Boris Johnson’s decision to invite six people defined as ‘black or minority ethnic’ to sit around his Cabinet table has caused great affront.
Not to old-fashioned racists — so far as I know — but to Jeremy Corbyn’s gang.
The shadow treasury spokesman Clive Lewis tweeted to the new Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly: ‘You and the other black members of the Cabinet had to sell your souls and your self-respect to get there. You serve under a racist PM.’
I’ve known Boris Johnson for 25 years: he’s never said anything in my presence which remotely suggests he thinks less (or more) of anyone on grounds of the colour of their skin.
Boris Johnson’s decision to invite six people defined as ‘black or minority ethnic’ to sit around his Cabinet table has caused great affront. The Prime Minister is pictured on the phone in his temporary office inside Admiralty House, London, before meeting the Queen last week
I realise Brexit is considered by many passionate Remainers (such as Lewis) to be motivated by imperial nostalgia — and Boris has traces of that. But the claim that the new ‘Brexit do or die’ Cabinet is engaged in a racist endeavour is just repellent abuse.
As is the remark of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of the Corbynite website The Canary, that anyone ‘from a minority group who chooses to serve in a far-Right government is no longer a person of colour — they’re a turncoat of colour’.
This comment is itself a form of racism: it asserts that if someone has a certain colour of skin, he or she should hold opinions which somehow reflect that genetic inheritance.
And why shouldn’t someone from, say, an Asian ethnic background, be Right-wing? Our political views and affiliations should be held as individuals, not as part of some collective consciousness over which we have no discretion or control.
As the Anglo-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi wryly observed of Clive Lewis’s outburst: ‘People seem to be disappointed that the ethnic minority politicians Boris has selected for his Cabinet are Tories.’
New Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s parents were Gujarati Indians from Uganda, who settled in Hertfordshire. But Patel, pictured, insists: ‘Don’t label me as BME [Black and Minority Ethnic]’
The trouble is that people such as Lewis — and, indeed, Jeremy Corbyn — think that only Labour can possibly represent the interests of people from an ethnic minority background.
They believe it follows that anyone in that category (and the Left do think in categories, never in terms of the individual) who joins the Conservative Party is in some way a traitor to their own race. That, too, is essentially a racist proposition.
It is true that half a century ago Labour was the party which introduced the Race Relations Act, which legislated against discrimination on grounds of race.
But it was the same Labour government which, in 1968, introduced a law taking away the previous absolute right of Commonwealth subjects to settle in the UK — a law opposed by a number of Conservative MPs including John Nott, Ian Gilmour and Iain Macleod.
Nott was later seen as a ‘Right-wing Thatcherite’ and served in her government.
Words that should ‘literally’ be stamped out
The word ‘fastidious’ might have been invented to describe Jacob Rees-Mogg.
So it was unsurprising that his first act upon becoming Leader of the Commons was to hand his newly acquired staff a list of various words or phrases which he did not wish them to use in any communication.
These included: ‘very’, ‘due to’, ‘ongoing’, ‘hopefully’, ‘unacceptable’, ‘equal’, ‘lot’ and ‘got’.
I don’t agree with all his anathemas (a term with which, as a Catholic, he will be familiar). For example, ‘got’ seems unobjectionable.
Indeed, in his debut at the despatch box, Rees-Mogg declared: ‘Mr Speaker, we have got perambulators and nannies into this session, which I think must be a first.’
I was shocked to hear the so-called ‘honourable member for the 18th century’ use the expression ‘a first’.
Mail readers will have their own lists of words or phrases which grate. One which seems now to be endemic, and must be resisted, is ‘incredible’ or, even more ubiquitous, ‘incredibly’.
Apart from the relentless hyperbole of it all, these are frequently used to mean the opposite of what they purport to describe.
The wonderful Gillian Reynolds, doyenne of broadcasting critics, tells me she has been driven to screaming at her radio, so frequent are the ‘incredibles’ and ‘incrediblys’ emerging from it. I share your pain, Gillian. While we’re about it: ‘literally’ and ‘exponentially’ should be stamped out, since they are so seldom used correctly.
‘Famously’ also requires linguistic euthanasia, being both over-used and otiose.
My services are available to the Leader of the Commons, at a guinea a word.
- Which words or phrases would you outlaw and why? Tell us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Right-wing it may have been, but Thatcherism was very much in tune with aspects of the immigrant spirit, especially in the Chinese, Hindu and Jewish communities: a high level of economic aspiration, hard work and self-reliance.
The ethos of the Thatcher family’s grocery, where the future PM was brought up and lived above the shop, was essentially the same as that in countless corner-shops up and down the country, run by families who arrived here from the Indian subcontinent (or were among the entrepreneurial Ugandan Asians expelled by the monstrous Idi Amin).
The new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, comes from this family background. Her parents were Gujarati Indians from Uganda, who settled in Hertfordshire and started a chain of newsagents.
But as Patel insists: ‘Don’t label me as BME [Black and Minority Ethnic]. I’ve said that to people in the Cabinet. I think it’s patronising…[and] totally unhelpful because we are people and everyone wants to be recognised on their individual merits.’
That is also the view of the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid. He is a fan of the American writer Ayn Rand, advocate of a form of rampant individualism which prefigured — and exceeded — what we in the UK call Thatcherism.
Javid has said that he reads the court scene from Rand’s novel The Fountainhead twice a year, to remind himself of what he should stand for.
Here’s an extract: ‘The common good of a collective — a race, a class, a nation — is the claim and justification of every tyranny ever established over men.’
And here’s another: ‘The mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought.’
Take that, socialists.
Patel and Javid are different from the other non-white members of the Johnson Cabinet: they were educated at comprehensives, while Kwasi Kwarteng (Eton College), Alok Sharma (Reading Blue Coat), Rishi Sunak (Winchester College) and James Cleverly (Colfe’s School), were all privately educated.
In that sense, they are closer to the traditional sort of Conservative Cabinet member, with the same sort of social capital and connections.
It is class, and not colour, which is the true social barrier in the UK.
To put it starkly: the marriage of Prince Harry to a mixed-race American came as much less of a shock to the system than if he had married a woman with an Essex accent brought up on a council estate. And yes, Meghan was privately educated.
Patel and newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, pictured, are different from the other non-white members of the Cabinet: they were educated at comprehensives
In this context, I urge you to watch How To Break Into The Elite on BBC2 tonight.
Presented by Amol Rajan, whose parents came to this country from India, it contains an explosive interview with the broadcaster Matthew Wright.
In something of a rage, Wright talks about his own ‘very ordinary lower middle-class background’, and tells Rajan: ‘I have been pushed off programmes in favour of a man of colour, as part of a diversity drive. But he was privately-educated and I was state-educated. It’s people from my sort of background who are not getting properly represented in the media or politics.’
Boris Johnson may not speak for the Matthew Wrights of this world. But even less so does Corbyn’s Labour Party.