Labour plan for all-black shortlists to find 'Britain's Barack Obama' is political apartheid, say Asian MPs

Government plans for all-black shortlists would be a form of "political apartheid" deepening racial divides, Asian Labour MPs warned today.

Equalities Minister Harriet Harman, who is championing the proposals, was also told they could set back efforts to find "Britain's Barack Obama".

Khalid Mahmood

Khalid Mahmood: The Labour MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham says the shortlist plan would be a form of 'political apartheid'

The criticism from ethnic minority MPs, who represent only 15 out of 646 constituencies, is a blow to Ms Harman's campaign.

Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, said: "The ends are noble but the means of getting there are important."

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, also spoke out against the shortlist plan, saying it would be "a form of political apartheid which will encourage division and segregation".

During her campaign to be Labour's deputy leader, Ms Harman pledged to work to quadruple the number of ethnic minority MPs.

Some black and Asian politicians support Ms Harman's initiative including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, and Keith Vaz, chairman of the all-party Commons home affairs committee.

But others, including Parmjit Dhanda, a communities minister, and Ashok Kumar MP are reportedly opposed to the plans.

Sunder Katwala, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said: "Now future Dhandas and Kumars fear being packed off to Leicester and Ealing and told to wait for one of "their seats" to come up.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now