Even her appointment to the House of Lords can't curtail Doreen Lawrence’s campaigning spirit

The UK is woefully short of authentic black voices in politics and, once in power,  careerism often pulls ambitious black politicians away from their value system

Share
Related Topics

When it was announced that race equality campaigner Doreen Lawrence would be entering the House of Lords as a new Labour peer this month, there was a swirl of reactions. Grassroots campaigners who have journeyed with her since the racist murder of her son Stephen, in 1993, have feared the neutralisation of her power. How can she sustain her influence within such a reactionary British institution?

For most of us the title ’Baroness’ conjures up the image of a wealthy, privileged, upper-class woman, white, and out of touch with much happening below the level of her usually long nose. Or, a rampantly forceful woman, determined and domineering, but again not showing much interest in listening to and understanding others - a bit in the mould of Baroness Margaret Thatcher.

Baronesses from ethnic minority backgrounds have not been very visible, except, like Baroness Warsi, for the wrong reasons. Sayeeda Warsi was seen be some as fodder, caught up in the Tory party spin machine, a mere token ethnic minority woman who was parachuted into the Lords. She was not viewed as having an authentic voice of the cultural community she belonged to, and was rejected by many British Asian Muslims. It is extremely unlikely that Doreen will suffer this fate, and she continues to be admired not only by ethnic minorities, but by the millions from all backgrounds that she has inspired over the past twenty years.

Many voices also have celebrated and welcomed Doreen’s appointment, fully expecting that her considerable personal power will not be diminished in the Lords, and on the contrary, she will be a welcome force for change in the creaky institution.

So what will Baroness Lawrence need to do to convince her grassroots followers that she will continue in the style that is so admired: one of a quiet, but determined and dignified fighter? There will be just one expectation: that she retains her core beliefs and values. The UK is woefully short of authentic black voices in politics, and it has been argued that careerism inevitably pulls ambitious black politicians away from their value system. It is not often one hears a back bench MP or junior minister from an ethnic minority background campaigning for race equality. That is normally left to pressure groups and community leaders.

At a time when the Government is showing a lack of commitment to equality legislation, and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has been substantially reduced, we need a voice like Doreen’s more than ever. It is also a masterstroke of Labour, recently facing claims of taking the black vote for granted, and of failing to show commitment to robustly fighting discrimination.

There is no fear of that with Doreen, and we can be sure she will be telling anyone who addresses her as ‘Baroness’ to call her by her first name, she has been purely motivated by her basic belief in human rights, equality and justice. In a country that claims to be civilised, and seeks to export its democratic systems around the world, for her, injustices must be identified and rooted out. It is this belief that has led her to shine a light on, fight and overcome each new insult in her fight for justice for her son.

This year, the twentieth anniversary of the murder of her son, and only a year after finally seeing two of the killers behind bars, it is a good time for her to focus on a formal role. Her recent confirmation that allegations of racial profiling by the Government’s recent arrests of suspected undocumented migrants is an issue very much on her radar, suggests that race equality remains firmly on her agenda.

We have to be assured, that this woman, who has not been silenced by institutional injustices, corrupt people and systems, and illegal procedures, will also not let the House of Lords protocols curtail her campaigning, questing flame.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen