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'British Obama' a bleak possibility: Trevor

The US might have choosen an Afro-American to its top office, but "institutional racism" ingrained in UK's political system makes possibility of a 'British Obama' bleak, head of an equality watchdog has said.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2008 19:21 IST

The US might have choosen an Afro-American to its top office, but "institutional racism" ingrained in UK's political system makes possibility of a 'British Obama' bleak, head of an equality watchdog has said.

While the public would be only too happy to vote for a black leader, the political system would prevent an ethnic minority candidate getting to the top in Britain, said Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in an interview to The Times.

"If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour Party," he said.

Phillips, who is himself a black, said it was all hunky dory theoretically but sheer "institutional racism" reigned in the country in practise.

"The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practise they would like somebody else to do the business. It's institutional racism," he said.

He added that British voters were not biased and they "would (not) be at all resistant to electing a black prime minister... In fact, I think in this new age, following what's happened this week, they would rather like it," he said referring to the historic Presidential election in the US.

Under Secretary of state for communities and local government Sadiq Khan, however, countered Trevor's contention, saying the Labour party reflected minority representation.

"I work with very talented, very able black politicians and know from talking to constituents around the country, that our constituents are very sophisticated and we judge our politicians by their policies not by the colour of their skin," Sadiq Khan told BBC.