Yet there was no Ukip when Benjamin Disraeli declared that the Irish “hate our order, our civilisation, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character.” It was no rotten apple but Winston Churchill, the Tory idol, who as prime minister pronounced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.” The Bengal famine of 1943 is widely estimated to have killed about 2 million people.
I draw these quotes from a new book, Racism and the Tory Party, by the sociologist Mike Cole. Far from being a mere slip of the tongue, racism, he argues, “has saturated the party from the beginning of the 19th century to the second decade of the 21st”. From Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” to Theresa May’s hostile environment, it courses through Tory history. And it is not just words. In its online safety bill, the government wants this week to make illegal any online video of people in small boats that shows such Channel crossing in a “positive light”.