NEW FOREST West MP Sir Desmond Swayne has refused to apologise after a picture emerged of him “blacking up” at a fancy dress party, sparking fresh accusations of racism.
That was renewed this week when an apparent photo of him with his wife, Moira, was published online.
The image shows the 63-year-old Conservative grinning underneath a wig, black face paint and sunglasses, next to Mrs Swayne who is dressed in a black suit as one of the characters from the Blues Brothers film.
Black Labour MP David Lammy urged Boris Johnson to strip Sir Desmond of the Tory whip, saying on Twitter: “For those who have been victims of racism there aren’t words for how grim it is that Tory MP [Desmond Swayne] refuses to apologise for blacking up.”
Cllr Jack Davies, the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary candidate for New Forest West, said: “What hurts so much about the Conservative MP’s embarrassing blackface scandal is that people now think that all of us who live in New Forest West are like that.
“We aren’t, and at the next election we can prove that.”
Sir Desmond’s use of “blackface” was revealed in a blogpost on his own website in which he refused to apologise.
He also said that although he said he would not do it again, that was only because the makeup took so long to clean off – although that line was later deleted.
It said: “The reason I wouldn’t do it again is because you have to go to some trouble to get it off. It’s not a non-trivial exercise.”
His comments were in response to controversy over images emerging of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea blacking up 18 years ago for an Arabian Nights-themed party.
Sir Desmond described it as “an entirely acceptable bit of fun” and attacked Mr Trudea’s subsequent apology as “cringing”.
This week the Telegraph newspaper reported Sir Desmond confirming the image showed his wife but that he could not remember if it also showed him. It was taken years ago, he said.
Yesterday (Tuesday) Sir Desmond did not deny the photo claims, telling the A&T: “I said everything that I am going to say about this in my blog a fortnight ago. There is nothing to add.”
Sir Desmond was defended by Cllr Alan O’Sullivan, chair of the New Forest West Conservative Association. Speaking from the party’s conference in Manchester, Cllr O’Sullivan denied Sir Desmond was racist.
Having spoken with the MP, Cllr O’Sullivan said: “He has often gone to Africa as an aid supporter. He certainly would not do that if he was a racist.
“I think there are appropriate and inappropriate situations. If the event warranted the situation I can’t see why there could be any offence. If you dress up as a cowboy, are you offending cowboys?
“I think it’s entirely separate from racism, unless there is intent. It was not done with intent, it was as fancy dress for that party.”