Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - Columnist for The Independent

10.02.05

In the morning I go to speak to sixth formers at a school in London
about journalism and how I started. I inform them that I came to it a
little late, that I waited timorously until I was in my mid thirties
before I dared to write and submit my first article to The Guardian
which published it. How old are you? Asks one impertinent lass. I can
see the looks of horror.

Then back at my desk, writing a bit more of the novel I have
promised my agent, which I never deliver, and then three radio
interviews on why I think it is politicians who stop integration of
immigrants by ceaselessly scapegoating us.

More than 650 emails
arrived this week responding to my Independent column making these
arguments. Replied to about a hundred so far. One emailer wants to burn
me tied to Nelson’s Column. Three say they love brown skin.

11.02.05

GMTV pre-record with the astute political journalist Steve Richards for his Sunday programme. John Harris is also there.

He has just written a provocative new book, Now Who Shall We Vote
For? which outlines his own agonies at no longer being able to support
Labour – his party since he was a teenager. After such lies (over the
Iraq war) and so much spilt blood, and the populism, I feel no such
qualms. They cannot have my vote.

Richards put me on the spot– asked how I would feel if the Tories get back in? It would be depressing but I wouldn’t top myself.

Started
an essay for the Arts supplement of The Independent on growing up in
Uganda, on Shakespeare, on acting, shenanigans in my family and how
these have influenced my politics. This is the subject of a show I have
written and am performing in March for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Went for an acupuncture session for a very painful frozen shoulder.

13.02.05

On the Adam Boulton show, Sky News, to debate the Charles, Camilla
wedding. Sick of all this spinning – the greatest love story and all
that. These two are like the wicked couple in Les Liaisons Dangereuses
who assiduously plot to entrap a young girl. Has the world forgotten
that so soon?

Why doesn’t Charles abdicate and choose love over pomp?

My republicanism is getting stronger, but what good is that?

Wrote
my column for The Independent . One I am inordinately proud of. In
response to New Labour’s six pledges, I suggested six progressive
reasons not to vote for Blair and co.

I used the simplistic
sloganeering that New Labour loves so much. Perhaps it was a cheap
trick, but then why should politicians be the only ones allowed cheap
tricks?

14.02.05

Started rehearsals for the show in a room at the beautiful Albery
Theatre. My director is forceful and brilliant and is releasing the
performer in me. Hope it all works. It did when I performed in
Stratford and Newcastle. But London is tough.

And what if the man who wants to burn me in Trafalgar Square turns
up? The right-wing press has attacked the priceless British Council for
funding an extraordinary photographic exhibition on Muslims in Britain.
I wrote the accompanying text and I am in the firing line too. It has
too many ‘negative’ messages they complain. I despair. There is a
wonderful range of images – rich Muslims, singing Muslims, happy and
sad Muslims, and also lost Muslim men in deprived neighbourhoods. I
wrote that these men were ’emotionally homeless’. Racism has made them
feel rejected by the mainstream society and their own communities have
told them they belong elsewhere. They are easily influenced and
exploited by extremists. I know the British Council is reeling from
this unexpected and undeserved attack. And I am mad as hell.

Should I write a letter? Or would that just stoke up the controversy further? Decide to ignore it.

15.02.05

Column for The Standard – I love doing these as I can be playful.
And with London being such a phenomenally mixed city, the audience
feels like the whole world. But it is great being with The Independent
, surely now the most striking and radical newspaper in the UK.

Another avalanche of emails replying to Monday’s column.

I
am so tired at present; really want to forget them but that wouldn’t be
fair. So I reply to about 70 – the election debate is hotting up.

Am
desperately behind with development work on two programmes just
commissioned by Radio 4–on politics and Bollywood. The Bombay film
industry has, since the thirties been a shaper of political opinions,
struggles and of social mores. Behind the razzmatazz and gaudy clothes,
there is almost always an agenda and purpose in many of the greatest
films.

16.02.05

Rehearsals for the show – and a photographer turned up to take
pictures to accompany the essay above. Hate my photos being taken.
Sweet chap had me pose lying down full length on an empty stage. Felt
like a porn actress with poor prospects. Exhausted.

Got some bookings from TV outlets for the election coverage.

It is still so hard to convince people I am a mainstream national, political and social columnist, not always a ‘race’

expert.
And as if on cue, I get confirmation to take part in Dinner With
Portillo, to discuss??? Multiculturalism. Ah Well, can’t complain. It
is my brand.

A good friend rings me up with some advice. He is an
insider in New Labour. Says I am playing with fire writing columns
suggesting voters should abandon Labour. Is that a threat? Of course
not, he says. Just that if too many dissent we could find ourselves
taken back to the dark days of Conservatism. I ask him what he thinks
of the asylum and immigration proposals. (he is the son of refugees,
and I came here in 1972, one of the dispossessed Asians from Uganda).

‘I’m not happy’ he replies, ‘but whatever we do it will never be as bad as the Tories’. That’s a good slogan I tell him.

But is that it? Is that all it boils down to now?

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