Britain's black vote issues
With all to play for in the UK general and parlaimentary elections, it is not surprising that black voters, many in key borderline areas, are also getting a direct pitch from Britain's three main political parties.
In the countdown to elections on 6 May, polls ahead of the final weekend of campigning indicated that the main opposition Conservative party are slightly ahead with 37%, the governing Labour party at 31%, and the smaller opposition Liberal Democrat party at 20%.
So when the non-aligned group, Operation Black Vote (OBV) invited the party's deputy leaders to a mid-week rally at a church hall near the Houses of Parliament in London, it was no surprise that the parties actually offered their big guns.
OBV's mandate, backed by private and public groups, is to get black voters, of Caribbean, African, and Asian origin to register and use their vote in the UK.
The OBV evening session brought out over 1,000 people in London to a lively session with challenging questions to all candidates.
Booing and heckling
Questions put to the candidates indicated that education, better job opportunities, less police stop and search power, and long term storage of personal DNA details were the key issues which roused the crowd.
Some issues - such as care for disabled black people also led to heckling and statements from the floor.
As did the mere introduction of the Shadow (Conservative) Chancellor George Osbourne which led to boo-ing by many in the audience and took time to quell.
Some audience members also booed a video tape message from Conservative leader David Cameron, prepared for the event.
This does not mean, however, that the Labour Party can bank on its traditional links with Britain's black community which had traditionally forged an alliance since the start of the immigration from the Caribbean in the 1950's.
"I've voted for Labour but the Labour party always take our vote for granted...it's like a sure seat and it has been for a long while, " one man of Caribbean origin told BBC Caribbean.
Many agreed that a more joined-up black vote would gain more respect from political parties.
Immigration is also turning out to be an issue of major concern.
Some believe that it boosts the economy and has made UK into a truly multicultural country.
But others say that the arrival of large numbers in recent years has put a strain on hospitals, schools and transport in some places and created a fragmented society.
The issue has been a hot topic for the three main parties who in recent weeks have seen a massive increase in their popularity leading to speculation of a hung parliament.
One attendee at the OBV event, of Guyanese origin, told BBC Caribbean of her concerns that when immigration, as it relates to the most recent wave of eastern Europeans, is raised, people generally extend it to Caribbean migrants who have been in the UK for decades.
Research suggests that areas which have had higher levels of recent immigration into the UK are NOT the ones that are more likely to support the radical party.
Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows support for the radical British National Party is lower in places with more migrants including areas with significant numbers of people of Caribbean background.
The three main parties: Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats have also been campaigning on taking a tough stand on immigration.
The 'Caribbean' vote
OBV is concerned about the under-representation in British politics of ethnic minorities.
It's director, Simon Woolley spoke to Ken Richards.
BBC Caribbean's Debbie Ransome attended a town hall meeting organised by Operation Black Vote featuring representatives from the main political parties.
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