Tory Toms

All of the political parties represented in the British Parliament claim to be opposed to racism. But in their actual practice this is far from being the case. Ever since the time when David Cameron became its leader, the Conservative Party has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that it has a number of Members of Parliament with BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) social origins. Currently twenty-two Tory MPs have BAME backgrounds – (7.4% of all Tory MPs) – including two prominent Cabinet Ministers, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel. So does this show that the Tory Party has abandoned the racism with which it has been traditionally associated?

Some of these MPs have protested about being called Uncle Toms. Before we consider this accusation, a brief explanation may be necessary. Uncle Tom‘s Cabin was an anti-slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in the USA in 1852. It had an enormous impact on many Americans, greatly strengthening the abolitionist movement. The main character, Uncle Tom, is portrayed as a virtuous black slave striving to be free. But during the twentieth century in America he came to be seen by many black people as a stereotype for blacks who defer to and try to ingatiate themselves with white people. Such people are often referred to as Toms.

Reactions to the protests in Britain about the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis provide a test case for assessing these Tory BAME MPs. Their major response has been to condemn protesters for attacking monuments to racists such as slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and for defending themselves against police attacks. Home Secretary Priti Patel has demanded that such protesters should be prosecuted. These Tories have denounced the murder of George Floyd as have all prominent political figures in Britain, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, except for outright extreme racists. Nonetheless their main criticisms are directed at anti-racist protesters.

The same sort of attitude is shown towards cases of police racism in dealing with BAME people suspected of or accused of criminal behaviour, especially young ones. Yes, these Tory MPs say, racism should be rooted out of the police forces. But they put more effort into condemning disadvantaged sections of society who get involved in criminal behaviour and are the victims of it. Given the neo-liberal politics embraced by these Tories, they show little enthusiasm for social policies aimed at improving the lives of poor people.

THE CLASS FACTOR

In order to explain the political outlook and attitudes of the BAME Tory MPs it is necessary to examine the class position and background of these people. For the most part, they are of upper class (bourgeois) origin or have been upwardly mobile into the capitalist class.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak‘s family is of East African Indian origin. Born in Britain, he attended a leading public school, Winchester College. where he became Head Boy. After studying at Oxford and other universities he worked for Goldman Sachs and then was involved in various hedge funds. His father-in-law is Indian billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy.

Home Secretary Priti Patel‘s parents were of Ugandan Indian origin. They emigrated to Britain and established a chain of newsagent shops in the South East. From early on she has proclaimed herself to be a Thatcherite. After university she worked in public relations working on campaigns defending tobacco companies and opposing restrictions on the sale of alcoholic drinks – campaigns which if successful would have serves the interests of her parents‘ business. Since becoming an MP she has been an enthusiastic supporter of the state of Israel and friend of reactionary Indian Premier Narendra Modi. She was strongly in favour of Brexit. Quite apart from her obnoxious behaviour towards civil servants trying to work with her, she loudly proclaims her reactionary views.

Another prize specimen is Kwasi Kwarteng. His parents emigrated from Ghana to Britain, his mother becoming a barrister and his father an economist. He attended Eton College and then the University of Cambridge. Then he worked in financial services and has written several books including one on the British Empire. In another he said “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world”. He is generally regarded as being on the right-wing of the Tory Party and is Business Secretary in Boris Johnson‘s Government. Another bourgeois in every respect.

Nadhim Zahawi is of Iraqi Kurdish origin, born in Bagdad but his parents came to Britain to flee from the Saddam Hussein regime. He was educated at private King‘s College School, Wimbledon and then at University College London. Subsequently he has had a very successful business career being the co-founder of polling firm YouGov. Also he has held key positions in oil company Gulf Keystone Petroleum International. He has been one of the MPs with the highest declared incomes. An enthusiastic Brexiteer on the right of the Tory Party, he is currently Under Secretary of State for Industry. He is one of those Tories taking the line that statues of imperialist racists can be removed but only by non-violent official means. Need one say more.

James Cleverly, former Conservative Party Co-Chair and currently Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, is of Black British background. He was privately educated and joined the British Army after leaving school. He left the Army after suffering an injury but subsequently has served in the Territorial Army where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Needless to say, he is on the right of the Tory Party.

These examples are typical of the class character of most BAME Tory MPs. Few of them can claim working class origins. Their right-wing views, even by Tory standards, are typical of the behaviour of outsiders trying to gain acceptance in a group that they wish to enter. They over-conform to the norms of their would-be classmates.

CHARACTER OF THE BRITISH CAPITALIST CLASS

Right from its origins at the end of the Middle Ages, the British capitalist class has been engaged in imperialist expansion, e.g. in Ireland, and has generated racist ideology to justify its oppression and exploitation of people around the world. At the same time, this ruling class has shown itself to be very adaptable so as to ensure its survival. It has been willing to take in individuals from the groups it denigrates and ostracises provided they have the right credentials. Even in the late nineteenth centrury, at the time of the apogee of British imperialism, there were several MPs of Anglo-India background. The head of the British branch of the Rothschild banking family was elevated to the House of Lords despite the widespread anti-semitism within the British aristocracy.

But there is a price to pay for BAME entrants to the British bourgeoisie. They have to accept the racist outlook of the class they enter and not make too much fuss about it. They are useful in so far as they are allowed to make mild protests about racism while at the same time condemning people who actually want to do anything about it by means of radical action. And this is precisely the position of the current crop of Tory BAME MPs.

The truth is that they are a bunch of Toms and we should not hesitate to say so.

TORY TOMS

All of the political parties represented in the British Parliament claim to be opposed to racism. But in their actual practice this is far from being the case. Ever since the time when David Cameron became its leader, the Conservative Party has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that it has a number of Members of Parliament with BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) social origins. Currently twenty-two Tory MPs have BAME backgrounds – (7.4% of all Tory MPs) – including two prominent Cabinet Ministers, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel. So does this show that the Tory Party has abandoned the racism with which it has been traditionally associated?

Some of these MPs have protested about being called Uncle Toms. Before we consider this accusation, a brief explanation may be necessary. Uncle Tom‘s Cabin was an anti-slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in the USA in 1852. It had an enormous impact on many Americans, greatly strengthening the abolitionist movement. The main character, Uncle Tom, is portrayed as a virtuous black slave striving to be free. But during the twentieth century in America he came to be seen by many black people as a stereotype for blacks who defer to and try to ingatiate themselves with white people. Such people are often referred to as Toms.

Reactions to the protests in Britain about the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis provide a test case for assessing these Tory BAME MPs. Their major response has been to condemn protesters for attacking monuments to racists such as slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and for defending themselves against police attacks. Home Secretary Priti Patel has demanded that such protesters should be prosecuted. These Tories have denounced the murder of George Floyd as have all prominent political figures in Britain, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, except for outright extreme racists. Nonetheless their main criticisms are directed at anti-racist protesters.

The same sort of attitude is shown towards cases of police racism in dealing with BAME people suspected of or accused of criminal behaviour, especially young ones. Yes, these Tory MPs say, racism should be rooted out of the police forces. But they put more effort into condemning disadvantaged sections of society who get involved in criminal behaviour and are the victims of it. Given the neo-liberal politics embraced by these Tories, they show little enthusiasm for social policies aimed at improving the lives of poor people.

THE CLASS FACTOR

In order to explain the political outlook and attitudes of the BAME Tory MPs it is necessary to examine the class position and background of these people. For the most part, they are of upper class (bourgeois) origin or have been upwardly mobile into the capitalist class.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak‘s family is of East African Indian origin. Born in Britain, he attended a leading public school, Winchester College. where he became Head Boy. After studying at Oxford and other universities he worked for Goldman Sachs and then was involved in various hedge funds. His father-in-law is Indian billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy.

Home Secretary Priti Patel‘s parents were of Ugandan Indian origin. They emigrated to Britain and established a chain of newsagent shops in the South East. From early on she has proclaimed herself to be a Thatcherite. After university she worked in public relations working on campaigns defending tobacco companies and opposing restrictions on the sale of alcoholic drinks – campaigns which if successful would have serves the interests of her parents‘ business. Since becoming an MP she has been an enthusiastic supporter of the state of Israel and friend of reactionary Indian Premier Narendra Modi. She was strongly in favour of Brexit. Quite apart from her obnoxious behaviour towards civil servants trying to work with her, she loudly proclaims her reactionary views.

Another prize specimen is Kwasi Kwarteng. His parents emigrated from Ghana to Britain, his mother becoming a barrister and his father an economist. He attended Eton College and then the University of Cambridge. Then he worked in financial services and has written several books including one on the British Empire. In another he said “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world”. He is generally regarded as being on the right-wing of the Tory Party and is Business Secretary in Boris Johnson‘s Government. Another bourgeois in every respect.

Nadhim Zahawi is of Iraqi Kurdish origin, born in Bagdad but his parents came to Britain to flee from the Saddam Hussein regime. He was educated at private King‘s College School, Wimbledon and then at University College London. Subsequently he has had a very successful business career being the co-founder of polling firm YouGov. Also he has held key positions in oil company Gulf Keystone Petroleum International. He has been one of the MPs with the highest declared incomes. An enthusiastic Brexiteer on the right of the Tory Party, he is currently Under Secretary of State for Industry. He is one of those Tories taking the line that statues of imperialist racists can be removed but only by non-violent official means. Need one say more.

James Cleverly, former Conservative Party Co-Chair and currently Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, is of Black British background. He was privately educated and joined the British Army after leaving school. He left the Army after suffering an injury but subsequently has served in the Territorial Army where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Needless to say, he is on the right of the Tory Party.

These examples are typical of the class character of most BAME Tory MPs. Few of them can claim working class origins. Their right-wing views, even by Tory standards, are typical of the behaviour of outsiders trying to gain acceptance in a group that they wish to enter. They over-conform to the norms of their would-be classmates.

CHARACTER OF THE BRITISH CAPITALIST CLASS

Right from its origins at the end of the Middle Ages, the British capitalist class has been engaged in imperialist expansion, e.g. in Ireland, and has generated racist ideology to justify its oppression and exploitation of people around the world. At the same time, this ruling class has shown itself to be very adaptable so as to ensure its survival. It has been willing to take in individuals from the groups it denigrates and ostracises provided they have the right credentials. Even in the late nineteenth centrury, at the time of the apogee of British imperialism, there were several MPs of Anglo-India background. The head of the British branch of the Rothschild banking family was elevated to the House of Lords despite the widespread anti-semitism within the British aristocracy.

But there is a price to pay for BAME entrants to the British bourgeoisie. They have to accept the racist outlook of the class they enter and not make too much fuss about it. They are useful in so far as they are allowed to make mild protests about racism while at the same time condemning people who actually want to do anything about it by means of radical action. And this is precisely the position of the current crop of Tory BAME MPs.

The truth is that they are a bunch of Toms and we should not hesitate to say so.