SHARPEST?: George Galloway
IF YOU were asked to nominate Britain’s finest, sharpest and most dedicated black politician, who would you choose? Diane Abbott? Chuka Umunna? Kwasi Kwarteng? Fair enough.
Personally, I’d pick George Galloway.
Of course, Galloway is a pale-skinned brother, and I doubt he has any black ancestry. But his politics are much blacker – and robustly so – than any politician I can think of in the UK, and perhaps even in the West.
Think of it like this: if Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Bernie Grant were still alive today, who do you think they would have more in common with? Galloway, the fierce free-thinking, globally respected anti-war activist, or David Lammy, an apologist for nearly all the bad ideas of the previous government – including the invasion of an innocent country?
Do you really think that Brother Malcolm would have shed a tear when Oona King lost her seat to Galloway?
Modern black politics, in my view, has little to do with the skin colour of the practitioner. Black politics is far too important to be defined by ethnicity.
Black politics is the politics of standing up for the oppressed everywhere, the equitable and fair distribution of wealth and resources, justice, equality, collective prosperity and, of course, anti-racism. Black politics is by definition a threat to establishment and social order.
If this sounds like your political cup of cocoa, then congratulations – you are, in my view, a black politician. Regardless of your race. If not, and you were born with a wealth of melanin, then you are a politician who just happens to be black. And you’re likely to say and do anything to gain votes and favour.
Case in point: during the whole Diane Abbott ‘divide and rule’ tweet fiasco the first major public figure to rally to Diane’s cause was none other than George Galloway. He passionately defended her whilst a slew of ethnic MPs (many from the Tory benches and, sadly, Chuka Umunna) grabbed the whips from their ‘masters’ and lashed away at Abbott (ironically reaffirming her poorly-worded tweet).
The episode crystallised exactly why black politics has nothing to do with skin colour. The day after the news broke about Abbott’s tweet, Galloway invited Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham, on to his radio show.
Galloway asked Chishti (who is of Pakistani descent) whether or not the British did indeed ‘divide, in order to better rule’ his parents’ ancestral home of Kashmir. At first he dodged the question. Galloway persisted and asked him three more times. Chishti eventually denied that the British Empire divided in order to rule India (which was split into two countries: India and Pakistan in 1947). In doing so he spat in the face of history.
To his credit, Chishti exposed something very important – the fallacy that a diversity (of skin colour) in Parliament or politics inevitably leads to greater equality. This could not be further from the truth. Many of the most potent and effective anti-racists, for example, have been white. Conversely, some of the worst bigots and human shields for racism are as dark as... yours truly.
What is sad is that the latter are likely to be presented by the media as respectable thinkers whereas truly principled, articulate and outspoken black politicians (of any race) are dismissed as troublemakers and nobodies.
Today we have more black and Asian MPs than we’ve ever had before. Yet we appear to be at the weakest we have been for a long time. There is a reason for this. Many of the ethnic MPs we are getting are ethnically black but they are carefully selected and skilfully groomed to ensure they are not politically black.
It is Margaret Thatcher all over again. Despite being a woman in power she was no champion of the average woman. Women were set back by her rule more than they were empowered by her shattering of an admittedly large glass ceiling. Her individual achievements were great, yet they didn’t result in the betterment of the collective.
In good times and bad, Galloway, an apartheid era agent of the African National Congress, has been a consistent friend of black people in Britain and beyond. Just as importantly, he has been the premier flag flyer for black politics in recent years.
If truth be told, black politics today would be much better off with one Galloway in Parliament than 500 Chishtis.