More questions than answers at ‘Caribbean Question Time’

| December 9, 2013

In community news. Following months of careful planning and organisation the Jamaica National Building Society successfully mustered nearly three hundred Caribbean nationals from around the UK to attend their third Caribbean Question Time public meeting.

The aim of the meeting was to enable the UK Caribbean Community the opportunity to discuss and interact with UK political representatives about the critical issues that are affecting them, ahead of the up coming national elections in 2015.

Given the successes of the previous sessions held in 2010 and 2011, Jamaica National were confident of a vibrant and productive exchange between the distinguished panel and the audience. Held on Tuesday 3rd December, at the plush One Great George Street venue in Central London, the august panel comprised Mike Gapes, Labour MP, Ilford South; Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP, Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Nick DeBois, Conservative MP, Enfield North; Simon Woolley, Director Operation Black Vote; and Dr. Floyd Millen, Director, Yes Minister Limited.

Caribbean Question Time

Paulette Simpson, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs and Public Policy, JN Representative Office

The topics discussed were:

  • What is the impact of the Air Passenger Duty on the Caribbean Diaspora and is this tax equitable?
  • Is there a special relationship between the UK and the Caribbean and how is this manifested?
  • How can the Caribbean Diaspora become more actively engaged in UK politics?
  • What does the 2011 census tell us about the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK?

Following a short reception where refreshments were served recognising the time constraint and the need to address each of the advertised topics for discussion adequately and by 21:00, Paulette Simpson, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs and Public Policy, JN Representative Office took charge and commenced the proceedings at around 18:45hrs. She welcomed the panel, acknowledged a few special guests including the Mayor of Brent Councillor Bobby Thomas; the Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica Mrs Diedre Mills, Mr Bill Morris veteran Trade Unionist and Mrs Delores Cooper, Director Victoria Mutual Finance Ltd.

There was a healthy exchange between the panel and the audience but what was particularly poignant was Simon Wooley’s opening statement in response to the first topic that focused on the implications of the 2011 Census on the Caribbean community’s influence on the outcome of the 2015 general elections.

He said, “We need to make political demands as over the years we’ve asked for nothing so we got nothing…as a matter of fact we got worse than nothing. Black people are more than 20 times likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts. Black people are more likely to be unemployed in London than Greeks in Greece. None of the politicians here have a plan to close this glaring gap…the 2011 gives us the power to change things. out of the 168 marginal seats over 40 seats are controlled by the Caribbean so I say we can decide the outcome of the next election. These politicians cannot win without the black vote. Don’t ask politicians what will they do for us but ask ourselves what we will do to change things.”

First question: What has your political party done to demonstrate service to the Caribbean community particularly in relation to the high levels of unemployment within this community? Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP responded that the Government’s plan is to grow the economy to meet demand for jobs. In terms of representation within the party the Liberal Democrat Party has recruitment policy that encourages more women and members of the BME community.

Caribbean Question Time

The panel (L-R) Simon Wooley, Operation Black Vote; Mike Gapes, Labour MP, Ilford South; Dr. Floyd Millen, Director, Yes Minister Ltd.;
Nick DeBois, Conservative MP, Enfield North; and Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP, Bermondsey and Old Southwark
and General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society, Mr Earl Jarrett

In summary, all panelists put forward substantial points to support their respective positions under the various topics. These positions were all challenged by appropriate questions from the floor. The general consensus was that if Black people participated in the voting process the outcomes would most certainly be different and somewhat in their favour; and also that government officials are not sufficiently aware of the issues of the UK Caribbean community as they don’t read (or are not presented with) credible media from the Caribbean community to help them to make informed decisions. Dr Floyd Millen made the point that if none of us Caribbean people voted but had economic wealth, we would be listened to.

At the end of the session General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society, Mr Earl Jarrett gave the Vote Of Thanks and commended his team for a sterling job. he also urged the panel and the audience to take the issues discussed in the light they were intended and to return to their respective constituencies / communities enlightened and empowered to effect positive change.

CaribDirect applauds the JN Building Society for continuing this worthwhile initiative that brings Caribbean nationals together on matters pertinent to their well being. The psychological value of such an exercise in a country where Caribbeans are considered second class citizens, is invaluable.

Caribbean Question Time


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