My series on minority MPs in the Conservative Party continues.
In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Today’s post covers the two minority MPs who were elected during Theresa May’s snap general election of June 2017.
Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)
Bim Afolami represents the leafy Hertfordshire constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, far enough from London to be in the countryside yet a close enough for a daily commute to and from the capital.
I always enjoy hearing what Afolami has to say in Parliament. He speeches are eloquent, considered and, above all, sensible.
Afolami was born in the Home County of Berkshire to a Nigerian father, employed as a consultant physician for the NHS. His mother works as a pharmacist.
Afolami attended Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. While at Oxford, he worked as a librarian for the Oxford Union Society and played football for the university team.
He worked as a lawyer prior to entering politics. His employers included the prestigious law firm Freshfields and the banking corporation HSBC.
In 2017, Hitchin and Harpenden’s MP Peter Lilley stood down. Afolami was selected as the Conservative candidate.
Afolami was a Remainer, however, during his time in Parliament, he voted the Brexit line most of the time.
He has been a member of several parliamentary committees.
He has also had positions as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Transport, International Development, International Trade and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Currently, he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions and is a Commissioner for the Financial Inclusion Commission.
Afolami is married with three children.
He describes Winston Churchill as his ‘biggest hero’.
Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)
Kemi Badenoch also reveres Winston Churchill, along with Margaret Thatcher.
She, too, has Nigerian roots and spent her formative years there before returning to England.
She represents the constituency of Saffron Walden in Essex, which, not surprisingly, includes the ancient town of the same name. The town of Saffron Walden was known not only for its wool production but also for its cultivation of saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. That happy combination of industry enabled the town to develop dyes as well as provide the condiment for use in food.
Olukemi Olufunto Adegoke was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father is a GP and her mother a professor of physiology. As her mother obtained teaching positions overseas, Kemi lived in both the United States and Nigeria. She returned to England at the age of 16 to complete her A levels and attend university.
She has worked in computing for most of her career. She obtained a law degree in 2009 and went on to work as an associate director of private bank and wealth manager Coutts and was a director for The Spectator.
Kemi joined the Conservative Party in 2005.
In 2012, she married Hamish Badenoch and took his surname.
In 2015, she served on the London Assembly after Suella Fernandes Braverman had to give up her seat, since she had just been elected to Parliament.
In 2017, Kemi Badenoch succeeded Sir Alan Haslehurst as MP for Saffron Walden with a healthy majority.
In her maiden speech, she explained how she became a conservative: failing nationalised electricity and water provision during her years in Nigeria. Wow.
She also said that Brexit was the ‘greatest vote ever’.
If you want to feel uplifted about Britain and conservatism, this video is definitely worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time:
She currently holds two positions, to which Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her in 2020: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for International Trade.
The latter position has seen her come up against stiff opposition from the Opposition benches last year when it emerged that minorities were more affected by coronavirus. The protests in June exacerbated the issue.
On June 4, an SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, had the gall to intimate that Badenoch had little understanding of the black community.
Badenoch politely responded that she objected to Thewliss’s ‘confected outrage’.
As former Labour MP — now Baroness Hoey in the House of Lords — put it:
Guido Fawkes posted a video of the exchange and commented (emphasis in the original):
Today’s BAME Urgent Question was never going to be one Parliament’s more tranquil sessions given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Kemi Badenoch gave a feisty performance, scolding left-wing white MPs for telling her how to feel as a black person. Her slap down of SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who conflated all black Britons with recent immigrants, is worth a watch…
The BBC also attacked her response.
On June 6, Badenoch wrote an article for the Daily Mail, which said, in part (emphases mine):
The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic people has been one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic – and the Government was right to seek the expert guidance of Professor Kevin Fenton, an eminent black physician at Public Health England, to examine the issue.
So when, as Equalities Minister, I stood up in the Commons to discuss his review and its conclusions, I expected tough questions.
This, after all, has been a week of heightened emotion about racial divisions. Unfortunately, clumsy attempts at scrutiny by some MPs and commentators unintentionally risk inflaming racial tensions.
Updating Parliament on the review, Labour MPs repeated racially charged claims such as: ‘Being black is a death sentence.’
One SNP MP conflated all black people with recent immigrants. This language does nothing to calm tensions at a time when politicians need to set an example.
Far more irresponsible though, was the BBC’s coverage of the debate – with the headline: ‘Minister rejects systemic racism claims’. I did no such thing.
In fact, the phrase ‘systemic racism’ was not used once in the debate. The BBC report was shared on social media thousands of times and believed because it was from a trusted source. This is incredibly harmful.
By implying that a black Minister has, out of hand, rejected racism as a factor, the hard work done by many ethnic minorities in Government, the NHS and Public Health England is discredited, trust is lost and race relations become worse.
Yes, there are gaps in PHE’s review. By its nature, it highlights what we don’t know and must investigate further.
We will build on this work, engaging with individuals and organisations within communities, to protect lives in this pandemic …
We need to be more circumspect; we need real journalism, not campaigning.
We must address prejudice but this is impossible if our national broadcaster, politicians and commentators play a social media game to achieve outrage rather than enlightenment.
We must combat the real inequities in society, but we do everyone a disservice if we give in to culture warriors whose relevance depends on inflaming tensions.
By hijacking the Government’s work to improve the lives of BAME people, those spoiling for a fight are sacrificing the hope of so many young people for little more than clicks, likes and retweets.
In October, Badenoch volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial:
Moving to the present day — February 2021 — issues have arisen with minorities reluctant to get vaccinated when the time comes. Personally, I do not blame them. There is a lot we do not know about their long-term effects, particularly the mRNA vaccines. So that minorities would feel more reassured, the Government appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP to oversee vaccine rollout in the UK. His brief includes visiting minority communities to encourage uptake:
In January, minority MPs from both sides of the aisle took part in a video to promote the vaccine programme.
Badenoch was criticised for not having taken part. She said it was because she was participating in the aforementioned vaccine trial:
Let’s return to last year.
In October 2020, Badenoch spoke in Parliament about Black History Month in the UK. She said that she was taken aback by something her daughter said:
That month, she participated in a Spectator discussion debunking various socio-political left-wing theories and promoting conservatism.
This triggered a severe reaction from the Left in November.
Several radical left-wing academics took issue with what she said:
Guido Fawkes provided the exhaustive list along with the radical positions of each academic, explaining the background (red emphases in the original, those in purple mine):
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sent Twitter’s wokesters and academia’s race baiters into meltdown a fortnight ago when her savaging of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) went viral, with 2.4 million views. Guido’s since picked up on an open letter doing the rounds in nutty left-wing academic circles, who – unable to take on the substance of what Badenoch argues – have chosen instead to misrepresent her words. Aside from their attacks on the substance of Kemi’s words – incorrectly claiming she wants “the banning of certain ideas or schools of thought” and that she misunderstands history and CRT – the mostly former-polytechnic-based academics now claim CRT has “scientific principles” behind their ideology. Eugenicists, phrenologists and Marxists have argued the same for decades...
Looks like Kemi’s on pretty sound ideological ground…
I wish Kemi Badenoch all the very best in holding her ground so consistently.
Tomorrow’s post concludes this series.