Farrukh Dhondy | Who's really fit to be British? Shades of racism pop up in PM race

There may be many reasons to prefer Liz Untrussworthy to Hedgie Soon-to-go, but Rishi's race has not been openly acknowledged as one of them

“Hearts are broken for many reasons

O Bachchoo, think and pause

Love has tides and time has seasons

Can anyone define the cause?

When lovers say their hearts are broken

Shattered in their breasts

It’s a metaphor, a verbal token

Of the abandoned and distressed…”

— From Gaand with the Wind, by Bachchoo

An ace footballer called Marcus Rashford relentlessly campaigned to get BoJo’s government to continue to provide free school meals to poor children through the Covid-determined closure of schools. Statistics tell us that child poverty — one-meal-or-no-meal-a day children — is set to rise from 23 per cent to 31 per cent this year.

Radford’s campaign forced the Tories to relent and feed the hungry. Now he is campaigning to eradicate food poverty in Britain in all circumstances. The children of this sceptred isle should not know the hunger that millions of children in our sad, unequal world suffer.


A radio presenter on the British chat channel LBC (“London’s Biggest Conversation” — though it’s no longer confined to London and is national) called Sangita Myska themed a discussion in support of Marcus Radford’s campaign. Ms Myska is a distinguished journalist and hosts this programme on national radio, proposing issues which she feels are of import.

It’s a phone-in show, as are the others on LBC. The hosts introduce topics and express their own points of view and invite listeners to call in with theirs.

On Sunday, August 28, as Ms Myska ventured to support Radford’s initiative and invited listeners to respond, she received a call from a woman who told her to “do us a favour and shut up”.

The caller elaborated on the reason for asking Sangita to desist from offering opinions on British government policy, saying that since Sangita had been born in Tanzania to Asian parents, she was “not British” and had no right to any opinions about British political policies.

Sangita, though stunned by such an intrusion, subsequently received literally thousands of calls and messages from listeners who condemned the “racist” caller and offered their support and their contradictions.

Thereby hangs a tale — which raises a contentiously necessary question: Who is “British”?

My answer in the past has been that the primary inhabitants of this said SI (sceptred isle, yaar! Keep up!) define themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish. Jews and immigrants from the ex-colonies are “British”. In our fast-globalising world, do these definitions matter?

Think back a bit, gentle reader. Shouldn’t we wonder whether William the Conqueror, having established himself as the monarch of this land, called himself “British”? Or did he still think he was a Normandywalla? And his descendants and those of the hordes he brought with him? Yes, okay, that was an earlier migration (1069, was it? — fd. 1066, you idiot, stop giving the impression that we Indians are always late! — Ed) and the French speakers merged in and a new phase of Britishness was born.

In my early studies in school, which only touched on some abstract definitions and notions about citizenship, I distinctly remember that there were two claims to be part of a nation. You were a citizen through “jus sanguinis” or “jus soli”. The first term meant through blood — the genes of the parents — and the other meant through being born on the soil.

Gentle reader, I have a British passport. So far, I am confident that it insulates me, if I behave myself, from being deported to Rwanda under Priti Clueless’ diktat. Both my parents were proudly Parsi Zoroastrian Indians, so no jus sanguinis. And I was born in Poona (now Pune) in Doctor Bandorawalla’s Nursing Home, so no jus soli in my humble acquisition of British citizenship.

The criteria changed, had to change as people moved across the globe for so many reasons. Millions of Americans — in fact all, apart from Native Americans — are citizens of the United States of America because they live and work there. They, or their ancestors, can’t deny that they entered the sacred soil from elsewhere in the world.

There are enigmatic cases. In my boyhood my dearest friend, the late Dara Cama, told us that his mother and her twin sister were born on a ship in the English Channel. Their father was a strongman in a British circus and was returning with his pregnant wife and the rest of the circus — animals and all — to England from a world tour. So, these twins were born in the Channel on a British-flagged ship, which entitled them to British citizenship.

The twin girls never claimed such. They ended as good Parsi wives in Gujarat, Mumbai and then Pune.

And this week the question of who is British and who can rule Britain as Prime Minister takes on a sort of unspoken dimension. Of the two candidates, one of whom will be eliminated in the running, Rishi Soon-sacked is the favourite to go. There may be many reasons to prefer Liz Untrussworthy to Hedgie Soon-to-go, but Rishi’s “race” has not been openly acknowledged as one of them.

Yet, two friends of mine, voters, as Tory Party members, in this contest, are determined that a brown man can’t fill the shoes of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. In no other way have these friends ever manifested any racism in their outlook and lives. Must one rethink one’s friendship? Or is friendship above this single idiotic political prejudice?

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