The Labour aristocracy does seem to be attracted to “sexually highly charged black women“. Not being one of Jackie Ashley’s admirers, I missed her toe-curling tribute to Diane Abbott in The Guardian—where else?—when it appeared last week, but I caught up with it via Peter Briffa:
[Diane Abbott MP] was, and is, a cheerer-upper. She was never the cautious, quietly hard-working type. In an early interview she cheerfully announced that her happiest experience was making love in a cornfield with a certain well-known television executive.
She showed how ridiculous is the notion that, by electing more black women, or Asian women, or any other under-represented category, you get dull people. Oona King, like Abbott, managed to attract plenty of opposition among other Labour people; but again, King has been a big character in public life, before and after she lost her seat at the last election. And the third of the black women, Dawn Butler, is one of the very few MPs I reckon could go into any teenager’s room and engage them on their own terms. She is one of the few genuine stars of the last intake, an engaging speaker and better in most ways than any new male MP of any colour.
As one of his commenters points out, the lumping together of non-whites as a mass—albeit a “vibrant” one of course—is patronising. It’s worse: it’s typical of the kind of ignorant prejudice that poisoned Britain in the 70s. If Ashley were barely literate [hmm] and had never travelled more than a couple of hundred miles beyond an exclusively white council housing estate in the Midlands then it might be forgivable. In 2007, surely it takes more than Ashley’s excellent connections to get away with writing this kind of stuff in a “progressive” newspaper—let alone getting paid for it?
Just as Abbott was preparing for her anniversary, the government’s Office for National Statistics caused a rather bigger stir by revealing that not only was Britain’s birth rate on the rise again, but that women from minorities were a big part of the reason. More than one in five babies are being born to women originally from outside the UK, 147,000 of them in 2006 alone – almost double the percentage in the mid-90s.
The country is changing very fast and it is controversial. It raises issues of proper equality between men and women who came originally from patriarchal and female-oppressing cultures. It raises questions about the importance of excellent education and career opportunities for girls. Then there’s the veil, arranged marriages, forced marriages and even “honour” killings. These are all now matters for domestic British political debate. They are not exotic issues for foreign correspondents to come back and tell us about.
If only we had more colourful women in parliament then we’d be able to discuss these questions properly. There’d be the bonus that, with those negresses around the scene, you’d never be far away from a laugh and a good time—and, whether the soundtrack is blaxploitation or Bollywood, they have a marvellous sense of rhythm.