Adam Afriyie – the Conservative MP for Windsor (and tipped by Harry Phibbs as the nearest the Conservative Party has to Barack Obama) – has told The Times that he doesn’t expect to see a black MP in 10 Downing Street during his lifetime:
“I do not believe we will see a black prime minister in my lifetime. In the US a fresh face like Obama can make it in one electoral cycle. In Britain it’s generally a gradual process of service and promotion over many years, and often decades, before leading a political party.”
Two immediate qualifications need to be made to Mr Afriye’s statement:
- Long service isn’t always required. Albeit exceptionally, David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party after just four years an MP. Nick Clegg rose even faster to head the LibDems (although that may not be an auspicious precedent).
- Margaret Thatcher famously remarked that she didn’t expect to see a woman PM in her lifetime. We all know what happened.
Mr Afriyie was speaking to The Times by way of response to Equality campaigner Trevor Phillips’ attack on the British political system’s "institutional racism". Mr Phillips, Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a former Labour member of the GLA, was particularly critical of his Labour:
“If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour Party… The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It’s institutional racism.”
The Conservatives have selected a number of ethnnic minority candidates since 2005. They include Shaun Bailey, Helen Grant, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Priti Patel and Paul Uppal.