Chuka Umunna: Hail, Britain Obama!
By Taju Tijani
The Labour MP for Streatham, fresh-faced Chuka Umunna, may after all be the great black hope of British politics. At a time when British politics is becoming too white, too damp and too wet, a generational coup may probably rev up the engine room of Westminster’s green benches. Punters are not hedging their bets yet, but if confidence, intelligence, good looks, leadership attributes and youthful energy will be any guide, Chuka Harrison Umunna is a fair bet. If the great but unpredictable British voting public will emulate the Obama coup across the Atlantic, then Umunna is the man to match America’s generational political leap.
Umunna has been variously described as clever, smart, articulate and the man who is narrowing the great divide between black and white humanity of this beautiful island nation. For the first time, he may close the generational antipathy towards black leadership of European politics. Probably, he may be offered the rare chance of rescuing Britain from the clutches of black political repression. He may be the man to give back to middle England the trust it had lost in black confidence, achievement and leadership. He may be the man to restore pride, dignity and cheer back to black soul lost to institutional racism and century of systemic denial of black British entitlement.
If sophisticated America could hedge its political destiny on the shoulder of the son of a Kenyan immigrant, a conservative Britain has every reason to respond by thrusting the mantle of leadership on the young shoulder of the son of a Nigerian immigrant. If for no other reason, Britain has to ape and respond in kind by demonstrating to the world that it values the strength, ability and contribution of black British. It has to respond by demonstrating that Britain is observing and moving with the politics of a radical generation.
It has to respond by casting hope on the race that was once forgotten, the race that was once disregarded and the race that was once labelled with all kinds of derogatory adjectives known to man. President Barrack Obama has proved and is proving beyond doubt that black has soul, power, ability, depth, resonance, and intelligence to lead the world and ride on its applause like any other races. If given the bet, Umunna will prove the sceptics wrong. If Umunna is given the chance, Britain would have removed generational veil of racial injustice and prejudice. If America could remove its own racial veil through an Obama presidency, Britain could retaliate with Umunna’s premiership.
Pundits and observers of British politics have always posited that prejudice, ignorance and institutional racism run deeper in Britain than in America. The argument is that Britain is a convoluted island of rank, class, privilege, monarchy and deep-seated dislike of foreigners. The argument is that Britain is not a melting pot of all nations founded on the idealism of liberty, freedom and equality. The argument is that British society is still being guided by monarchical sentiments, class, breeding, inheritance, name and Europhilic belief in a white Europe. The argument is that Britain is still casting a wistful envy on its maritime heritage and the control and domination it once had over three quarters of the entire world during the empire century. The argument against black Prime Minister is that her majesty Queen Elizabeth the second is not prepared to embrace a black premier as her chief minister. She still prefers to see Britain through a broken blinker of conservatism, white-ruled, less radical and oblivious to the dictates of a radical century of new political direction. She still wants to reign and guard Britain from the lingering political pollutant of political equality, liberty, new idealism and the dilution of white British moral, social and cultural superiority.
Today, Umunna can speak to Britain and its soul and move it forward. Umunna can lighten the weight being carried around Britain’s soul through his preparedness to alter this nation’s mental confinement. He needs to hijack this nation from the repressive ideals of class, rank, influence and racial purity. He has to uproot Britain from its dependence on bland cynicism toward black ability and shift it into a land of persistent idealism, possibility and political change. As Marilyn Ferguson observes, “No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal.”
We are at the centre of the age of possibility. The Umunna brand is cool. It is sexy. It is modern. It is minutely trendy. In a political space where the mantra is “they all look the same,” it is becoming difficult to think of many politicians who look and feel more different. One adviser to Tony Blair once said: “When the public look at a new leader they ask themselves, ‘Can I imagine spending the next five years looking at this guy?’” It is not hard to imagine the public wanting to take a second look at the MP for Streatham. Umunna is not just another bench warmer MP. He is an emerging brand. A concept. A potential change maker. A pulsating game changer. A walking, talking political franchise.
Or maybe he is none of the above. Perhaps that is my hype because of my bias that he is from my country. Perhaps this is just my writer’s spin to make him personable, bankable and electable. Perhaps, Umunna does not possess the unsleeping passion of an Obama. Maybe he is only a sharp suited, engaging and politically neutral Ibo boy with no ambition to upset Britain’s loyalty to her queen, racial hegemony and conservative politics.
Meanwhile, Chuka Harrison Umunna, 34, the Labour party Shadow Business Secretary and its rising star is winning the liberal argument. An argument that favours an all inclusive new Britain unshackled by monarchical privilege, racial hierarchy and over-arching fear of handing over Westminster to a young, ambitious, black British with Igbo blood. Umunna is the black British hope for Number 10. Yes, he can! Yes, he can! He has to seize the moment and confound middle England wrong prognosis of black intelligence, ability and leadership potential.