A mongrel always bites the hand that feeds it

Two political clowns, both members of the Tory party, have been occupying the stage for the past week or so: Lord (John) Taylor of Warwick and John Townend, MP for Yorkshire East. Their speciality is race relations. Townend, of light skin, delivered a little sermon warning that Britain is in danger of becoming inhabited by a mongrel race. Taylor, a darkie, took deep offence and publicly chastised William Hague for not expelling Townend from the Conservative Party.

Hague grovelled, got a retraction from Townend, and hoped everything would go back to normal. But Taylor is demanding blood on the carpet. "Too little, too late," he announced in front of the cameras, his chest puffed up in a pin-striped suit that he has outgrown - or perhaps it has shrunk - over the past decade.

Let's be a bit historical here. More than 30 years ago, Enoch Powell, a huge figure in British politics, predicted blood and hellfire if immigration did not cease at once, and if those of us already settled here were not repatriated. London dockers marched to the slogan "Send them back". Workers up and down the country walked off their jobs, demanding that we immigrants leave. Images of Europe in the 1930s flashed across our persecuted minds.

A meeting of Caribbean peoples was held at King's Cross in London. We excluded all whites. A Second World War veteran shouted "Get guns" from the platform. "Self- defence is no offence," he bellowed. The Caribbean Marxist and cricket writer C L R James was rather circumspect and beautifully historical. We were not facing fascism, he said. Working-class organisations had to be completely destroyed before fascism could replace democracy. And the only thing facing destruction would be Powell himself. The Young Turks booed and hissed. This was all Marxist crap, they seemed to be saying.

The Black Panthers called a public trial of Enoch Powell in south London. He was sentenced to hang by a jury of the people, almost all of us under 30 years old.

Edward Heath, then the Tory leader, sacked Powell from the front bench at once. Powell drifted out of mainstream politics and into the backwaters of Northern Ireland, and not much more was heard of him. C L R James was right on the button.

Townend is no Powell, Taylor certainly no C L R James, and Hague no Edward Heath. For that matter, Townend, as I see it, ain't no Englishman. I could be wrong, but he looks like a mongrel, with something of the Slav about him, a gypsy perhaps. It is always the outsider who pretends to be more English than the English themselves. And Taylor ain't no black man. The resonance just is not there. He speaks with a plum in the mouth, emulating not the British meritocracy but the aristocracy. In the days of yore, we referred to that type as a house negro, the slave-master's pet, fawning before massa.

Taylor was given the safest of Conservative seats to fight, and lost it. Members of the Conservative Association in Cheltenham called him a nigger. Anyone with an ounce of political courage, a half-ounce of political principle, would have resigned from the Conservative Party then. He pipped and squeaked his way through all this abuse with a stiff, fat upper lip, and later got his peerage.

Unlike Powell, Townend hasn't raised a single hackle in the black community. We are simply amazed that the journalists and broadcasters should take this lightweight so seriously. And Taylor? Can anyone tell me of a single idea or statement of import to have emerged from his pen or mouth in all of his political career. A nonentity he is and always has been. The last time I saw the fellow, he was fronting a miserable radio show in Millbank. He interviewed me about the Macpherson report and accused me of whingeing when I complained about what the police had done to blacks over the years.

I suspect he is being manipulated by the Labour Party as part of its superficial approach to race relations. They deserve each other. As for John Townend, mongrels always bite the hand that feeds them.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.

This article first appeared in the 07 May 2001 issue of the New Statesman, John Prescott: sinking fast