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5 Black British Politicians Who Have Made Change for Black People in Politics

Keira Sesay

Politics is a world that black people have struggled to enter. Those who have broken through the barriers are few. But many black politicians have made a huge change in the interest of black people and people of colour in our society. Labour has a manifesto of working ‘for the many and now the few’. Most of the current active Black British politicians are working under this party. Although the manifesto is idealistic, black people often find themselves underrepresented and ignored in politics. That is why it is important the celebrate the black politician below who have pushed the boundaries of both their peers and opposers.


Dianne Abbot

By Alex Hilton – emailed original photo of [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common

Dianne Abbot is a British Labour Party politician from London. Dianne is passionate about “human rights, civil liberties women’s rights and representing the people of hackney’”. She was the first black woman to be elected into Parliament in 1987 when she became MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She is also currently the longest-serving black MP in the House of Commons. In 1983 she participated in the Labour Party Black Sections Movement with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant.  Dianne was active in the ‘Scrap Sus’ campaign which was aimed at banning stop-and-search tactics which disproportionally affected black youth. Dianne founded the Black Media Workers’ Organisation inspired by her early career as a journalist. Dianne has served as Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister for Public Health and Shadow Secretary of State for Health. Although her last role ended in 2020, likely, she will still be making her voice heard in future politics.


Bernie Grant

Credit: Black History Studies

Bernie Grant was British Labour Party politician serving as MP for Tottenham. Bernie was born in British Guiana in 1944, his parents immigrated to the UK as part of the Windrush generation. He started his career in 1978 as a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Haringey. In 1985 he became Borough of Haringey leader where he took control of the rebuilding project of Alexandra Palace which had been damaged by a fire. He was elected as MP for Tottenham in 1987 and was one of the UK’s first African Caribbean MP’s. He was elected with fellow Labour Party Black Sections Members Dianne Abbot and Paul Boateng. Bernie cofounded the African Reparations Movement to campaign for reparations for slavery and racism. Throughout his career, Bernie spoke out against racism in the police. Sadly Bernie died in 2000 of a heart attack and his position as MP for Tottenham was succeeded by another black politician David Lammy.


Paul Boateng

By Roger Harris, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Common

Paul Boateng is a British Labour Party MP from Hackney. Paul is of mixed Scottish and Ghanaian and heritage and originally began his career as a solicitor. In 1981 he was elected to represent Walthamstow on the Greater London Council which sparked his political career. He spoke about the Metropolitan Police and their dealings which African- Caribbean and Asian communities and advocated for greater accountability. He was one of the first four Black British MP’s to be elected, with his fellow Labour Party Black Sections members. When he became the first minister for Young People he launched the Youth, Citizenship and Social Change programme which at the time was the largest programme dedicated to promoting citizenship in youth. He also played a key role in organising the ‘Every Child Matters’ policy paper designed to reform child services and hold government agencies accountable. He served as Minister for Home Affairs, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Secretary to the Treasury. His international political career landed him a spot on the 100 Great Black Britons list in 2003. Although he has taken a step back from politics since 2009, his work has made a great change for black Britons and he was succeeded by another black British politician Dawn Butler.


David Lammy

By David Woolfall, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Common

David Lammy is a British Labour Party politician currently serving as MP for Tottenham. His parents were part of the Windrush generation and immigrated from Guyana. Therefore, he felt personally driven to speak out about the Windrush scandal and the general treatment of black immigrants in the UK. Since he started his political career at the age of 27, issues of race, prejudice and inequality are the main driver for his political work. In 2019 he recorded a documentary on Channel 4 entitled The Unremembered: Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes revealing how 100,000 or more Africans died serving in WW1 but were denied recognition. He has criticised Oxford University for admitting few students from disadvantaged backgrounds and has criticised the government response to The Grenfell Tower fire, which killed a friend of his Khadija Saye, calling for arrests to be made. David is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Justice.


Dawn Butler

By Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Common

Dawn Butler is a British Labour Party politician from East London. Dawn’s parents were Jamaican immigrants and she started her career as GMB trade Union officer, focusing on national race and equality. Dawn became the Labour MP for Brent in 2005 succeeding Paul Boateng. She was the third black woman to become a British MP, after Oona King and Diane Abbot. Dawn took an interest in Youth services and is an honorary vice president of the British Youth Council. In 2009 she was named female MP of the year at the Women in Public Life awards. The same year she became the first black woman to speak from the despatch box in the House of Commons. Despite her success, Dawn has faced much resistance from other political opposers. Though she has not let this stop her. In 2020, she wrote an article defending the Black Lives Matter movement and has spoken out about racial profiling when she was personally profiled by the Metropolitan police. Dawn has served in roles such as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Shadow Minister for Diversity.

Although politics is an area that is clearly lacking colour, black politicians are still breaking records and stating demands. The numbers are small, but they are increasing, and many of the current black politicians still have much to give to politics for black people. Their passion and work ethics are undeniable, and this can only lead to a society that is politically equal for all. The world of politics is changing, technology is creating new industries and ideas. The general population of black people are becoming more educated and aware of the changes they can make in the political world.

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