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Will the real British Obama please stand up?


TYPICAL INNIT? You wait years and years for a British Obama to come along and then all of a sudden two arrive together, like buses.

Many of you will know that, for the last year or so, on these very same pages in The Voice newspaper, I have been touting Chuka Umunna as the politician most likely to be the first black party leader of one of the Big Three (or as Bob Marley would say the Big T'ree) political parties in this country, and hence the politician most likely to be Britain's first black prime minister.

It all seemed so straightforward. Umunna's performances as Shadow Business Secretary at the dispatch box and on telly have been so self-assured. You might have been mistaken for thinking that he was born to be the British Obama.

Certainly no one expected Umunna's challenger for the title of British Obama to come from one of the least 'black' politicians in Westminster - Adam Afriye, the Tory member for Windsor. He's one of the richest members of parliament (is he really worth £100 million?) and refuses to be defined by his race. He'll go as far as acknowledging that he's 'mixed race' but no further. He also has the same birthday as Barack Obama, but the comparison stops there.

Last week Afriye was being touted as plotting a coup against Tory leader David Cameron. Fearful of being seen as the stalking horse for the disaffected Tory backbenchers, Afriye has come out forcefully and denied that he is the prime minister's ‘bete noir' as the French would put it, even though the ‘noir' part may not sit well with him.

Afriyie is as ‘non-black' as the ‘One Nation' Tories want him to be. He's a self-made IT millionaire who has not needed ‘blackness' for his success and isn’t about to lean on it now or give it the glory.

 I can't see him, for example, giving an interview to this newspaper. The prime minister would sooner talk exclusively to The Voice. To be fair, David Cameron has no problem ‘talking black'. But then again, he doesn't have to keep being black afterwards whereas Adam Afriye can't help being seen as black whether he doesn't want to get into it or not.

So when the ‘powder plot' to oust David Cameron came to light he quickly said he would NEVER stand against David Cameron for the leadership of the party.


Of course that is not to say that he will not stand for the Tory leadership when a stalking horse finally emerges and knocks David Cameron off his perch. How many of Afriyie's millions are you willing to bet me that he stands then? Even though he's the bookies outsider to win the Tory leadership at 25-1, he is actually the frontrunner having already built a coterie/camp of supporters amongst his fellow MPs.

 No doubt Afriyie's ‘Ain't No Black In My Union Jack' approach suits his political backers. But would he not be better off embracing his blackness the way Chuka Umunna has in the Labour Party? The 'B' word is no longer such a dirty word in the Tory Party as it used to be when screaming Lord Fraud (otherwise known as John Taylor) was told to go back to where he came from by the Cheltenham constituency party. If there is one thing the grassroots Tories could do with to enhance their image is a BLACK multimillionaire to lead the party.

The conundrum of whether to ‘black up' or not is one we all have to consider in the work place. We all have to ask ourselves whether we should be BLACK at work or whether we can get further pretending that we're not and hoping that nobody knows we are. We should not be judgmental of those who choose to not be black, but it is understandable that we are pissed off when they profit from our 50-year struggle for civil rights.

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