Afro-Caribbean people in the UK have cautious and mixed views in their assessment of the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In view of the Prime Minister’s failure to mention in his speech to the nation whether it is his government’s intention to directly address the imbalances in our society, it might be prematurely optimistic if the Afro-Caribbean community were to expect a radical change in previous governments’ attitudes to their welfare and advancement in society.
As Mr Johnson spoke, it was noticeable that unlike his three immediate predecessors, he did not acknowledge that there are major problems of inequality in this country as they relate to black people.
Former Prime Ministers Brown, Cameron and May in their first speeches as Prime Minister highlighted the conditions under which black people live in this country and promised to put right the injustices that have plagued black communities for many years.
Matters such as poor housing, social mobility, diversity, health, low education achievements, fewer job opportunities and disproportionate levels of police stop and search and arrests are seen as areas which needed proactive action by governments. The Prime Ministers said it was not fair or appropriate that black people should live with such disadvantages in a modern society in the UK.
But alas, 11 years later not much has changed after many fine words. Indeed, one might question whether or not things have become worse during this period. I take the view that they have certainly not significantly improved.
We are therefore left to assume that it suited those Prime Ministers to appear all-embracing by promising to right the wrongs of inequality in the society.
Alas, the Afro-Caribbean sector still continues to be placed at the bottom of all ratings and it, therefore, begs the questions:
a- Is there a lack of drive and vision amongst our people?
b- Do we live in a society where the odds are subtly stacked against us?
c- Is it that we are so complacent that we are prepared to take whatever is handed down to us, regardless of its quality?
d- And most importantly, are we prepared to fight as one to reverse the negative influences on our people, particularly the young generation where a recent survey showed that 48 per cent of young men aged 18-28 were unemployed?
So, does the absence of a comment by the Prime Minister when he was making a keynote speech on his elevation to the highest office in the land, signal that his interests lie elsewhere and that he is content that the status quo should remain? Unfortunately, the track record of his utterances on race and related issues is not brilliant and, on the face of it, does not give great hope for the future.
However, there appears to be a complexity in his general comments, and in his defence, it should be stated that he is on record as calling for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. In his appeal he said that citizenship should be given to those who had lived in the country for a very long time and had kept their noses clean. The jury is certainly ‘out’ and your guess is as good as mine as to what his actions on equality for black people will be. It is to be hoped that his pretensions to liberal views will eventually overcome all else when he is faced with the need to promote positive action in the cause of black equality.
Afro-Caribbean people seek only fair treatment and want to operate on a level playing field. The matter of the treatment of the Windrush generation by all governments is one which still rankles in the community and is causing much anxiety.
Mr Martin Forde, QC, is the Barbadian who brokered agreement with the Home Office over the terms for compensation for the wronged immigrants from that period. Barbados TODAY spoke to Mr Forde and wondered whether the new regime would still be on the side of his proposals. Mr Forde would only say: “I would hope that the new Home Secretary would take an early opportunity to ensure that the pronouncements of former Prime Minister May and former Home Secretaries Rudd and Javid in relation to righting the wrongs to our people would be built upon.”
One hopes that the new Home Secretary, Ms Patel, a lady of colour, will empathise with the immigrant members of the country and give them a sense of hope for the future. Whilst appreciating that Ms Patel has a national brief, it would not be asking too much were we to call on her to use her voice and influence in the cabinet to push for improvements that really do matter in the lives of black and other ethnic people in the country.
Politicians of all groups are quick to talk about the need for equality for all in the society. However, the reality is that our equality extends only to having the vote.
As a possible general election looms on the horizon that equality should be wisely exercised.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired Land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and the disapora.