Representation, Political Inclusion and a Black Prime Minister in Britain?


David Harewood on the BBC Two Documentary

This is essentially a conversation about social mobility. What is the likelihood that I or yourself as a black person, will take up space in 10 Downing Street and become the Prime Minister of the country that we have contributed to for all (if not most) of our lives?

Statistically, there is a 1 in 17 million chance, in comparison to our white counterparts who have a 1 in 1.4 million chance, we are 12 times less likely. But odds can be beaten, right?

I have recently been engaging a lot in conversations that delve into where we as black British people stand in British politics. I watched the ‘Will Britain Ever Have A Black Prime Minister’ documentary on BBC Two and attended a panel discussion at the Black Cultural Archives, the topic was “Is Britain Ready for A Black Prime Minister?”

One of the first things a brother in a room stood up to say before the conversation kicked off was, “the fact that we have to sit here and have this discussion, shows that the country is not yet ready.” True.

Does that mean we wait until the country is ready? Will it ever be “ready” or will action have to quickly make it become ready?

There are many things that need to be achieved and tackled before we jump to putting a black prime minister in place. For example, we need more than 13 out of 650 MPs in parliament.

Could having a black prime minister alone solve Black British issues (I use black British issues as a blanket statement in order to summarize, not to be vague or to descale their many significances), or would it be a deceptive measure of success?

“Imagery is great and representation is incredibly important, but imagery without substance is a mirage”, although paraphrased, this is the gist of a comment that Malachi who was on the panel, made.

I recently attended an event in the House of Commons, and I asked myself a question when I was on the way there. “Did you ever picture yourself having any business in the House of Commons before today?”. My answer was “no”, so then I asked myself “why not?”

Until recently, I have seldom felt included or represented in British politics, when asked where I am from my answer is always “Zimbabwe”, despite having grown up in Reading. I guess, I have always been removed from it all.

Parliament, like Big Ben, are landmarks I am most familiar with through sightseeing and looking on from Southbank, the other side of the river. Perhaps like Gatsby would look at the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, except Parliament has never been my dream.

Even being inside the building I felt detached from it all. You walk in and everything is grand, tall stained glass windows and staggering statues of white men looking powerfully down on you.

I suppose the question is, how many of us see ourselves as members of governing bodies, contributing to the Civil Service, being influential political figures, being MPs or becoming the Prime Minster of Britain? We have every right to occupy these spaces.

“We play a very important role on this island and although at times it may feel like we don’t belong here, we have every right to be here because this country wouldn’t be anything without us and our contributions. [When you know that and begin to feel like you belong], you can take up space and do the things that you need to do. It’s very difficult to exist in a space where you feel like you don’t belong and live your life to the fullest. You’re always doing things in a policed way”

This poignant quote is from a conversation I had with Tania Nwachukwu, co-founder of the ‘Black in The Day’ project.