Conservatives Resist Black Candidate; Test for Major’s Vision
LONDON (AP) _ Prime Minister John Major’s vision of a ″society of opportunity″ faces an immediate test from some Conservative Party members who are rebelling against a black lawyer selected as their candidate for Parliament.
John Taylor, who hopes to be the first black Conservative in the House of Commons, was selected last weekend by the Tory organization in Cheltenham, near Gloucester in western England.
Some Conservatives complained they were given no choice but Taylor, and one inflamed the controversy when he was quoted in a national newspaper as calling the candidate ″a bloody nigger.″
William Galbraith, a Conservative Party member in Cheltenham, confirmed Tuesday that he had made the remark in a private conversation. ″I did not expect anything I said to friends to be quoted in the national press,″ he said in an interview with BBC radio.
He added: ″I did say we would not let bloody niggers into this town.″
Major, who began his political climb in the racially mixed London district of Brixton, took office a week ago with a promise to work for a ″society of opportunity.″
In his first major address to the Conservative Party organization on Tuesday, Major supported Taylor.
″We believe that every man and woman should be able to go as far as their talent, ambition and effort take them,″ Major said. ″There should be no artificial barrier of background, religion or race.″
Later, answering questions in the House of Commons, Major said the reported remarks by Galbraith ″are not sentiments that have any place in our party.″
Taylor, writing in Tuesday’s editions of the Daily Mail, said it was good that the furor had erupted early in Major’s tenure.
″It will show him precisely how big is the mountain that has to be climbed before the meritocracy of which he dreams becomes a reality,″ Taylor wrote.
Taylor also won support from Conservative Party chairman Chris Patten, appointed by Major last week; Patten’s predecessor, Kenneth Baker; and Norman Tebbit, a prominent Tory right-winger who in the past has been an outspoken critic of immigration.
″He was selected on merit,″ Patten said. ″I do not think that anybody has any time at all for the rather repellent views of a minority in our society.″
Galbraith said he was unhappy that Taylor was not a resident of the almost totally white, heavily middle-class town - although it’s common in British politics for candidates to be outsiders.
Despite the backing of the executive committee, Taylor was selected as the local candidate in the next general election by a vote of 111 to 83.
″This man has been bulldozed into the constituency by Head Office, who are determined to have a black man in the Commons,″ said Colin Lear, a real estate agent in Cheltenham and a local party member.
There are only four blacks in the 650-seat House of Commons, all members of the Labor Party.
About 5 percent of Britain’s population is classified as ″non-white,″ a broad label that includes West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese and persons of mixed race.
Taylor, 38, has previously run as a Conservative candidate in Solihull in central England. Typically, aspiring politicians have to run one or more hopeless campaigns before being selected in a district where they have a chance of winning.
Taylor, the son of a West Indian cricket player, is a barrister - a lawyer qualified to argue cases in court - and a member of the local council in Solihull, where he was born.
Monica Drinkwater, the Conservative chairwoman in Cheltenham, said 250 people applied to be selected. She said the executive committee of nearly 50 members whittled the group down to four by a secret ballot, and then agreed on Taylor in a second ballot.
She said Tuesday that the executive committee would meet again in the next 10 days, when it could consider expelling Galbraith.
″I think we should stand back and give this issue some long, cool and calm thought,″ she said.