Archer meets one-person fan club

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JEFFREY ARCHER is deeply misunderstood. His so-called gaffe about memories of black women being fat and badly dressed was misconstrued and, in any case, was not far from the truth. So says Demi Akerewusi, who is black, young, female, well-dressed and wants to be his "shadow" in a scheme to involve young people from ethnic minorities in politics.

Race will play a significant part in the mayoral elections for London, more than 26 per cent of the capital's electorate being black or Asian. Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare is fully aware of that and yesterday he was eagerly glad-handing at a public event organised by the pressure group, Operation Black Vote, and the Commission for Racial Equality.

But not all was smooth selling. "You've only been interested in race for two years, because you want to be mayor," jeered one woman, who was white. "Are we well-dressed enough for you," asked another, who was black. Lord Archer tried to fight back. "I have been interested in race for 30 years. Get your facts right. I raised a million pounds for Oxfam. Five of my key people are minorities, three Afro-Caribbean and two Asians ... " Then he had to go off to his limousine to be whisked away to "open a building in the Aldwych". He did not say anything about the recent revelation that he has a black adopted sister in New York.

In the scheme, 22 young people from ethnic minority backgrounds will shadow politicians of their choice from the three main parties for a period. The aim is to empower people from those communities and raise the number of black and Asian MPs from today's nine out of 659.

Ms Akerewusi, 30, whose family comes from Nigeria, works at a Citizens Advice Bureau in South London and wants to be a Tory MP. She shares her birthdate, 13 October, with Baroness Thatcher, and she would "just love" to be Lord Archer's shadow.

"He would be the ideal Mayor for London and I would be a good Conservative MP. Jeffrey Archer is charismatic and gets on well with people.

"I think what he said about black women and their looks was probably misconstrued. Maybe some of the first generation really did not have the time be well-dressed or watch their figure, they were too busy earning a living."