Grant's funeral programme
|Member of Parliament |
11 June 1987 – 8 April 2000
|Preceded by||Norman Atkinson|
|Succeeded by||David Lammy|
Bernard Alexander Montgomery Grant
17 February 1944
Georgetown, British Guiana
|Died||8 April 2000 (aged 56)|
|Alma mater||Heriot-Watt University|
Bernie Grant was born in Georgetown, British Guiana, to schoolteacher parents, who in 1963 took up the UK Government's offer to people from the crown colonies to settle in the UK. Grant attended Tottenham Technical College, and went on to take a degree course in Mining Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
In the mid-1960s, he was, for a period, a member of the Socialist Labour League, led by Gerry Healy. This later became known as the Workers Revolutionary Party. He quickly became a trade union official, and moved into politics, becoming a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Haringey in 1978.
When the Conservative government introduced "rate capping", Grant led the fight against it in the borough. This created division in the local Constituency Labour Party, but through this split, Grant became the Borough of Haringey leader in 1985.
He took control of the rebuilding project of Alexandra Palace, which had been partially destroyed in a fire. The project had £15,000,000 in cash, but the lack of financial control saw this surplus turn into deficit and interest payments eventually took the debt to a total of £80,000,000.
As council leader during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riot, in which a policeman, PC Keith Blakelock, was murdered, Grant was brought to national attention when he was widely quoted as saying: "What the police got was a bloody good hiding." Grant claimed his words had been taken out of context, but offered an apology to the family of PC Blakelock. A fuller version of the quotation is: "The youths around here believe the police were to blame for what happened on Sunday and what they got was a bloody good hiding." His comments brought swift denunciation from the Labour Party leadership, and the then Conservative Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, called him "the high priest of conflict"; several British newspapers also dubbed him "Barmy Bernie". He claimed that he was merely explaining to a wider audience what the feeling on the estate was like. There is conflicting information over whether Grant condemned the violence of the rioters the following day.
The controversy, however, did not prevent him from being elected as the MP for Tottenham at the 1987 general election, one of the UK's first Black British MPs, the others being Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng. Grant later stood for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, but was unsuccessful.
In 1989, he established and chaired the Parliamentary Black Caucus, modelled after the Congressional Black Caucus of the United States. The organisation was committed to advancing the opportunities of Britain's ethnic minority communities.
In 1993, Grant proposed 'that black citizens be offered cash to resettle in Africa or the Caribbean'. He estimated at the time that as many as 40 per cent of the black people in his constituency would want to leave.
Grant was associated with the Socialist Campaign Group, and spoke out against police racism. He married three times, living with his third wife in Muswell Hill. He died from a heart attack at Middlesex Hospital on 8 April 2000, aged 56. His funeral procession on 18 April passed through Tottenham towards a service at Alexandra Palace, pausing as it passed the Broadwater Farm estate. According to The Guardian′s report, "An estimated 3,000 people... turned out to salute the black radical. There were dancers and singers, a Highland piper and African drums. Also present were Home Secretary, Jack Straw, Chris Smith, Culture Secretary, Clare Short, Minister for International Development, and Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz, Britain's most senior Black ministers."
His widow, Sharon Grant, was on the shortlist to succeed him as the official Labour candidate for Tottenham, but was beaten by the then-27-year-old David Lammy, who won the by-election in June 2000.
On Sunday, 28 October 2012, a blue plaque, organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, was unveiled at Tottenham Old Town Hall in tribute to Grant.
On 5 December 2017, a portrait of Grant was unveiled in Parliament. The portrait was commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. Drawn in 180 hours using pencil and charcoal by hyper-realist artist Kelvin Okafor, the portrait joined the Parliamentary Art Collection.
- Mike Phillips (10 April 2000). "Bernie Grant – Passionate leftwing MP and tireless anti-racism campaigner (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- Dean Woodward, "Changing man: Bernie Grant February 17 1944 – April 8 2000", Weekly Worker, 13 April 2000. Archived 23 April 2013 at Archive.today
- Ryle, Sarah (9 April 2000). "Farewell to a firebrand". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "BBC:Bernie Grant: A controversial figure". BBC. 8 April 2000. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
- "Bernie Grant Archive". Bernie Grant Trust. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009.
- Rule, Sheila (3 April 1989). "British M.P.'s Form Caucus to Advance Rights of Minorities". The New York Times.
- Michael White (19 April 2000). "Tottenham turns out in style for Bernie Grant's funeral". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- David Lammy (10 October 2000). "A Tribute to Bernie Grant". Davidlammy.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "About Bernie". Bernie Grants Arts Centre. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- Bruce Thain (29 October 2012). "Hundreds turn out for Bernie Grant plaque unveiling". Haringey Independent. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Bernie Grant
- Mike Phillips, "Bernie Grant -Passionate leftwing MP and tireless anti-racism campaigner" (obituary), The Guardian, 10 April 2000.
- Black Presence – Bernie Grant MP
- berniegrantarchive.org.uk The Bernie Grant Archives, held at Bishopsgate Institute
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Tottenham