Darcus Howe is proved absolutely right on black Tories

The Tories select a black candidate - and immediately the press does a hatchet job

Even I did not think it would happen so quickly. Last week, I drew attention to Adam Afriyie, the prospective Tory candidate for the safe seat of Windsor (majority: 8,889). He was plucked out of Kent as a way of demonstrating that the Conservative Party is modern and all-inclusive, with blacks, gays, etc all welcome. He had won through a rigorous selection process in which his rivals included a former senior minister. He was set for an easy run into the House of Commons at the next election.

I said it was too good to be true and quoted examples of black Tory and Labour candidates who had lost safe seats mostly because of racialism inside and outside their parties.

Within days, page three of the Mail on Sunday carried a huge headline staring out of a Tory-blue background: "What IDS's Mr Perfect didn't tell Tory bosses". Alongside a picture of Afriyie was a full-length portrait of white female flesh, barely adorned in a two-piece swimsuit. This was Afriyie's wife, Romi, who runs a business called Oyster Promotions. The article dripped with innuendo. Afriyie himself said the firm was a promotional agency that "does things like supply girls for BMW at car shows". The paper said it was "providing young hostesses to entertain businessmen". An undercover reporter alleged that Mrs Afriyie had explained: "They sort of warm the client up."

Furthermore, the paper said, Afriyie had given the Windsor selection committee the impression that he and Romi were a happily married couple. The Mail on Sunday alleged - to firm denials from both husband and wife - that the couple had actually been separated for more than nine months.

The pursuit of the quarry was relentless. The reporters chased Romi to a Greek island resort where, they told us, she was sunbathing without a bra.

In the bearpit that is the current Tory party, nothing is sacred. A faction within the party was in such a hurry to paint itself pro-black that it pushed forward a candidate without providing him with sufficient cover against his and their enemies.

Adam Afriyie is caught up in the battle between factions. It does not help to be black in the Conservative Party of yesterday, today and possibly tomorrow. He has nothing but a face. He seems to have no clear political ideology to gain him support. For him, Windsor is not such a safe seat after all.

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 20 October 2003 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for childhood