ‘constancy to purpose’ in this regard has helped increase voter participation amongst our communities. Simon would be the first person to say that he has not achieved so much on his own and that he has worked with others where progress has been made. And this is true. However, it cannot be denied that Simon’s ‘constancy to his purpose’, his ‘never give up’ spirit and his unique style of leadership has made the difference.

Simon’s elevation to the House of Lord’s as Baron Woolley of Woodford in October 2019 is itself an indicator of the impact Simon and OBV have had over the past 25 years. The overwhelming plaudits Simon achieved were from an amazingly broad array of people - and notably many who would not normally have an interest in these positions! But that is the point. Lord Woolley’s ability to connect meaningfully across the board with institutional leaders, ordinary people of all ethnicities in communities and at grassroots levels in an authentic way and in a manner congruent to his and our values around anti-racism, social justice and human rights - is legendary.

Once again, we wish him Lord Simon Woolley every success in his new role. We know that he will continue to make a difference in this role and in the continuing struggle for justice and equality for Black and minoritised people in this country and across the globe. And we are also delighted to announce that despite the significant responsibilities of his new role, that Lord Simon will continue to support us as a cherished Patron.

David Weaver - OBV Vice Chair