Published: Monday 20th April 2015 11:27AM
Updated: Sunday 7th June 2015 10:30AM
Does Cameron think it’s that easy?
As we enter the thick of Election season we can expect the glad-handing, baby-kissing, photo-opping party leaders to be out in all their glory, smiling tightly and stoically ignoring any hecklers that may cross their path. So if I had seen any of the party leaders appear at a large Christian conference such as RCCG’s Festival of Life, I would have rolled my eyes and made a sarcastic comment or two. But seeing David Cameron appearing before a crowd of thousands of black Christians at the ExCel Centre in East London enraged me.
Everything about it, from his slick-tongued speech to his clear discomfort when being prayed for by Pastor Adeboye was a reminder that this was nothing, but a cynical scramble for votes from a demographic it would seem he otherwise does not care about. If there was one message I took away from the incident it was that Black Votes matter, while Black Lives do not.
“There’s nothing wrong with him being prayed for!” Cameron’s defenders cried on social media. Of course not, but he clearly was not there to receive prayer, and his body language and lack of correct prayer etiquette so obviously let us know that. “He’s still the Prime Minister, why should he not visit different communities within his country?” He’s had five long years to visit one of Europe’s largest gatherings of Christians as Prime Minister, but he didn’t. When he showed up on Friday night he was not there as Prime Minister, he was there as the leader of the Conservative Party, a political party desperately canvassing for votes with the General Election only a few weeks away and the polls looking pretty tight.
While I found the politicising of what is meant to be a sacred platform quite distasteful, what really got me riled up was the shameless hypocrisy of the whole scenario. As David Cameron told the congregation of mainly people from West African backgrounds how “we are all family.” I wondered how many of the cheering crowd remembered his government trying to pass policy that would see visitors to the UK from Nigeria and Ghana be forced to pay a £3,000 bond before obtaining their visa. I wondered if the jubilant masses remembered that this is the same Prime Minister who tripled tuition fees for university students and simultaneously cut funding to support students and young people as he looked out into the sea of black and brown faces and talked about “ambition”.
As Cameron quoted Jesus and whipped the audience into a frenzy, of course there was no mention of Conservative proposals to lower the benefits cap or scrap the Human Rights Act in order to deny asylum seekers the right to appeal deportation decisions, and get them shipped out of the country more easily. Cameron quotes Christ freely but does not seem to share his same concern for the most vulnerable within our communities.
Do you know what all of this says about how David Cameron views the “Black Vote”? He thinks it’s cheap. His government continues to peddle policy that adversely affects our communities, fragments and separates our families and props up a police force that hasn’t progressed much in terms of its institutionalised racism since the murder of Stephen Lawrence under the last Tory government. But rather than take into consideration the concerns of the electorate he’s trying to sway, he turns up and pays lip service to the black church within Britain, hoping that will buy him votes instead. I mean, it’s a lot less effort than actually addressing the issues that affect us, isn’t it?
Playing the faith card to grab for votes is an insult to our collective intelligence and every drop of melanin within my body prays that we will not allow ourselves to be bought so cheaply. Each of us must hold these “public servants” to account for their policies and track records and that starts with making sure that we are voting for the party that cares about the same things that we do. Visit the Vote For Policies website, a simple tool that helps you understand who and what you’re voting for, and for all our sakes make sure you turn out to vote on 7th May.
As a final note to church leaders everywhere, you’re meant to be protecting your congregation from wolves in sheep’s clothing, not serving them up on a platter for the self-interests of the otherwise apathetic powerful.