UK 'too racist' for black PM: equality chief

Says people ready but institution is racist


Barack Obama would never have become prime minister in Britain because the political system is "institutionally racist", the head of Britain's equality watchdog said Saturday.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told the Times newspaper that while voters would be prepared to vote for a black candidate, the political "machine" would prove a huge obstacle.

"If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour Party," Phillips said, referring to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's governing party.

"The parties and the unions and the think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It's institutional racism," he added.

But Phillips, who is black, said he did not think that British voters "would be at all resistant to electing a black prime minister" after seeing Americans vote in their first black president.

Despite Obama's historic win Phillips believes the U.S. is still divided on racial lines and said Britain is less racially divided.

"Here it's more about class. It is about culture, a different way of life and speaking. The Muslim community occupies the space that black Americans have in the United States. If you asked British voters whether you could have a Muslim prime minister their mouths would drop open, but not with a black one," he said.

Philips showed is admiration for Obama and said: "this guy walks on water, he is a miracle, he does things none of us thought could be done in politics -- but don't expect him to end war and racial discrimination, give everyone a home and engender love and peace by Christmas."

Labour lawmaker Sadiq Khan said Labour's system of selecting candidates and its party leader did allow for ethnic minorities to be widely represented.

"I work with very talented, very able black politicians and I know from talking to constituents around the country, that our constituents are very sophisticated and we judge our politicians by their policies, not by the color of their skin," Khan told the BBC.