British Obama 'would be blocked by race barrier', says Equality chief

Click to follow

US President-elect Barack Obama would never have become the British Prime Minister because of "institutional racism" in the Labour Party, the head of Britain's equality watchdog claimed.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told The Times: "If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour Party."

He said the Conservative Party had made more progress when it came to its selection procedures than Labour.

He said: "The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It's institutional racism."

He added that he opposed all-black shortlists but said "positive action" was needed by all parties.

His views were supported by Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor, who said he did not believe he would see a black PM in his lifetime.

But Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, disagreed and predicted a black or Asian Labour PM would be elected in his lifetime.

A Labour Party statement in response to Mr Phillips said it continually reviewed its procedures to ensure its elected positions reflected British society.

A spokesman for the party said it has a "proud record of promoting ethnic minority candidates".

Mr Obama held his first press conference since his election victory at a Chicago hotel yesterday and reminded reporters he would not take office until next year.

He said: "We only have one president at a time and I want to be very careful that we are sending the right signals to the world as a whole that I am not the president and I won't be until January 20."

He added that he will meet President George Bush on Monday for talks on key issues such as the war and the economy.

"I'm not going to anticipate problems," he said.