Tanzania Association Launched in Reading
Last night I was privileged to attend the launch of the Tanzanian Association in Reading. I was asked to attend to represent Alok Sharma who had another engagement. I didn’t know that Reading had a Tanzanian community but was soon put right. The hall was packed with people and the senior guest was the High Commissioner, as well as a number of Tanzanian MPs who are here as election observers.
The community was very welcoming and I was invited to speak to them about the Conservative party and its Manifesto for the General Election. I then took questions from the floor, which mainly focussed around immigration and support for the Commonwealth. There were some concerns about our plan for a cap on non-EU immigration but I was able to discuss those in a friendly way, and the audience applauded our plans to protect international development aid and put a greater focus on the Commonwealth. I also praised President Kikwete’s clean up of Tanzanian politics and suggested that some of our politicians could learn from him. Finally I appealed for people to get involved in politics locally. There are no elected black Councillors on Reading Borough Council and my party would very much welcome new members from the Tanzanian community.
A lot of the meeting was conducted in Swahili and as a “Swahili challenged” Englishman, one or two people translated for me. There were many speeches both before and after the meal, with many of the speakers stressing the importance of the diaspora to Tanzania. One speaker talked about his personal project of sending used computers to Africa. The main focus of the speeches was the launch of the Tanzania Association, which is a personal project of the President to harness the support of the Tanzanian community in the UK. The High Commissioner (who is soon to move to the US to represent her country) spoke in a mix of English and Swahili and I was delighted to be asked if I would become a “friend” of the Association.
I learned a lot last night and was touched by the warmth of the welcome I received. Despite being invited, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems sent a representative to the meeting and it was commented on by several of the senior members around me. For many years Labour has taken the minority ethnic communities for granted and they have noticed. Many are now rethinking their vote and are attractive by the Conservative message of support for small business and families, and lower taxes.