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July 15, 2003


The politically-correct British media often complain that there are too few people from ethnic minorities in senior political roles. This is contrasted with the position in the United States, where Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are near the top of the tree. The complainers often ask rhetorically: when will we ever see a non-white Prime Minister?

I was therefore pleased to discover recently that (on a broad enough definition) we have already had one.

Lord Liverpool (Robert Banks Jenkinson, 1770-1828) was Tory Prime Minister from 1812 to 1827. He was descended on his mother's side from British merchants in India who had intermarried with the local population. I don't know the exact proportion of Indian ancestry, but it was less than a quarter, so probably not noticeable. But it was no secret, and Lord Liverpool himself referred to it in his speeches.

It is interesting that the Tory (Conservative) party seems to have been more adventurous in its choice of leaders than its opponents. Apart from Liverpool, they include the Jewish Benjamin Disraeli (admittedly baptised as a Christian, but Jewish by name, ancestry and appearance), a 'confirmed bachelor' (Edward Heath), a woman (Margaret Thatcher), and the son of a trapeze-artist with a very colourful love-life (John Major). The present leader of the party (Iain Duncan Smith) is one-eighth Japanese, and his main rival for the leadership is a half-Spaniard with an admitted gay past (Michael Portillo).

So I'm inclined to predict that within 30 years we will have a black lesbian Prime Minister - and she will be a Tory!


Godless comments

within 30 years we will have a black lesbian Prime Minister - and she will be a Tory!

I shall refrain from making the obvious Condoleeza Rice reference...

Posted by David B at 06:24 AM

Where did you read this?

I read it years ago in Geoffrey Moorhouse's INDIA BRITANNICA.

Interesting fact.

Posted by: Diana at July 15, 2003 07:09 AM

The US is -way- better off in re race generally than what one might come to believe reading the news IMO.

On Dr. Rice, wouldn't it be wonderful if GWB dropped Cheney and took her for VP in 2004? It would set up Hilly vs. Condi in 2008. Would that be a riot or what? God I'd love it. Talk about an earthquake election year. That would be edge of your seat stuff.

Posted by: Katy at July 15, 2003 08:57 AM

Uhh ... there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Condoleeza Rice is a lesbian; in fact, there seems to have been an article in the press not so long ago referring to a relationship she was having with an ex-football player.

Posted by: Juvenal at July 15, 2003 11:47 AM

Ted Heath was a 'confirmed bachelor'? Are you insinutating that he was ...?

Posted by: Jason Soon at July 15, 2003 12:29 PM

one of the first governers of south african's cape colony (dutch days, late 1600s) was 1/4 bengali-his mother was 1/2 bengali i believe. under apartheid he would have been classified as coloured...

Posted by: razib at July 15, 2003 02:18 PM

yeah really, steadman and oprah have been dating for years so they must be hetro.

i'd like to see that ticket myself, but don't be so naive to think that the rest of america might also. i grew up in the south while racism isn't as overt as it was.. it is certainly there and covert.. ie.. "good folks" don't watch the Cosby Show. i'm not sure if those same people would vote for a bush/rice ticket.

Posted by: Captain Scarlet at July 15, 2003 02:54 PM

Diana: I saw a reference to it in William Dalrymple's 'White Mughuls', and verified it from a biography of Liverpool.

Jason: am I insinuating something about Ted Heath? Perish the thought! But it will be interesting if anything 'comes out' when he eventually pops his clogs.

Posted by: David B at July 16, 2003 02:32 AM

It was universally accepted that Heath was not homosexual. He himself always said that the right girl just hadn't come along. Certainly, by the time he was really in the public eye he had no visible sexual life at all, and seemed to prefer yachts and orchestras to women. You can't get much more confirmed than that.

On the question of black advancement in my country, Americans do not always take into account the difference between an immigrant aociety such as American and that of the ancient states of Europe. The first boat carrying West Indian immigrants only arrived in England in 1958. The Conservative government of the time did not see fit to consult the people on immigration because they knew the answer they would have had. Some Americans looking askance today at the south-west and wondering why the Mexican influx is tolerated by the federal government might know something of how the English felt.

Today, liberalism has proscribed all dissent, and the only public message one receives anywhere is multi-culturalist, pro-black, pro-misceganist. You may care to weigh which is the graver offence: for a people to baulk at this state of affairs or for a government to drive its people into it.

Posted by: Guessedworker at July 16, 2003 02:39 AM

Captain Scarlet-

"i grew up in the south while racism isn't as overt as it was.. it is certainly there and covert.. ie.. "good folks" don't watch the Cosby Show. i'm not sure if those same people would vote for a bush/rice ticket."

Me too, and I still live here. Are there racists in the South? Yes there are, as well as in any other region of the country. There are also murderers, rapists, corrupt politicians blah blah blah but not in any significantly higher proportions than any other region of the US.

In the south people have been confronted with their racism for the last 50 years, whereas in other regions they have not been so confronted. I travel a lot and I'll tell you anecdotally that I am a lot more likely to see overt racism in other regions. (see the feedback loop thread)

Anyway, all that aside, I'd still love to see that ticket. My guess is Bush-Rice would win about 48 states. Rice has everything, she's smart, tough, sober, attractive, pleasant.

Condi vs Hilly? Wow I have no idea how that would play. It would be the biggest political fight in my lifetime though I'd guess. All at once we'd be facing our first woman president for sure and potentially our first black president. Awesome.

Posted by: Katy at July 16, 2003 08:38 AM

The first boat carrying West Indian immigrants only arrived in England in 1958

well, but as far as black migration/presence into england, there has long been a trickle that was prior the 1958 wave absorbed into british society, the 'court negro' was fashionable in elizabethean times, and the lower class regions of london in the late 18th century i once read had a smattering of black seaman that settled down and intermarried to the point where they melted into the population....

Posted by: razib at July 16, 2003 06:41 PM


Your point needs correction on three counts. First, Sub-Saharan African genetic material was present among Celtic peoples of Britain much earlier than you surmise. Back males were in England as Roman legionaries.

Second, their genes did not melt into the Celtic genepool as you of all people must know. Genes are eternal.

Third, your comment has no purchase on modern-day reality. We have seen the ingress of populations, not a scattering of individuals.

Posted by: Guessedworker at July 17, 2003 04:23 AM