Was Rupa right about Kwarteng?

Can there be a more tedious Labour MP than Sir Keir Starmer? As my valued friend and fellow-moaner Pat McArt has said at least once, Starmer looks and sounds like a man who’s had a personality by-pass, with the operation a total success.

An example of his tedium: the Labour Party Conference closed, not with singing of The Red Flag (You cannot be serious), but warbling to its replacement God Save The King. You don’t get to be a knight of the realm without knowing how to lick the appropriate parts of the right-wing press.

Another example, not so much of Starmer’s tedium as of his terror in the face of all things conceivably racist: he has had the whip removed from Labour MP Rupa Huq because she said that Kwasi Kwarteng, the Tory Chancellor was only “superficially black”. “You wouldn’t know he was black if you heard him on BBC Radio’s Today programme”.

If Starmer weren’t such a terrorist…oops, let me rephrase that. If Starmer didn’t go in mortal terror of being considered racist, sexist, left-wing and whatever you’re having yourself, you’d expect him to ask Rupa, who is herself black, what she meant by “superficially black”. Then, when you knew the meaning of what she said, you could make up your mind if she deserved to be suspended by the Labour Party.

One thing for sure: Rupa’s dead right about not being able to establish Kwarteng’s racial background from the sound of his voice. And why would you? Sure wasn’t Kwasi’s father an economist and his mother a barrister? Didn’t he attend a private preparatory school ? Didn’t he goto  Eton, where he became a King’s Scholar? Didn’t he attend Cambridge and get a first in his degree as well as winning – twice- the Browne Medal? (No, Virginia, completely wrong. Button up.) Wasn’t he part of the Cambridge team which won University Challenge? Didn’t he attend Harvard on a Kennedy Scholarship, and get a Ph D in economic history from Cambridge?

Not, you’ll agree, the profile of your average black man in Britain. You don’t get to be Chancellor by putting yourself in the van of the Black Lives Matter movement. As that old imperialist Rudyard Kipling said of Gunga Din, so it might be said of Kwarteng:  “’E was white, clear white, inside”.

Maybe that’s what Rupa meant. And if it’s good enough for Rudyard, shouldn’t it be good enough for Keir?




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