News / Europe

Ethnic Minorities Make Inroads in British Politics

Multimedia

Audio

For the first time in Britain's history, a black woman has joined the race to become leadr of the Labor Party, one of the country's largest political factions.  A record number of ethnic minorities won seats in the British parliament last month.  

Diane Abbott launched her bid for the Labor Party leadership at a school in North London.  More than 20 years ago, she became Britain's first black female member of parliament.

She says she is ready to break new boundaries with her bid to become Labor's leader.  

"I think it is important in modern Britain, which has so changed and is so diverse, that they see diversity in the top of politics," Abbott said.

The Labor Party ruled Britain for the past 13 years, first under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown.  In the May 6 election, Labor lost power and Mr. Brown stepped down as party leader.  

Abbott is one of 27 people of African, Asian, or Caribbean descent who were voted into parliament on May 6, almost double the previous number.

Ashok Viswanathan, from the campaign group Operation Black Vote, credits the increase, in part, to a record number of ethnic minorities who voted.  

"Turnout went from 61 percent to 65 percent overall, and within the black minority ethnic communities it went from around 45 percent to around 55 percent," Viswanathan said. "So a greater increase in turn out amongst black minority ethnic communities than the increase by the wider electorate."

In January, a survey found that almost half of the young black people in Britain were unemployed, compared to 20 percent of white people of the same age.

Ethnic minorities voted this year to change inequalities like these, says Viswanathan.

"It was clear in black minority ethnic communities that there were many issues at stake in their lives that would be decided by whoever won the election in 2010," Viswanathan said.

Anthony Kalu is a 20-year-old student who, this year, voted for the first time in a national election.  He says it is important for young ethnic minorities to see people from their own ethnic group in politics.

"It is all about who is most like you," Kalu said. "If you are not interested in politics, you want to see someone who you believe is closer to you.  Whether that be through color or be through class or be through gender."

He says ethnic minority parliament members serve as role models for black and Asian young people.  

Back at the North London school where Abbott launched her campaign, she told VOA even if her leadership bid is not a success, she hopes it may inspire young ethnic minorities to join the political arena.

For one student called Sade, Abbott's plan seemed to be working.

"I will be prime minister one day hopefully," Sade said. "I think if you put your mind to it and you really want to do it, you can actually get somewhere."

Women hold about 20 percent of Britain's 650 parliament seats, and 27 seats are held by members of ethnic minorities.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs