Is a 'British Obama' Possible?
Daniel Finklestein agrees with Philips on the point, mainly because all of the leaders of the Labor Party have come from their establishment base. Outsiders do not rise to the top in the party due to the institutional make-up of the organization and the complicated coalitions that hold the party together. He does believe that the Conservative Party would be a far easier route to the top for a minority candidate like Obama. This is assuming he were of the right and not the left, of course.
A British Obama might find his or her rise easier in the Tory Party not because the Tory Party has done better than Labor among black people -- quite the contrary -- but because coming from the outside is easier. There are disadvantages to this, incidentally. But it does make the party more fluid and adaptable. I don't think it was a coincidence that the first female Prime Minister was a Conservative.
Then again Sadiq Khan, a Muslim Labor MP from Tooting, disagrees with Trevor Philips both about the Labor Party and prospects for a black or Asian PM.
"I predict there will be a black or Asian prime minister in my lifetime and all the evidence suggests it will be a Labor prime minister," he told the Times.
What is most interesting, of course, is the fact that Conservatives have a much better historical record of having minority MPs. When Labor was in its infancy in the early 20th century, Conservatives had the first Sikh MP. There has always been a perception that the Conservatives are some how more racist than the Labor Party. This is a perception that is actively encouraged by their opponents.
So, has Trevor Philips let the cat out of the bag about the inner workings of the Labor Party? He believes that once you get away from their urban bases there is a lot of resistance to minorities in certain areas of the Labor Party.
Incidentally, in the last decade or so, the Conservative Party has gone to great lengths -- some would say too far -- to cull their ranks of anyone who could even be seen as anything but broad minded when it comes to ethnicity. Yet the media and Conservative party opponents still try to portray it as the least tolerant party of them all.
In my observations of the British political process over many years, I have come to the conclusion that its likely the UK will have a minority PM very soon. However, I am not sure it will necessarily be someone of black or Asian extraction.
That said, Trevor Philips' scourging of institutional racism in the Labor Party is rather blunt and was probably difficult to hear for many of Labor's "right-on" urban elites. They know what he says is mostly true but are loath to admit their dirty little secret.