Brexiteer MP says it is ‘entirely acceptable fun’ to wear blackface

Sir Desmond Swayne in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Sir Desmond Swayne in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

A Tory Brexiteer MP has hinted that he wore blackface, while describing the practice widely criticised as a racist caricature as an 'entirely acceptable bit of fun'.

Sir Desmond Swayne made the comment as he sought to defend Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose re-election campaign was near-derailed by disclosures that he had darkened his skin.

The former minister suggested he "went to some trouble to be as authentic as possible" when posing as soul singer James Brown at a fancy dress party.

Sir Desmond was swiftly criticised by Labour, who called on the Tories to take action against the New Forest West MP.

He wrote in a blog post that Trudeau should not have apologised for the incidents, which Trudeau admitted he now considers racist.


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"He would have done better to have said it was an entirely acceptable bit of fun and refused to apologise," the Tory wrote.

"I once went to a Blues Brothers themed fancy-dress party as James Brown. I went to some trouble to be as authentic as possible.

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"I can assure readers of this column that I have no intention of apologising."

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said: "This is another example of a politician not even trying to understand the history of oppression and racism.

"Desmond Swayne has not only admitted to blacking up himself, but is now actively encouraging others to do so.

"The Tories need to explain what action will be taken against him and whether this took place while he was a government minister."

Sir Desmond was knighted by David Cameron in 2016 and held the post of minister of state in the Department for International Development.

The prime minister's official spokesman said he had not seen Sir Desmond's comments.

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