General Election 2024: We say we Turkish Cypriots exist but do we really?

Rishi Sunak has sounded the klaxon for the General Election, which will take place on Thursday, 4 July 2024. Most political commentators see no way back for the Conservatives and their miserable period of government lasting 14 years is finally about to come to a crashing end.

As much as I enjoy writing about the demise of a Conservative Party, which has brought politics to a new low, I always get a bee in my bonnet as we approach a General Election because of one really important community failing, which we seem to repeatedly replay every time an election is called.

Collectively, we see the odd campaign from time-to-time, which tries really hard to make the point that as a people Turkish Cypriots exist – and we do! – and it is grossly unfair that we continue to face the isolationist policies of governments around the world that deny us our fundamental rights that most people around us take completely for granted.

The embargoes faced by our people has seen us disadvantaged for over 60 years and there is no sign of things changing anytime soon.

I always thought General Elections were a time for communities to stand up and be counted. I wonder how many British people of Turkish Cypriot heritage actually exercise their right to vote?

As a community we have failed; collectively, we have failed. We never turn out for a vote in sufficient numbers, unlike other communities I could mention.

So, is it really any wonder politicians couldn’t care less about Turkish Cypriots?

The day we start acting as a community and a collective, delivering a reliable and sizeable vote will see politicians finally wake up to our concerns. But until then, if you are reading this you probably fall into the “Why should I vote? What difference will it make?” camp.

Ever since I turned 18, I have made sure I’ve voted in every single election there’s been, be it the Local Council, General and European elections. It is my democratic right, which I cherish especially given the many millions of people around the world who cannot access free and fair democratic elections.

If you are serious about having a voice for the community, I would urge you to make sure you vote.

I’ve registered for a postal vote, as this makes life really easy and I don’t have to trudge to the polling station on the day. If you are lazy like me, this is the way to go!

The Labour Party will be the next Government come July 5th. It is also looking very likely that we will have only our second ever Turkish Cypriot MP, Nesil Caliskan, who is standing as Labour’s candidate for the relatively safe Barking & Dagenham seat.

Nesil’s candidacy embodies the power of getting actively engaged with the political party of your choice, supporting that party’s local political work, from canvassing to fundraising, and – for those of you ambitious enough – showing them you have what it takes to become a great representative for their party and a prospective candidate for a local or national election.

The final point I want to make is how powerful delivering a big vote can undoubtedly be. We know there are certain pockets of our community, particularly in and around London, where we have the ability to change or at the very least influence an outcome at the General Election.

Take Chingford & Woodford Green, in northeast London, as an example. In a six-way race there are possible victories for at least two of those candidates who faced off at the 2019 elections, with less than 1,300 votes between them.

An organised vote among the constituency’s estimated 5,000 Turkish and Turkish Cypriot origin community, where we act tactically, can quite easily see the Independent candidate Faiza Shaheen (whose values and policies most in our community would support) oust the former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, in what would be a Portillo-style moment.

This is what we are capable of doing – this is what we should be doing!

If you don’t vote, please don’t moan about whoever the next government is and what little they do for Turkish Cypriots, as you have waived your right to have a say, and therefore a moan.

For the rest of us, study the candidates before you, look at their and their parties’ track record versus the things you care about most, and use your vote on 4 July to send a message about the type of change you truly want to see.


Fevzi Hussein is the former chair of human rights group Embargoed!, a lifelong trade unionist and anti-racist activist, and media commentator. He also broadcasts a regular podcast called Bandofla on topical political issues.

Follow Fevzi on Twitter:@fevzihussein