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Was William Henwood’s comment about Lenny Henry racist?

6 May 2014

11:43 AM

6 May 2014

11:43 AM

My colleague Hugo Rifkind has been bien-pensanting around the issue of racism, to interesting effect. His thesis, in last week’s mag, seems to be that Ukip is a racist party because it says it isn’t a racist party. I suspect Hugo could show you racism in a handful dust. He also refers to the case of Ukip party candidate William Henwood, who according to Hugo ‘declared that Lenny Henry should “emigrate to a black country” and “does not have to live with whites.”‘

On the BBC’s Question Time, meanwhile, Yvette Cooper (14.00) alleged that Henwood had said that Lenny Henry should emigrate to Africa because of the colour of his skin. Both Hugo and Yvette have deliberately made what Henwood said sound a lot worse than what he actually said – Yvette by entirely making up the quote, Hugo by removing it from its context. Henwood was responding to Lenny Henry’s complaint that there were not enough people from ethnic minorities on our television screens and too many whites.

Henwood’s point, I think, was that Britain is a largely white country, at the moment, and that if Lenny wanted to see more black faces on TV he could go and live some place where they constituted a greater proportion of the population. It was not a clever nor particularly nice thing to say, but I don’t think it is racist, per se, is it?

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