BBC broadcaster Dotun Adebayo has challenged Norman Tebbit to revoke his infamous “cricket test” aimed at measuring the loyalty of black Brits towards the Mother Country in the wake of a successful multicultural Olympics. I’m a bit bemused by this call, not least because the Chingford Skinhead has long since faded into irrelevance.
Adebayo’s call was picked up by Hugh Muir in the Guardian’s diary column who wrote:
Finally, the Olympic goodwill just couldn’t last. So here we go: a heavyweight clash between Dotun Adebayo, broadcaster and lead columnist at the black newspaper the Voice, and in the deep blue corner, Lord Tebbit. Given the country’s embrace of a clutch of minority heroes who happily combine Britishness with other things, isn’t it time Lord Tebbit withdrew his notorious “cricket test”, asks Adebayo. “It will be his epitaph, the defining moment of his political life, and its stink will follow him to that sunshine home for ex-Conservatives with a dubious race record,” says the columnist. “Lord Tebbit should embrace the Britain we now live in where we don’t always have to prove our loyalty by our support for one lot or another.” Lord Tebbit, as one expects, comes out swinging. “Oh dear! What is the man on about? My remarks, which have become known as ‘the cricket test’, were not about ‘black men’ but about immigrants,” he says. “They were not about ‘loyalty’ but integration.” As for Farah, Ennis and co: “Many of them seemed to be well-integrated and committed to their British homeland. Perhaps Mr Abebayo should ask himself if he is.” Tebbit doesn’t do reverse gear.
The full Voice article by Dotun is reproduced below this blog.
The topic was briefly debated on his BBC London show last Sunday, where I was invited as a studio guest to talk about the Coalition reshuffle, but in the hurly-burly of the show I didn’t get a chance to react to the Lord Tebbit / cricket test topic. So now’s my chance!
I think I get where my friend Dotun is coming from but take issue with his analysis.
Norman Tebbit is an irrelevance now. It’s been 22 years since that remark. And as any politician will tell you, 22 years is a long time in politics. So when the old Count Dracula has long since been buried politically it doesn’t bode well to dig him up and apply the electrodes. If his type is a dying breed we ought to treat him as such. Let sleeping Pitt Bull’s lie.
The premise of Dotun’s article is that the cricket test is still a live issue today; a stain that reminds us that if we support any other nation than Britain we’ll be shamed and made to feel less of a Brit than our Union Jack waving neighbours. Maybe that was acceptable in the 80s but today flag-waving is altogether more relaxed. People of all backgrounds suddenly became honorary Jamaicans when Usain Bolt was running, and they cheered on South African Oscar Pistorius as if he was one of ‘our boys’.
Yes, there was tremendous support for anyone wearing a Team GB outfit but I’ve witnessed hardly any scowling at British-born citizens supporting other countries. Many in the black community celebrated wins by everyone from British boxer Nicola Adams to the USA’s Gabby Douglas and female relay team.
The likes of Irish boxer Joe Nevin and American swimmer Michael Phelps appeared to enjoy support from across the board. The up-swell of British patriotism was more mature than the stiff nationalism of Lord Tebbit and his ilk. Britain was too comfortable in itself to get het-up about who their neighbours were supporting.
This nation has largely embraced diversity as far as who we support at the Olympics and patriotism has become more fluid and not at odds with changing allegiance from one competition to the next. Because of that, the old cricket test is much less of a “stain” on Britain than Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, which remains a much more of a totem of the hard right and neo-Nazi sympathisers.
Another reason why I disagree with Dotun is that his article hails from a mindset that frets about what the likes of Lord Tebbit and others think about the black community. We’ve come too far and know too much to be knored by self-consciousness and guilt over this cricket test. I don’t give a flying picket what Tebbit thinks. I’d much rather firm-up the foundations below my feet by learning more about history, historical culture and achievements than totter across a tightrope of not offending the already-prejudiced.
So whatever Lord Tebbit’s epitaph is, let it be Dotun! Any apology or retraction from the former Conservative party chairman would be meaningless and, in any case, it looks like we’re not going to get in anyway!
The fight for race equality is hard enough as it is without facing anxiety and doubt during our down-time watching sport! So let’s cheer on whoever we damned-well want to with no fear of the dreaded cricket test rising out of the grave!
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway
Dotun Adebayo’s Voice column:
TIME FOR TEBBIT TO BURY THE HATCHET AND THE ACID TEST
Given the success of the black British athletes at the London Olympics and the current Paralympics, surely it is time for that old duffer of the Conservative Party, Norman Tebbit, to revoke his infamous ‘acid test’ and the suggestion from it that black Brits are plastic Brits.
You know the ‘test’ well. Lord Tebbit declared in April 1990 that the ultimate proof of a black man’s loyalty/disloyalty/citizenship to this country was whether they supported England in a cricket match against the West Indies.
Now I know what you’re going to say, the West Indies are so rubbish at cricket these days that that’s not even an issue any more. And, of course you’d be right. YOU may still support the West Indies, but your children and your children’s children and your children’s children’s friends and their neighbours all think that you’ve lost the plot and gone senile in putting yourself through all that disappointment at your age and with your weak heart. THEY wouldn’t support the West Indies if you paid for an annual week in a little cottage in Negril for them.
As true as that may be, Lord Tebbit’s litmus test remains as a blue or red stain on this country’s Union flag suggesting, as it does, that there AIN’T NO BLACK IN THE UNION JACK. The damage it has done is incalculable Suffice to say that the question mark that it posed over the authenticity of legitimacy of black Briton played into the hands of the likes of the BNP and their band of leery men. In this day and age, there is no place for such a ‘citizenship test’. Events have overtaken it.
To invoke it now would be to an insult to all those great British athletes who have put the black firmly in the Union Jack, but not just the athletes but also the ordinary people of this country who are as British if not more so than a lot of Brits. In fact, he should be trying his acid test on the likes of tennis star Andy Murray and the whole Scottish nation, many of whom stuill want any team but England to win the World Cup.
Until Lord Tebbitt revokes his acid test for black Brits, a stain remains on his legacy. It will be his epitaph, the defining moment of his political life and its stink will follow him to that sunshine home for ex-Conservatives with a dubious race record and where Enoch Powell’s of course the landlord. I truly don’t believe that Lord Tebbit is a racist or a xenophobe, but ask the old time domino players in Brixton or the Tottenham All Stars domino team in the N17s what they think of him.
Lord Tebbit should revoke his acid test, and acknowledge that time has now made it redundant. He should embrace the Britain we now live in where we don’t always have to prove our loyalty by our support for one lot or another. And the very idea of a politician, and a senior one at that, demanding such a thing would be outrageous – “SUPPORT BRITAIN OR ELSE”.
Lord Tebbitt should correct the impression, circulated by his acid test, that there is a question mark on black British loyalty. Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams and Andrew Joshua proved that to be an absurd impression. Lord Tebbit, now is your chance to do the right thing. This is your opportunity to wipe that stain clean. I’m sure we’d all appreciate it.