Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 1st 2015 Contents B18
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, January 1, 2015
Has Britain learned from the mistakes of
its past and learned to be a better host? It s
a question I m pondering as we move into
a new, important year.
On every TV channel the bumbling mid-
dle-Englander voice of Nigel Farage has become
inescapable. Farage, the leader of the UK Inde-
pendence Party (Ukip) wants Britain to opt
out of the European Union and wants to send
back economic migrants who come to Britain
to live and work.
Farage s wife is German and is employed
by his party s central office, though he doesn t
see this as ironic. Farage s name must be
descended from French but, again, no irony.
Farage s heritage, like most of Britain s white
population, must be a mix of one or more of
the waves of economic migration that has
taken place over the past three thousand years.
Like T&T s indigenous population of Caribs
and Arawaks the earliest Britons were tiny in
number and most were wiped out with similar
violence or interbred with Celts from France,
Romans from Italy, Angles or Saxons from
The Empire's new clothes
Germany and Denmark, Vikings from Scandinavia and
Normans from Normandy. But Farage, a European in
the truest mongrel sense, doesn t want anything to do
His views attract support and have gained enough
momentum to turn his minority party into potentially
the third biggest party in Britain in a position to decide
the outcome of the general election; maybe even able
to form a coalition government with the Conservative
Ukip politicians and supporters are mostly former
Conservatives looking for something more right wing
than David Cameron dares to manifest.
It s hard to know whether politics is more palatable
with a discernible right-left distinction (like in Britain)
or without one (like in Trinidad.) Certainly ethnic polit-
ical divides aren t palatable. The problem with an
emerging hard right wing in Britain is that there is no
hard left alternative: Labour continues to insipidly
occupy the centre ground, too afraid to return to its
once core socialist values even though the country is
crying out for exactly that.
Keen to pander to the public mood on immigration,
Labour toes a hard line, instead of rebuffing Ukip s
absurd claims that Britain is overcrowded and that
migrant workers from eastern Europe are taking jobs
and houses from British people.
Britain s history of welcoming immigrants has been
a mixed bag. From the post-War years right up to the
1980s, cheap labour was needed and came mostly
from the Commonwealth. Some people loved the
Caribbeans and Indians, others hated them.
During the booming 90s, immigration wasn t even
an issue socially or politically, but post recession, the
selfish gene kicked in again: suddenly there s no room
at the inn.
On Monday morning, Lenny Henry (a black British
comedian who fought through an era of overt racism
to become one of the most popular figures in enter-
tainment) was guest editor on BBC Radio 4 s Today
programme. He took the opportunity to talk about
diversity and race in Britain.
He interviewed Andrew Ramroop, Britain s first black
tailor to work on Savile Row (London s street for the
finest suits, shirts and ties.)
Ramroop, a Trinidadian, was born in Maingot Village,
Tunapuna, in 1952 and moved to London in August
1970, aged 17. It wasn t a warm welcome in his cold,
"In those days you just didn t see a West Indian
tailor on Savile Row, it was unheard of," Ramroop said.
"I tried many places looking for jobs and was turned
away. When I did get a place I wasn t allowed in the
front of the shop---if customers saw you they would
leave the shop."
Ramroop eventually began working for Maurice Sed-
well, a man who oversaw his development and gradually
eased him to the front of the shop making him more
visible to clients.
When the visiting Prime Minister of T&T sent his
Permanent Secretary to Savile Row he was so impressed
with Ramroop s work he asked him to oversee the
He went on to dress cabinet members and even
designed the jacket Princess Diana wore in a famous
Panorama interview a few years before her death.
Many years later, in 1988, Sedwell sold Ramroop 90
per cent of his business. In 2008, he established The
Savile Row Academy, the only professional tailoring
school on Savile Row.
What a long and unnecessarily arduous journey for
a black man to take. It might not be the same today,
but what if a Lithuanian with poor English turned up
on Savile Row? Would he have the 40 year rough ride
that Ramroop had, before establishing himself, literally,
amongst the Order of the British Empire? Ramroop
received his OBE from the Queen in 2008.
Most who migrate to Britain come with a sense of
ambition and respect (unlike the Romans, Vikings and
Normans who invaded.) It is time Britain received
newcomers with the same respect. Nigel Farage ought
to know this by now.
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