Steve Reed is not the only Croydon MP who has needed to be schooled this week over racism in politics. STEVEN DOWNES on the latest car-crash TV appearance by Chris Philp
There may come a time, the sooner the better in the interests of his family and friends, that someone at Conservative Central Office decides that putting Chris Philp up for high-profile TV appearances is in the best interests of no one.
Philp, the MP for Croydon South, must have been barely recovered from the trauma of his previous car-crash television moment (over the government’s imposed demands on Transport for London), when he was put up for that weekly plum assignment: spouting the Tory party line on the BBC’s Question Time.
And, as sure as eggs is eggs, Philp ended up being found out, as he was schooled over the Conservative Party’s questionable attitudes to racism.
Philp, who holds a junior ministerial position at the Home Office, was given a dressing down and told his party had “housework” to do by playwright Bonnie Greer.
The panel was discussing the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party when, in his usual manner, Philp attempted to deflect a question on race issues within his own party. One national newspaper described Philp’s little set-piece as “an unfiltered rant”.
A year after Boris Johnson promised to have an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, nothing appears to have been done.
Question Time chair Fiona Bruce asked Philp when the report would see the light of day.
“Well, that report is underway, it’s independent, it’s being conducted by a former commissioner from the ECHR,” Philp said.
Bruce asked again.
“I can’t give you a date tonight, the work is underway…,” he said, as Bruce cut in: “Because it’s been over a year now.”
Philp’s defence of his party’s woeful performance was, as usual, to try to distract from it. “I would point out, there’s only one political party in history that is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – and that is the Labour Party on this antisemitism issue.”
The Conservative Party, according to Philp, had “appointed the most diverse government in British history”, highlighting the appointment of people from ethnic minorities as Chancellor and Home Secretary. “We have appointed the most diverse cabinet as a symbol of our commitment to this important issue,” he said.
Greer saw this as blatant tokenism and proceeded to patronise the government minister in a wince-inducing, painful manner.
“Chris, that’s what they used to say to folks when they were desegregating a neighbourhood,” the American-born writer said.
“‘Oh, well, we have a black person in our neighbourhood, so we’re cool, we’re alright’.
“It doesn’t wash any more, okay? You don’t judge people like that any more. We look at human beings.”
Greer made reference to the former Conservative chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who has been campaigning within her party for years to deal with what she sees as a deep-seated issue of Islamophobia and racism.
Greer is an accomplished and relaxed speaker on television, having had many years of experience of appearing on the QT panel and various arts programmes. Here, she had identified a flailing target and moved in. “This does not excuse a wash over the Labour Party. I’m not doing that. But there is housework you need to be doing too and putting people of colour in the Cabinet does not erase that fact.”
There’s no news on when Chris Philp might be allowed out to a television studio on his own next.
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