I was listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4 on Sunday morning when they introduced a listener, an American novelist, who wanted to complain about the coverage in the UK of American politics. She took exception to references to ‘swing states’ on the grounds that Americans took the view that each vote counted as equal. What? Tell that to Senators Obama and McCain. Their campaigns are based on the whole concept of swing states: look at their own speaking schedules. The last presidential candidate who promised to campaign in all fifty states was Richard Nixon in 1960.
She then went on to have a swipe at the UK, claiming that Britons were more racist than Americans and we were not likely to have a black person running for Prime Minister or occupying a senior Cabinet post. Oh dear. There are survey data that show that British society is one of the most tolerant among Western societies, more so than the USA. And she seemed unaware that we have already had Cabinet ministers who are black: Paul Boateng was the first, then from the Lords there was Baroness Amos, who served as Leader of the House and then Secretary of State for International Development. There are presently six ministers who are black or Asian, the most senior being Baroness Scotland (Attorney General, who variously attends Cabinet) and David Lammy (Minister of State, Innovation, Universities and Skill). Given that we have a political system that produced Benjamin Disraeli as PM in the nineteenth century and Margaret Thatcher in the twentieth, it is not inconceivable that we will have a black PM in the twenty-first.
The ill-informed views expressed by the novelist were not challenged. Where is Jeremy Paxman when you need him?