Tory MP says ‘people have lost sense of humour’ over ‘blacking up’ as James Brown fancy dress photo resurfaces

Samuel Lovett
·2-min read
Desmond Swayne, former International Development Minister: House of Commons
Desmond Swayne, former International Development Minister: House of Commons

A Conservative MP has stoked controversy after saying that “people have lost their sense of proportion and sense of humour” over wearing blackface.

Sir Desmond Swayne said he saw nothing offensive in painting his face black, while insisting there “is not a racist bone in my body”.

The former international development minister was widely criticised last September after admitting he had dressed up as soul singer James Brown for a fancy dress party.

A photo of Sir Desmond wearing the racist outfit has since resurfaced, prompting him to defend his actions.

“I am disappointed that people have lost a sense of proportion and a sense of humour and that the things you just can’t say and can’t do, even if they’re done for the best possible reasons,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Going to a party and having fun in fancy dress seems now to be something that one has to take great precaution about in these woke times, and we all do unless we want the opprobrium of the great and good.”

When asked if he could see why ‘blacking up’ was offensive, he replied: “Why is it offensive? Now my children tell me ‘Dad of course it is offensive, of course you can’t do that, But why?”

“Are you saying a black man can’t get into a fancy dress party as a white man? That we must stay in our racial silos? That we can’t interchange. I just don’t see the world that way. There is not a racist bone in my body.

“I can’t see why we have got to this stage where there are things that you can’t touch and can’t go to.”

Sir Desmond, a former parliamentary aide to David Cameron, insisted in the wake of September’s controversy that wearing blackface is an “entirely acceptable bit of fun”.

The 63-year-old MP for New Forest West said he had tried to be as “authentic as possible” when attending a Blues Brothers themed party as the legendary American singer, and insisted at the time that he would not apologise for it.