Delegation of Commonwealth parliamentarians visit BHT’s First Base Day Centre

A delegation of Commonwealth parliamentarians visited BHT’s First Base Day Centre today.  It was part of a week-long Election Assessment Mission, observing the election in Brighton Pavilion Constituency.

The aim of the visit to First Base was to give the parliamentarians a much fuller sense of the issues faced by people who may be marginalised and excluded from society, and the work and the role BHT plays in the community and in reducing poverty and social exclusion.

Members of the Election Assessment Mission in Brighton Pavilion are:

  • Hon. Bijoya Chakravarty MP from India
  • Hon. Fitz Jackson MP from Jamaica
  • Hon. Sophia Swartz MP from Namibia
  • Mr Robert Peden, the Chief Electoral Officer from New Zealand’s Electoral Commission.

The group is part of a multilateral Election Assessment Mission (EAM) made up of 22 Commonwealth MPs and electoral officials observing the UK’s 7 May General Election in a sample of six constituencies across the UK, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK. The mission will collate its observations of election conduct and processes into a report including recommendations for improvements, which will be submitted to the Electoral Commission.

imageThe Brighton Pavilion constituency is one of the more fascinating seats in the country, where political activity is energetic and sometimes contentious. It is also a constituency with massive contrasts between affluence and poverty, poverty most visibly represented by men and women living on the streets.

Not only can homeless men and women be excluded from housing and services, they can also be disenfranchised. That is why we have run a voter registration campaign from First Base to ensure that homeless people at least have the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process.

It was particularly special to meet the Hon. Sophia Swartz from Namibia. Had I stayed in South Africa, the country of my birth, and had I obeyed my call-up to the apartheid army, I would have certainly found myself in armed conflict with Namibia’s liberation army, SWAPO, which is now the party of government in that country.

For me it is a cause of joy and celebration that democracy has become embedded in South Africa and Namibia, and that a delegation of election observers to Britain now includes a representative from southern Africa.

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