As a black Conservative parliamentary candidate, my choice of party is often met with either surprise or sneers
“You’re so brave!” is the surprised declaration from people when I, a black woman, announce I am the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. To me, brave is going to Afghanistan. Brave is deciding life is worth living after half your body has been blown away by a landmine. Brave I am not. Angry, I certainly am — an anger that cannot be mitigated until this government is history.
Very occasionally, while canvassing on the doorsteps of Rotherhithe when I encounter one of the few black people living in the area, sneering comments, usually from a man, will be made to me about being in the wrong party. One man even suggested that the Tories would eat me for breakfast. If the Left’s argument about “toffs” is to be believed, then that is a very upper-class way to go — I could be the dish of the day at the Bullingdon Club.
For some reason, ethnic minorities have a very bad relationship with the Labour Party. Actually, it could be better described as that of a mistress. We are wooed once every five years and tossed a crumb to keep us happy but are never seen together in public. I have never seen Gordon Brown with anyone remotely ethnic — Barack Obama doesn’t count. Harriet Harman’s equality agenda doesn’t appear to extend to her staff in the House of Commons unless I have missed a trick. They do come in handy as a front at One’s surgeries at the town hall though, even if One rarely graces them with One’s presence.
I have visited the House of Commons many times and it is overpopulated with people of colour, serving wine, tea and coffee. They are dignified people with whom I tend to have rather longer conversations than I do with our Honourable Members, whose idea of service comes at an inflated price. It was on one of these occasions that an enthusiastic Alastair Campbell asked me what I thought of Tony Blair, then the leader of the Labour Party. “Smarmy” was not the description he expected and he swiftly departed with a tossed instruction about “getting on message”.
The assumption was that I was a Labour supporter, which is still presumed among the chattering classes. My family and friends were not in the least surprised I wanted to become a Tory MP. I have been spouting Conservative ideology since I was 13 years old.
A dear but sublimely eccentric friend of my mother’s assured me that the Conservatives needed me more than I needed them as I was “a woman of colour with class”. So many hurdles: gender, race, class, height,
accent. These things shouldn’t matter but this Labour government is obsessed with multiculturalism, diversity, equality and difference.
It has made an industry monitoring every part of our lives. I hate those snide questions about my ethnicity. How do we know they are always using the information for good? Why do they need to know if I am a yellow-tinted, black Guyanese/Chinese person? And where does it stop? Have they thought about what labels we will need when an Afghan marries a Jamaican whose half-Japanese parents were born in Miami and now live in Hackney? What ethnicity will their offspring possess? Where do they belong, and isn’t that obvious if they are British citizens? Why not stamp us all with a barcode as we pose naked at an X-ray machine coming to an airport near you? But let’s not give them ideas…