NABAEMC – London Conference: 28 April 2007.
Chair's Opening Address
Welcome to Southwark and our council chamber, first I must thank our keynote speakers. We have three keynote speakers today. Many thanks to you all for your commitment in attending, I hope you will be pleased with our deliberation and go away feeling you were able to participate. My main task is to set the scene for today’s debate and discussion; Our keynote speakers all eminent in their fields of specialisation.
I am Cllr Aubyn Graham and a represent Peckham Rye Ward in the South East of Southwark. I have been a councillor since 1982 and have served in 2 other Ward in Southwark. As a councillor I have held many lead positions and have also served on ALG and Committees. I am a youth worker and adult education teacher by profession and I now work as Project Manager for a borough wide refugee forum in Westminster. I am one of the original members or the Association. I have been Chair of NABAEMC for the past 2 years. Southwark has being affiliated since 1996 when the organisation was established. Information about the history of the Association is on our website.
As you all would be aware NABAEMC is cross party organisation, and it represents a significant and growing proportion of ethnic minority Councillors across the country. Not all are authorities are affiliated but we are working on it. The Association was formed to set up and maintain a support network of ethnic minority Councillors across the UK – irrespective of their political affiliation. The
Association sees as important, initiating debate and discussion at all levels issues of political under-representation of our communities and progress race equality at all levels in particular in local government.
These are the core aims, which underpin the Association's activities and where you as members want to take the Association. I think the Association and colleagues have moved fast forward,
For instance in the House of Lords there is Baroness Amos and Scotland and in the European Parliament Claude Moraes. Many of you are also taking the lead in your own authority and many other areas of political, social and civic life in the UK and else where in the World.
NABAEMC is a national organisation with over 340 members and more over there are over 10,000 BME Councillors in England alone and not forgetting Scotland and Ireland. As an Association we need to act to support council colleague parts of the country were they might feel isolated. Because they may not have the support most of us enjoy, living in area where the BME community does shift the balance of power on the Council.
This brings me to the main topic on today’s conference. “Does Politics Matter to Black People"?
For me the answer to such a question is an unequivocal and resounding YES.
In many inner city authorities in the UK black people holds the balance of political power. On the council and amongst the voters, Southwark young people population is 32,369 between the ages of 15 and 24 and 53% are of BME heritage.
BME charge payers in Southwark are an estimated 30%. In some local elections in the UK the voting turn out is less. Yes; in many Council Assembly BME Councillors do hold the balance of power. We should be seeking to use that power to become Council Leaders and the important positions on the front bench,
Using one own politics and the politics within your group to ensure effective contribution on behalf of those who elect you to the council and in particular the BME communities. I firmly believe the electors wants to see BME councillors up front putting the case for us and delivering the services they value and in a framework free of discrimination, bigotry and intolerance, as much as being good leaders and good managers of the council’s activities, responding to community needs, as
achievers and role models. These are for me, important political functions, which mean politics matters to black people.
You will notice I did say the community not our community, we do have a duty to serve everyone in our Ward and if you occupy a front bench position your responsibility becomes even wider. Politics matters for many others reasons;
When the media and the policy makers plan service such as education and health and try to include the BME Communities, our needs and aspirations. Our needs are equated with drug addicts and all other self inflected anti-social social evils.
We need to put a stop to that, we must get even more political too; as politicians at the when we have to influence the agenda and service outcomes. I do recognise a minority in our community have problem with self-management, and they may fight back the only way they know how or for many other reasons.
The politics here by the liberal middle classes who rum the county is to present the BME as a whole in bad light, to justify improvement school improvement or local the sink housing environment of a majority of the area BME community try to make their home.
NABAEMC will no longer tolerate that, you will no longer tolerate that and that is one reason we are here to day the network and support each other and to learn from others of good practices and strategies that works…
NABAEMC will assist you to be at the forefront of change as contributors and important politician in the UK and else where in the world if you so wish.
Politics is important and Black People must be part of it.
Cllr. Aubyn Graham - Chair