Darcus Howe explains Boateng's banishment

Boateng, like other black politicians, fell because he strayed too far from his roots

Comrade Paul Boateng's parliamentary career is at an end. Whatever gloss he may put on being nominated for high commissioner to South Africa, he has been put out to grass. He has been demoted from the position of cabinet minister and, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, member of the most successful ministry in the government to a diplomatic posting in a developing country. He was not bound to accept the job, but the bleak alternative was the aimless life of a backbencher, drifting in and out of the lobby, subject to the cracking whip of Hilary Armstrong and her deputies.

Eighteen years as an MP will assure him of a reasonable pension topped up with a fancy-sounding diplomatic post. But don't accept the spin that, with Africa on the agenda, Boateng will be in the vanguard of efforts to bring that unhappy continent and its millions into the global game both as consumers and producers. If Tony Blair viewed him in that light he would have swapped him with Hilary Benn and made him Secretary of State for International Development.

Boateng's banishment marks an end of an era. There was much jubilation in the new communities when the class of '87 entered parliament: Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Keith Vaz and Paul Boateng. Now only Abbott is left to hold the fort.

It is not only Boateng who is on the way out. Baroness Amos was appointed a cabinet minister and Leader of the House of Lords not too long ago. A few days ago, the Lords debated the most important legislation in a hundred years - the Anti-Terrorism Bill - and she was nowhere to be seen or heard. She was banished to the UN, lobbying for a post as its new high commissioner for refugees. And what about young David Lammy, who strutted around promising to become Britain's first black prime minister? A cynical journalist made this rather silly prediction. Lammy believed it. He took a post as a junior minister. Now Blair's spin-doctors tell any journalist who will listen that Lammy's career has peaked.

Oona King, MP for a constituency with a large Bangladeshi population, bleated her support for the war in Iraq. How politically daft! She may well lose her seat in the next election as her rival candidate George Galloway turns up the heat.

These failed and ailing black politicians have one thing in common. They have strayed a million miles from their roots and so they are easy targets in the ruthless world of politics.

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