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Institutional racism would block British Obama

Trevor Phillips remarks the  resistance to select black and Asian candidates 10 November 2008. Mr. Barack Obama, the US president-elect would never have been elected UK’s prime minister because of “institutional racism” in UK’s political parties, Mr. Trevor Phillips, the head of Britain’s equality watchdog has told The Times.

Mr. Phillips holds that while the public would be happy to vote for a black leader, the political system would prevent an ethnic minority candidate getting to the top. “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.”

The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission told The Times that there was an “institutional resistance” to selecting black and Asian candidates. “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 said.

In a separate interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr. Phillips said it would be very hard for people who were not the right gender, class or race to reach the very top because of the current political system in place.

He said: "That’s exactly the point that has been made about systemic bias – it is exactly the point that this, that what is thought, what’s called – it’s not a phrase I use, by the way – institutional racism.

"But it’s a point about the fact that systems can sometimes work in such a way that, in spite of everybody’s goodwill, in spite of the fact that everybody wants it to change, it doesn’t change."

Mr. Phillips said that following Mr. Obama’s election last week, he doesn’t think that the British public "would be at all resistant to electing a black prime minister,” adding that “they would rather like it."

He, however, added that. "My point is that it’s very difficult for people who don’t fit a certain mould – and that is to do with gender, it’s to do with race and it’s to do with class – to find their way into the outer reaches of politics."

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