December 12th 2019 there will be a general election to vote on who will run the country. The election is one that will shape the country for the better or worse.
At present, the country is run by a conservative government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
With the upcoming elections happening at a time where politics has become increasingly divisive, lets look at the three major parties manifestos and their possible effects on the black community.
Labour Government Scrapping University Fees
Tuition fees were introduced across the entire United Kingdom in September 1998. Under the Labour government, to fund university tuition to undergraduate and postgraduate certificates, students were required to pay up to £1,000 a year for tuition.
With tuition fees currently at £9,250 a year, scrapping them could come as a welcome package to many from the black community. Tuition fees make university harder to afford and so may disproportionately affect the black community, preventing equal numbers of black students attending.
Education is seen as an equaliser that allows for social mobility, as many from a black home are still the first in the family to attend university. However, in 2014, only 53% black student graduated with a first-class or upper second class degree and are 1.5 times more likely to drop out early than their peers, meaning they are arguably paying more for less.
The scrapping of the fees however does not deal with other institutional issues.
Another study in 2018 found that whilst black candidates make up 9% of UCAS application over a five-year period, 52% of their applications were investigated for potentially fraudulent activity (Weale & Duncan 2018).
Black students were therefore 21 times more likely to be investigated than their white peers, causing many commentators to call out a biased and prejudiced screening process, rendering black students at an unfair disadvantage. If Britain is to be a fair and inclusive society, education as an integral form of socialization must reinforce and reflect this. To scrap the fees are not enough but the accessibility of the entire process must be addressed.
The Liberal Democrats, under leader Jo Swinson, hope to legalise the recreational use of cannabis for adults. The party says the law change would help “break the grip” of gangs who profit from drugs sales and raising £1.5bn in tax.
Young men from a black and ethnic minority (BAME) background make up about 51 per cent of the UK’s youth prison population, despite constituting just 13 per cent of the population at large. The impact has been disproportionate on black people in particular through stop and search. Many sitting in jail for cannabis-related crimes are black, but cannabis legalisation and the profits that come from it will be primarily in the hands of white men.
Estimates suggest the global legal cannabis industry will grow to $66.3bn by 2023. Many black people will not own the means of production and it will mean big profits to those who want to make money from what has long been a moral, criminal and ethical issue, without attending to the problems inherent in the justice system.
Another of the Lib Dem’s key campaign pledges is to transform mental health services by “treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health.”
Mental health has become a more widely discussed topic in recent years. However in the black community, mental health is still somewhat of a taboo subject, causing a vicious cycle in which people still feel unable to engage fully with mental health services.
The risk of psychosis in Black Caribbean groups is estimated to be nearly seven times higher than in the white population. Detention rates under the Mental Health Act during 2017/18 were four times higher for people in the ‘Black’ or ‘Black British’ group than those in the White group.
Mental health must not be purely tokenistic and used for political gain, especially the youth vote. Better policies and increased funding would certainly empower the BAME community, but parties must understand their specific racial/cultural impacts and include the voices of BAME people in their creation. BAME young people are twice as likely as their white British peers to access mental health through courts and custodial sentences, rather than voluntarily through their GP. They are also more likely to refer themselves through informal routes such as youth workers. Understanding these specific barriers and unique differences with accessibility and stigma could help to tackle higher detention and institutionalisation rates, rather than a one-fits-all approach.
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to invest £500m in youth services and provide a public health approach to tackle youth violence.
Conservative Sajid Javid’s pledged to also inject £500 million into youth services which £380 million less than has been cut since Tory rule. Figures according to an analysis published by the Department for Education, show £880 million has been slashed from youth services spending in England since 2010, amounting to 70% of spending across England.
Between 2010 and 2019, nearly nine out of ten (87 per cent) of councils reduced spending on youth services by 50%, due to budget squeezes, reducing spending per young person by over 75 per cent by half of the councils.
According to “London’s Lost Youth Services report found that in five councils alone, “12,700 places had been lost due to cuts – extrapolated across all 32 boroughs, this equates to 81,280 places for young people are no longer available.”
This has hurt young black boys most as there is an insidious school to prison pipeline in the UK. The number of young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by almost 50% since 2010. To be excluded from school removes them from education, and instantly narrows their access to opportunity and closer to a life of crime to provide for their family.
Youth services are a crucial respite undoubtedly for many from the black community as the black Caribbean and mixed white/black Caribbean pupils were three times more likely to be permanently excluded and more than twice as likely to face fixed term exclusion as other pupils.
Accessible and inclusive youth services provide a non-stigmatising support system and a barrier before young black boys especially meet the criminal justice system.
20,000 Extra Police Officers
20,000 extra police have been a much-repeated Conservative party promise from this election campaign. Regardless of the fact this only puts numbers back to pre-austerity levels and also doesn’t account for 3.5 million more UK citizens since 2010, there are other fundamental issues for the black community this also overlooks.
Due to racial stereotypes surrounding gender, size and build of black people in particular black boys, they have been a victim to relentless stop and search. In 2019 black people were 40 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched. Furthermore, in 2018 Home Office figures showed black people in England and Wales were more likely to have force used against them by police officers, accounting for 12% of incidents despite being only 3.3% of the population.
With police forces having less spending and increasing numbers without addressing the integral issues the community faces, alongside the evident distrust caused within the black community, more police officers will not solve this but may actually make this worse. With PCSO and other community police officers down by 40% and overall numbers at their lowest since 2009, creating a force that serves all communities will take much more than mere bobbies on the beat.
Voting in this time is a monumental task as a vote for one party could help the black community or continue to disadvantage them. Brexit discussions are crowding the headlines, but representation of issues important to our communities are vital. When choosing to vote it is imperative you do your research individually and decide what is best for you, to vote for a party you genuinely believe in. There is no time to be politically apathetic. Let’s be politically engaged and help empower the black community under the right leadership.