top of page
Search

Poll position

Confused as to which political party to vote for on July 4th? Are any of them interested in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller vote? Jake Bowers has waded through the manifestos and track records towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities so you don’t have to.



If Britain’s 600,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers all lived in one place, it would be a city the size of Liverpool, which sends 5 MPs to parliament. But we have no MPs and the chances of getting any soon looks remote. So which of the parties should we vote for to stand up for our interests? Here’s my take on what all the main political parties are saying about us in their manifestos (the things they promise to do if elected) and more importantly on what they have done to us.

 

Conservative and Unionist Party

 

The Conservative Party has a long track record of hostility towards the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. In 1994 they brought in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which removed the legal duty of local councils to provide Gypsy caravan sites and increased police eviction powers which are used throughout the UK. In 2022 they increased these eviction powers in a bid to wipe out nomadic life in the UK. Surprisingly they are the only party at all that refers to Gypsies and Travellers in their manifesto. On page 54  they say:

 

“Building on our new powers for the police, we will further speed up the use and enforcement of powers to remove illegal traveller sites, while giving councils greater planning powers to prevent unauthorised development by travellers”.

In 2023, The Conservative party chair, Greg Hands, was been urged to launch an internal investigation into the Welsh secretary, David TC Davies, over “unacceptable” and “racist” comments against Gypsies and Travellers.

Davies published a leaflet telling voters: “Gypsy and Traveller site coming to your area soon!” and asking them: “Would you like to see a Traveller site next to your house?”


Labour Party

 

The Labour Party makes no mention of Gypsies, Roma or Travellers in its manifesto.  But it does commit to upholding the human rights laws that have often been used in British courts to secure rights for Gypsies and Travellers. Its manifesto states: “Britain will unequivocally remain a member of the European Convention on Human Rights.” It is also the party of Britain’s only known Roma councillor.

 

It's record in local and national government on Gypsies, Roma and Traveller is mixed to say the least. While some Labour MPs, such as Mary Foy, Bell Riberio Addy and Zarah Sultana have campaigned for Gypsies and Travellers, others have also sought the anti-Gypsy vote. In April 2021, for example, a Labour shadow minister was forced to apologise after handing out campaign leaflets carrying an anti-Traveller pledge.

Charlotte Nichols dished out the offensive literature while door-knocking in her constituency of Warrington North ahead local elections. In a list of promises detailed on the leaflet was the vow to “deal with traveller incursions”.


Reform UK Party


Britain’s youngest political party also has the worst track record of using racist language about Gypsies and Travellers. Its only current MP Lee Anderson has a long track record of using very racist language about us. On April 8th 2024 (Romany Nation Day) he said the following about Gypsies and Travellers.



In June 2021, when Anderson was a Conservative MP he was accused of using hate speech against the Gypsy and Traveller community. He was urged to resign over “extremist” remarks he made about us in a Commons committee – with leading charities accusing him of “hate speech”.


Lee Anderson suggested some of the Travellers seen in his Ashfield constituency were thieves who would steal “your lawnmower and half of your tools” during a debate.

He said: “The Gypsy encampments that we are talking about in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned Gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes.


“The Travellers I am talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at 3 o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools. That happens every single time they come to Ashfield.”


The party is also committed to “Leave the European Convention on Human Rights.” on page 3 of its manifesto.

 

Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru

 

The manifesto of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru also make no reference at all to the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.  But both parties are traditionally positive about human rights. The SNP manifesto states: “Rather than rolling back on rights, we should be seeking to strengthen human rights protections for all. We will call on the UK Government to respect international law and strongly oppose any attempts by the UK government to withdraw the UK from the ECHR or change the Human Rights Act which is integral to the devolution settlement for the Scottish Parliament.”

 

In February 2023, SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon was called upon to issue a formal apology to the Scottish Gypsy and Traveller community for the country’s “Tinker experiments” which forcibly settled Gypsy and Traveller community, but no apology has been forthcoming. In January 2024, Fife-raised Dr Lynne Tammi-Connelly trekked from her home to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to raise awareness of the 'Tinker Experiment' and the fact her ancestors were forcibly trafficked to North America. The SNP minister she had walked to see refused to meet her.




 

Liberal Democrats


The Liberal Democrats manifesto also makes no reference to our community. It does however promise: “We will champion the UK’s Human Rights Act and resist any attempts to weaken or repeal it.”

In local government their record is also patchy with some councillors condemning racism others have been accused of courting anti-Gypsy feeling to gain votes. In August 2023, for example, they were accused of colluding with the Labour Party to stop a new Gypsy site being built in Sheffield.



Green Party


The Green Party also makes no mention of our community, though it has a long-standing commitment to being an anti-racist party.

 

It is also the only party committed to “Scrap the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, Public Order Act and other legislation that erodes the right to protest and to free expression.” As such it is the only national party committed to repealing the most racist piece of anti-Gypsy legislation of recent times.

 

Unlike all other parties, no examples of anti-Gypsy racism by Green Party councillors in local government could found in researching this article.

 

287 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page