Monday, 14 March 2011

Black Politicians Must Raise Their Game

Cllr Paul decided to play the man instead of the ball

Black politicians must raise their game: we must behave better than this.

The naked pursuit of power can be an ugly thing to see and over the years, I have seen black people aspiring to get selected and elected, behave in the most appalling ways to their fellow brothers and sisters. Its not pretty believe me, but I can tell you from personal experience that unchecked political ambition is as bad as blatant racism in its consequences and negative effects. It’s a form of internalized racism when black politicians view their brothers and sisters as the enemy.

This is not an isolated phenomenon, unfortunately in my experience it’s the norm. During countless party selection processes I have seen them attack their black opponents and collude with white racism.  They backstab and backbite, doing almost anything to gain an advantage over their black counterparts.

I learned over the weekend that Cllr Terry Paul walked into OBV offices and invited himself to the launch of OBV’s ‘support for the yes to AV vote’. He hugged and thanked OBVs Director Simon Woolley for allowing him to be part of the debate, despite his oppositional view. He also thanked him for agreeing to publish his views about the political debate on the OBV site.

The very next day bizarrely he published an article lambasting the OBV for not having an ‘inclusive’ debate. OBV genesis was and always has been electoral reform. OBV is not a debating society nor is it the BBC. The organisation born of the campaigning organisations Charter 88 and the 1990 Trust, OBV has a long and proud history of campaigning on these issues. Had Cllr Terry Paul done his homework he would have known that.

Cllr Paul publically thanked OBV and Simon at the event and yet the following day published a critical article arguing that the OBV debate lacked balance. He published this article despite the reassurances given by Simon Woolley that he would be willing to publish an article from Cllr Paul arguing against AV. Of course he did no such thing as his plan was to attack OBV.

You can see in this video where Woolley and Paul are debating the issue that it was done in a friendly and open way, in contrast to what is said in Paul’s article. The difference is almost schizophrenic.

The question is why would someone behave in such a under handed, duplicitous way? Why would you say to a colleague and friend thank for listening to me, then attempt to politically stab them in the back?  Only Cllr Terry Paul can effectively answer that question, but I’m afraid he does have a bit of form when it comes to betraying Black colleagues for either cheap political gain or just spite.

During the race for the safe Labour West Ham seat back in 2005, Terry Paul along with others were vengeful against would- be MP Dawn Butler. Her crime was to vote for an ‘all women’s’ short list which clearly didn’t serve him.  In his bitterness at not having the opportunity to stand in that seat, he and others began smearing and conspiring against Dawn in the most deplorable way.  

In the end Dawn lost the selection battle to Lynn Brown with only a handful of votes separating the two women.

Dawn’s resolve eventually won through but the smearing by Paul and his cronies left her deeply saddened.

As an activist and campaigner I’ve always wanted to see more Black politicians, but not any just politicians who happen to be Black.  The fact is some of our own are worse than extreme right wing politicians; with the latter at least you know what to expect.

Our community needs those with honesty, integrity and a willingness to be forthright but fair.  In football parlance: Cllr Paul decided to play the man instead of the ball and that’s a cheap shot.
Cllr Paul has every right to support the No to AV vote, but speaking half-truths and back stabbing other black people and organisations just to curry favour and gain cheap political points is reprehensible. Of course the reality is that in a vain attempt to toe party lines, some of us are willing to bend over backwards to gain political patronage. However anyone with an ounce of decency would at least conduct an open and honest debate.