A former Conservative party adviser and friend of David Cameron has launched a remarkable attack on the Conservative leader over his failure to defeat what he regards as the party’s racist attitude to immigration. Jamaica-born Derek Laud accuses the party of using “dog-whistle” tactics to appeal to voters. In a new book, The Problem with Immigrants, a celebration of the contribution of migrants to the UK over the centuries to be published later this month, Mr Laud berates the Conservative party for its 2013 “Go home or face arrest” posters, aimed at illegal immigrants, which emanated from the Home Office.
He says the attitude that allowed the approval of that ad “was essentially racist. [Cameron] knows it. We all know it.”
“It was a shocking example of how they use people for an advantage,” he says. “Immigrants are not taking our jobs, and nor are they disproportionately on benefits. There is no other party better at pointing the blame their way than the Tories. They are the ultimate racists because they deal in stereotypes.
Another example he cites is the treatment of Shaun Bailey, a black Tory candidate in west London in 2010, which he says was “crude” and “nasty”.
“They saw in Shaun a stereotype of what they wanted – black, presentable, committed. But as soon as he had served his purpose they dropped him,” says Mr Laud. Mr Bailey failed to win the seat, and said that Mr Cameron had personally been very kind to him. Mr Laud, though, says that, privately, Mr Bailey is very upset. “His hurt is evident and not without justification. [The Tories] like keeping black people in one place – or in their place, as the Tories see it.”
Mr Laud, a former Big Brother contestant, who joined the party aged 15 and worked as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, is a socially and economically liberal moderniser. He has been a friend of David and Samantha Cameron since the 1980s. As a black, openly gay, master of foxhounds, he stood out in the party. He says Mr Cameron sought his support for the party leadership in 2005, soon after Mr Laud emerged from the Big Brother house. “He said ‘I need your endorsement, you are the face of modern Britain.’”
“The whole modernity agenda just doesn’t fit this Tory party,” he says. “Things that don’t come from the heart never last. David Davis would have been the real moderniser. The Tories had a big mandate for reform but blew it. They have just reverted to type. On City reform, they are completely conflicted by big business. And the opportunity was there to talk with equal respect about immigrants as we do about gay marriage. Too much about the old Tory party remains intact. You can’t open a cupboard inside No 10 without an Old Etonian falling out of it.”
Mr Laud says Mr Cameron relies too much on a coterie of political advisers “who have little understanding of the history of the Conservative Party”. “There is no sense of direction and absolutely no coherent narrative. I still don’t know what David thinks about anything, apart from one thing, his ambition. The coterie of mediocre advisers around him are ruthlessly ambitious, but not for Great Britain, only for themselves.”
Mr Laud remains fond of Mr Cameron. “I’m just judging him on his politics. This is not personal, but there is a pattern of disappointed expectation which I think needs pointing out. I’m entitled to do that. I’m not persuaded the Tories are acting in the national interest.” He believes the Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have done so.
Mr Laud, now studying at Cambridge, plans to stand, probably as an independent, in Battersea, south London, at the election. “It is an affluent area where there has been racial integration on a significant scale. Walk round Battersea High Street and you’ll see a celebration of differentiation.”
The former Tory party chairman Lord Patten said on Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster yesterday that the Tories shouldn’t fight the election on Ukip terms. “I think the Conservatives should be trying to raise the bar,” he said. “What they certainly shouldn’t be doing is fight on Farage territory.”