Archer insults generation of black London women

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The Independent Online
JEFFREY ARCHER'S bid to become mayor of London was in danger of imploding last night after he described a generation of black women as badly dressed and overweight.

The Tory millionaire triggered a wave of criticism for his remarks, which were made in a radio interview. When asked about institutional racism in the police force, he said he believed race relations had improved greatly in recent years.

He then went on to say it was "obvious" that black women in London today were much better dressed and "beautiful" compared with black women in the 1960s. "This is not to be mis-interpreted by anyone, you see it as a generational thing.

"If you look at, particularly African-Caribbeans 30 years ago, they had the worst jobs and they were not well-dressed and they were eating the wrong food and you were very aware of it," he told Spectrum Radio's Jewish programme.

"And you know your head did not turn in the road if a black woman passed you because they were badly dressed, they were probably overweight and they probably had a lousy job.

"And you know very well if you walk down London streets now there are the most staggeringly beautiful girls of every nationality. That is part of getting rid of prejudice and making things equal."

The remarks were made a week after Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare addressed a meeting of Hindus as "Muslims". As front- runner to be the Conservative candidate for the mayoral election next May, he has spent months courting the capital's ethnic communities.

Conservative Central Office refused to comment on his remarks and there is little likelihood that he will be reprimanded. However, with nearly a third of the capital's population made up of ethnic minorities, Lord Archer may find winning the race more difficult.

A spokeswoman said his remarks had been misinterpreted. "He has said that he would never say anything to offend anyone from an ethnic group, so you are demonstrating your prejudice, not his," she said.

Among those leading the criticism was the former BBC Clothes Show presenter Brenda Emmanus. "He is either particularly naive, particularly ignorant or showing his true colours. If there is one thing black people are renowned for it is dressing well," she said. "My mother is part of the generation he is talking about. That generation had a lot of self- respect and took great care of their appearance."

Trevor Phillips, the only black candidate in the race for mayor, said Lord Archer should issue an apology. "It takes your breath away that he should make such remarks which are so manifestly untrue. He was right about one thing and that is that black women were given appalling jobs whatever their qualifications," he said.

"But he should apologise to my mother for one, who worked in a sweat shop but was always beautifully attired and never overweight. I think these offensive remarks expose Jeffrey Archer for having a bigoted and stereotyped imagination."

Ken Livingstone said Lord Archer's "stereotyping" made it impossible for him to attempt to represent London effectively. "[He] is saying that they have been civilised by white society, they have become more attractive to white people by living here and eating more healthily. You cannot judge the emancipation of either women or black people in this way," he said.

First Among Gaffes

Bucked John Major's "wait and see" line on the euro while campaigning for the Tories in Scotland at the 1997 election: "We don't want the social chapter, we don't want the single currency... we don't... eh, wait a minute."

To Stephen Twigg, Labour MP, who famously beat Michael Portillo at the last election: "Is your constituency one of those we need to win?"

To a meeting of Asian Tories last week, most of them Hindus: "I am pleased to see so many Muslims under one roof."