Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, last week alleged corruption is widespread among minority communities, Pakistanis in particular. I’ve been on panels with Grieve, who seemed fair and thoughtful. Now he casually slanders his brown-skinned fellow citizens and forgets to mention corrupt bankers, politicians with fraudulent expense claims, tax dodgers and other blackguards. (Maybe white corruption is more civilized and polished than grubby black corruption.) He has since apologised. Understandably Pakistani Tories have slammed him. Grieve’s remarks were dismaying and confusing. As with other leading lights in his party, what you see is not always what you get.
Who are these people, today’s British Tories? No Conservative MPs or faithful party members can answer that question coherently. Trust me, I’ve tried it on several of them. They obfuscate, mumble and pine for dead granny Thatcher’s comforting certainties. Whether you backed or loathed Thatcherism, we all knew what it meant and what it meant to do. Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s press secretary and acolyte, recently popped up and ranted against anti-Tory voters up north, “demented” to him, and “stupidly bovine”. See? That’s what true, red-blooded conservatism used to sound like. Those were the days.
The party has no identifiable brand, tries hard to project inclusion but can’t be inclusive, puts on the mask of modernity but pulls it off in Henley or Tunbridge Wells and the toff clubs of Pall Mall. Our PM was previously marketed as the superhero who could and would drag his party from grey, muttering backwardness into a new age of enlightenment, and revive and rejuvenate the membership. He postured and promised to save the natural world. Remember him with those huskies in the deep snow? A few days ago he was still on about the dangers of climate change. Now, according to aides, Cameron proclaims environmental policies are “crap” mainly because energy companies resent green taxes.
Let’s move to immigration, the hottest issue of our times, hot enough to scald any politician who stands up for it. Business must be as furious and flummoxed as environmentalists. Even if every British claimant was to become an efficient worker, a globalised, 21st-century economy cannot grow without migrant labour. Tories tell us immigrants that we have been marvellous for Britain, yet will not stand up for us when public hostility rises, and instead insult and malign us to make sure we never feel we can belong. It’s got markedly worse since Australian strategist Lynton Crosby got into Downing Street. He is using immigration to win elections – a foreigner, Mr Cameron, taking a job (for, a reported half a million pounds a year) from a Briton. Theresa May, when only an MP, used to make stirring speeches about her “nasty party”. As Home Secretary she shows herself to be the nastiest of the lot. Just think about the “Go Home” vans and the plans to deny health and housing to new arrivals. She has dumped the vans and the £3,000 bond on “coloured” overseas visitors, but her other punitive rules stand. The British Isles are becoming isolationist and mean. Cameron makes welcoming statements in China and India for obvious reasons, pathetic noises without any credibility. All that explains why only 16 per cent of the minority vote goes to this political party.
On to society then. Agreed that cohesion, though getting better, is still a big problem in this country. Divisions between classes, races and people of faith hamper common purpose, national unity and that Big Society our PM was once so very keen on. The policies inflicted by Iain Duncan Smith on the poor, workless, ill and disabled, have led to the haves and have-nots being further apart than ever. IDS fooled everyone when he went like a humble missionary into deprived estates and wept for them. He has turned out to be their worst enemy, bringing only misery, blame and retribution. To think the poor trusted him. Meanwhile Boris, the future leader, gives, gives, gives to the rich. The messianic Michael Gove is bent on funding schools built on the principle of segregation. Never have so many faith-based and other separatist schools been set up. Integration is invoked ceaselessly by the Tories and is systematically undermined by them. You find the same untidy attitudes on gays, the arts and young people. The only thing we can be sure of is that they are as anti-EU as Ukip, but less able to articulate why.
Tory minister Nick Boles has spoken out about the Conservative party leadership. They are mistrusted and don’t connect with contemporary Britain. Lord Ashcroft has found that too in the surveys he commissions. I think it’s far worse than that. We do not know what they stand for. They don’t really know either. And I doubt whether a credible political identity can be forged by the next election. And without that voters may well turn to Ukip, which at least knows itself and what it stands for.
How black British actors are becoming global stars
Just this Saturday I was talking to the Ghanian-English TV presenter June Sarpong about the actors Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adrian Lester and David Oyelowo. She is back after spending a few years in the United States – now a rite of passage for ambitious black Brits. Lester has just shared the Evening Standard award for best actor, and the other three are in line for Oscars. Elba is the lead in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Ejiofor stars in 12 Years a Slave directed by the Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen, also black British, and Oyelowo plays a civil rights activist in The Butler.
This is truly incredible. Since 1929, only 26 non-white actors have been Academy Award winners. Halle Berry is still the only black woman ever to get an Oscar for Best Actress. The reason is obvious: over 90 per cent of those who vote for the awards are over 50 and white. Why is this happening now? Could it be because the Obamas have had an impact far beyond politics? Or simply that their time has come? Or that the three are seen as British rather than black?
In the UK, where so many young black men are in gangs, prison, disenchanted and excluded, these trailblazers are affirming the power of the arts to liberate, inspire and nurture those who are talented and determined. Three such males on the shortlist must have shaken the US film establishment. We should feel proud that our nationals have made this historical breakthrough in Hollywood, complacent and self-regarding. The Brits are turning out to be a revolutionary force in America. Imagine that.