Tory MP asks: is it okay to 'black up'?

A TORY MP asked the equality watchdog whether it was offensive to "black up" as part of a one-man campaign against "political correctness", it emerged yesterday.

Philip Davies wrote 19 letters to Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, questioning anti-discrimination laws.

He asked whether the Metropolitan Black Police Association breached anti-discrimination laws by excluding white members. He compared this to the BNP's whites-only policy.

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Davies, the MP for Shipley in Yorkshire and "parliamentary spokesman" for the Campaign against Political Correctness, began writing the letters in April 2008.

He questioned the legality of the women-only Orange prize for fiction and the Miss Black Britain competition. He asked whether a "Miss White Britain" or a "White Power list" would be considered racist. In another letter, he suggested extending the anti-discrimination laws to cover "bald people (and perhaps fat people and short people)".

Phillips replied at length to most of his inquiries, apart from the one about bald people, when he said simply: "The answer to your question is no."

He told Davies the Black Police Association was not a political party and so could not be directly compared to the BNP.

The term "blacking up" is often considered racist because of its connections to the old minstrel shows that lampooned black people.

Peter Herbert, the chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: "This correspondence seems a complete and utter waste of time."