Yesterday I wrote a blog piece about a few of the people I know who I could refer to as current Champions in the Black History Month. To be honest not all of them are from Sussex and indeed I was very conscious that I could have made the blog much longer but I felt I needed to make it a suitable length for my normal pieces. As part of what I wrote I also referred to the debate in the House of Commons that took place on Tuesday and I reproduced some of the speech from the MP for Erith who began the debate. I always like to see what Sussex MPs have stated in debates and two MPs responded as part of this debate. One was Peter Bottomley from West Worthing who chose to focus on the Labour Party and so one could interpret that as a positive element. However it was disappointing he did not refer to people outside of the political world alongside the person he mentioned. However his statement was essentially positive even if it did poke at the weakness of the Labour party.
Although the Labour party has not yet managed to have a female Prime Minister and was the third or fourth party to have a non-white Member of Parliament, it has one record, which is that Bill Morris was the first major black trade union leader. He got that position by doing his job well. People on both sides of the House are trying to put forward that merit issue.
Sadly the response from the MP for Battle and Bexhill was a lot more disappointing, even if the lack of local people in Mr Bottomley’s comment was very evident. I sometimes agree with Huw Merriman even though he is a member of a political party like Peter Bottomley that I am not a supporter of. However on this occasion his statement was very disturbing, given the subject of the debate. This is the starting part of a longer statement.
It is an absolute pleasure to follow Naz Shah, particularly because she reeled off so many names of those who have contributed so much to her constituency. I find it interesting listening to her, because I represent a part of the country—the county of East Sussex—where perhaps I would not be able to do that, because of our demographics. None the less, I feel moved to speak, because it is important for all constituents who feel the burning desire of justice to have all their representatives speak up. We should not just have certain voices speaking; we should all speak and speak up for our constituents who are very concerned. They want to celebrate Black History Month and the achievements that the community has made, but they also push us all in this place to do more. Those are really the sentiments that I come here to speak for.
My suggestion to Huw is that between now and next year that he spends a bit longer exploring the people in Sussex, including in his constituency who could be listed as part of the Black History Month for 2021.