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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Assistant Editor: Domestic violence is no petty matter

Siobhan Norton
 

There’s nothing wrong with GM

Steve Connor
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried