Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate in the Croydon North by-election, has rejected accusations that he is standing to create a racial divide, asserting that, “We’ve not come to whip up racism. No, we’ve come to say we need equal opportunities.”
Jasper’s party leader, George Galloway, took time out from his search for an empty shop to use as a campaign headquarters (there’s hardly a shortage of such in Croydon, George), to speak at the second Black Men in the Community conference in Lewisham on Saturday, where he took the opportunity to describe his candidate as “the new Bernie Grant”.
South London LibDem activist Lester Holloway has described Jasper’s speech at the conference as “barnstorming”, saying it covered “a spectrum of issues where race discrimination was rife, including disproportionate Black unemployment, stop and search, the criminal justice system, media and politics”.
On his blog, Sutton councillor Holloway highlights that Croydon North has the second largest African-Caribbean population in London constituencies. Much of the 8/8 rioting last year took place in Croydon North, yet the borough’s Conservative-run council has recently pulled all funding from black education projects in the area.
Labour and the Conservatives opted not to choose a candidate from the BME communities to seek to represent Croydon North, where the by-election is expected to be held on November 29.
“If we continue to do the things we’ve always done we will keep getting the same results,” Jasper, the former adviser on race issues to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, said at the conference.
Referring to figures showing that at 56 per cent, black youth unemployment in Croydon North is running at similar levels to youth unemployment in Greece, Jasper told the conference that the best role models young people can have are a mother and father with a job.
“We need to wake up otherwise we will bequeath a society to our children less equal than the previous generation,” Jasper said. “The most radical generation were the Windrush generation; they stuck together and helped each other out. They fought hard to make sure that our generation didn’t face the racism they faced.
“I don’t want to bequeath to my kids a society where they are fighting the same battles I was fighting 20 or 30 years ago.”
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