No Black members in Birmingham’s Labour Cabinet is a retrograde
Later today at 3pm there will be a demonstration in front of
Birmingham’s Council House. The demonstration has been organised by members of
Birmingham’s black community, who are incensed that there are no members of the
black community represented either in the new Labour Cabinet or selected as a
Chair of Scrutiny or Regulatory Committee.
I intend to be at this demonstration, since I agree with the
The Birmingham Labour Party was always very quick to
complain that the 10-member Cabinet of the previous Conservative-Liberal
Democrat Cabinet did not represent the ethnic mix of Birmingham. They were
right, but in fairness this wasn’t for want of trying. The Conservative Councillor
group had no Councillors from the Black and Multi Ethnic (BME) communities and
within the Liberal Democrat group we were always urging our BME Councillors to
take on positions of responsibility. With only two Liberal Democrat Councillors
from the black Caribbean Community, they did nominate themselves for positions
and were duly voted in by the Liberal Democrat group of Councillors: Councillor
Karen Hamilton was a Chair of Scrutiny, whilst Councillor Ernie Hendricks was
the Birmingham lead representative on the West Midlands Police Authority. In
addition to this the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group was from the
Move forward to May 2012 and the new incoming Labour
administration - one third of whose members are from the BME communities. You
would think that the Labour Party would act on their complaint about the ethnic
mix of the previous Cabinet. NO THEY HAVEN’T. Their eight member Cabinet
contains just one member from the BME community, from the Pakistani community
to be precise. There is not a single member from Birmingham black Caribbean community
in either the Cabinet, as a Chair of Scrutiny or a Regulatory Committee. The
only position of responsibility for a black Councillor is for Councillor Yvonne
Mosquito (a very able Councillor, may I add) as Chair of Ladywood Constituency
and the Birmingham lead representative on the West Midlands Police Authority
Despite the under representation of BME Councillors in the
previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration, I do believe that our previous
record in supporting Birmingham’s black community was good. Obviously, the
final arbiter of our record will be the black community, but amongst our record
of achievements, we did the following:
- Brought the Handsworth
Carnival – a black led community festival – back to it spiritual home in
- When through a lengthy
process to identify a black-led community organisation to take on the
restoration and running of the Mohammad Ali Centre in Hockley. The
selected organisation should be announced in the next two months, unless
of course the new Labour administration withdraws the offer.
- Supported the creation of
a new annual Reggae Festival - the Simmer Down Festival - in Handsworth
Park to celebrate Birmingham’s contribution to this genre of music.
- Protected the funding of
the annual Black History Month from any cuts during these austere times.
- Persuaded the Jamaican
Olympic team to base their training camp here in Birmingham in the run up
to the 2012 Olympics. There will also be cultural events linked in with
their stay here, which will celebrate Birmingham’s links to Jamaica
through its black community. For example there will be a Jamaican Village
in Victoria Square during July.
There is much more that the Council can do to celebrate our Caribbean
community’s contribution to the economy, culture and the future of our city.
But this decision by the new Labour administration not to have any member of
Birmingham’s black Caribbean community to be in the Cabinet or a Chair of a Scrutiny
or Regulatory Committee sends out the wrong signal.