UNISON general secretary says a handful of votes in a small number of key constituencies could swing election

David CameronNo-one can predict the way the coming election will go, and with the result too close to call, black voters are likely to have a decisive impact in May, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said yesterday.

Addressing the union’s national black members’ conference Dave Prentis said: “Since 2010 black public service workers have had to put up with a lot from this government.

“There’s been wage freezes and pay held down way below prices, harsh spending cuts and huge jobs losses, and the increasing involvement of private firms who care more about profit than good services – in the NHS, in education and in probation.

“Communities have been hit hard over the past five years – by the squeeze on living standards and the cutting back of vital benefits as the welfare state is slowly dismantled.

“Meanwhile many black youngsters – if they have been fortunate enough to find work – are trapped in low-wage jobs, unlikely ever be able to afford their own homes, and trapped in expensive rental accommodation.

“The government has done more damage to the NHS in the last five years than at any time in the health service’s 67 year history. Spending is less in real terms than it was in Thatcher’s day.

“The NHS is being slowly starved of cash, and as council adult social care budgets are slashed, the elderly and the vulnerable are calling on the health service more than ever.

“It’s no wonder many A&E departments have been teetering on the brink – kept afloat by dedicated staff who put in many extra hours of unpaid overtime, week in week out.

“Only today a damning report from influential think tank the King’s Fund accused the government of wasting billions on a series of damaging reforms that no-one asked for, but which have used up vital resources that could have gone on improving patient care.

“We warned the government that Andrew Lansley’s ill-thought Act was would damage and scar the health service but ministers went ahead regardless – despite opposition from every organisation that knew the NHS well. This government has failed the NHS and failed patients.

“But now is our chance to make amends. Recent research shows that black voters could just swing the result on 7 May away from the Tories and the further havoc they will wreak on public services, and on unions, should they make it back to Number Ten.

“With the parties neck and neck, and coalitions of many different compositions being imagined after election day, the outcome is likely to be decided by a handful of votes in a small number of key constituencies.

“According to Operation Black Vote in more than 160 constituencies black voters outnumber the majority of the sitting MP – that means there is a real opportunity for you to influence the result and deny David Cameron the opportunity to stay in Downing Street.

“The importance of a black political voice has never been greater – that’s why UNISON has signed up to the Mirror’s No Vote No Voice campaign to persuade all those who feel alienated from politics that they should register and have their say on that Thursday in May.

“Last time around almost one in five black adults were not registered to vote – that’s twice the rate for white adults. If you feel that no-one is listening, it’s easy to see why Westminster appears remote, and there is no desire to engage. But the stakes are high.

“The Tories have already threatened to slash spending all over again should they return to power – cuts that would virtually destroy the NHS and take spending on the welfare state back to 1930s levels.

“The government has already created a tough environment for unions, and if they come back in May, the climate will get even harsher.

“Cuts to the facility time that allow reps to help members, stopping the check off that allows union subs to come straight from salaries, raising the strike ballot threshold to impossibly high levels. We cannot allow that to happen.

“We cannot allow that to happen to our publics services, to our young, our vulnerable and our future.

“So make sure that everyone you know is registered to vote so they can help kick out this immoral government in May. Together we can make a difference.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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