Sanchia Alasia: first black woman elected to European Parliament?


International history is in the making. The Labour Party has announced that its councillor from Barking and Dagenham, will stand in the 22 May 2014 European elections. If elected, she will be the first British black woman in the European Parliament. When OBV spoke to her she told us,

“I feel privileged and humbled to have been selected to stand as an MEP”.

Sanchia Alasia, who grew up in Newham, east London, alongside her fellow activists and party members famously smashed the BNP in Barking and Dagenham in 2010 elections. Since she was elected as a councillor, she has applied her five-rules of leadership, which she will also apply to the European Parliament. The five-points are integrity, general ability, vision, communication, engagement and commitment. Local concerns are at the heart of her campaign, alongside advancing equality, education, employment and women’s rights amongst other things.

Prior to being a councillor, she had obtained a degree in politics, but had little idea of what the world of politics was really like. So she decided to apply for OBV’s 2006 MP Shadowing Scheme, an experience she described as “a real eye-opener”. The scheme allowed BME people, who were interested in politics, to gain an insight into the work of Parliament and the roles of an MP. She shadowed Sadiq Khan MP and told OBV that:

What you realise is how hard MPs work. The hours are incredibly long and you have many different groups and individuals who are constantly trying to meet with you”.

Alasia has a lot of experience in Europe and is an expert on French Politics; she has helped advise companies, groups and governments in Europe about diversity and equality for minorities and women. A firm believer in the European Union, Alasia believes that Britain has far more in common with Europe than the United States:

We (in Britain) tend to make a lot of comparisons between ourselves and America. We see ourselves as more like the Americans than the Europeans. My experience is (when talking to American political actors and European ones) the reverse is true.

In America, they have only two-parties, religion plays a big role and half of the states have the death penalty. British politics has more in common with European politics, as we have a multiparty system, religion is a private role in our society and we abhor the death penalty. And much like other European countries, we have a collation government and we may have more in the future. We must learn from our European neighbours about how to do this.

If elected I would represent all of London and help protect the concerns of Londoners in Europe. I will fight austerity and fascism and advance and support legislations, which promote and protect women, and ethnic, cultural and linguistic minorities, as well as civil rights for LGBT people.”

Alasia has done a lot of work in this area, she was given the community leadership award in 2012 for ‘tireless’ work in her local community:

I would also like to promote business ties and trade with the Caribbean, and I hope to get onto the EU parliament’s Afro-Caribbean trades committee.”

Alasia is of Jamaican heritage herself and these roots are very important to her, she wants to improve the image and business prospects of the Caribbean. She believes that the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora can play a significant role in facilitating these ties:

It is also important to promote an accurate picture of the European Union in Britain. The EU has done a lot of good for us- whether its employment legislation or human rights legislation. More people (in Britain) need to get a real-connection to the EU; I would like to make more information on the EU Parliament readably available. One idea is to help people visit the European parliament, so they can see for themselves, Brussels in action.”

She was elected onto the executive committee of Labour Movement for Europe (LME) in February 2013. LME works with Unions, the Co-operative Movement and other progressive groups – and puts them in a European context. They believe in progressive change and society’s capability to reflect social responsibility and solidarity – in workplaces and communities up and down this country, but also across Europe and across the globe.

I hope that, if elected, me being in the European parliament will send out a message. Black people are interested in European politics and to BME people- it doesn’t matter what shape, size or colour you are- you can make it in European politics. I hope that many more BME people will follow suit.”

Usman Butt