Daily Show under fire after claims of UK’s ‘racist backlash’ against Rishi Sunak

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US TV programme described as ‘detached from reality’ over Twitter video, while PM himself says Britain is not a bigoted country

Daily Show under fire after claims of UK’s ‘racist backlash’ against Rishi Sunak
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, has been criticised for saying there has been a 'racist backlash' against Rishi Sunak in the UK
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, has been criticised for saying there has been a ‘racist backlash’ against Rishi Sunak in the UK CREDIT: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Rishi Sunak does not believe Britain is a racist country, a Downing Street spokesman said, following claims by Trevor Noah that there was a “backlash” after he became the UK’s first British-Asian Prime Minister.

The spokesman said they had “not asked” the Prime Minister about the comedian’s remarks, but suggested the warm response to Mr Sunak’s appointment told a different story.

“But you heard the words in the House [of Commons] on Wednesday with regard to the [appointment of the] Prime Minister,” the spokesman said. When asked whether Mr Sunak believes Britain is a racist country, the spokesman said: “No he doesn’t.”

His words were echoed by Sajid Javid, the former chancellor and health secretary, who said Noah was “detached from reality” when he claimed Mr Sunak’s appointment provoked a racist “backlash”.

In a video posted on Twitter from his US satirical news programme, The Daily Show, Noah alleged there were Britons saying “now the Indians are going to take over Great Britain”.

Mr Javid re-shared the clip and wrote: 

In Noah’s monologue, which was titled “unpacking the backlash against new UK PM Rishi Sunak”, he said: “Watching the story of Rishi Sunak becoming England’s first Prime Minister of colour, of Indian descent, of all these things and then seeing the backlash is one of the more telling things about how people view the role that they or their people have played in history.

“And what I mean by that is this, you hear a lot of the people saying: ‘Oh, they’re taking over, now the Indians are going to take over Great Britain and what’s next?’

“And I always find myself going: ‘So what? What are you afraid of?”‘

The comedian was accused of portraying a fringe viewpoint as the norm in Britain.

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a think tank focusing on identity and integration, immigration and opportunity, said: “This is very misunderstood misreporting from America, turning a one to three per cent online niche into a British social norm.”

Mr Noah’s segment was inspired by a telephone caller on LBC Radio who last week said: “Rishi’s not even British, in most people’s opinion. He’s got American allegiance, his family’s American.

“They’re Indian business people. He’ll go live in America no doubt. He doesn’t love England like Boris does.”

Rishi Sunak, pictured hosting a Diwali celebration in Downing Street on Thursday, said Britain is not a racist country
Rishi Sunak, pictured hosting a Diwali celebration in Downing Street on Thursday, said Britain is not a racist country CREDIT: Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street

Mr Noah compared the caller with Tucker Carlson, the Right-wing Fox News presenter, which led to accusations that he was muddling social and political realities in America with those in Britain.

In the monologue, Mr Noah said: “You see people like Tucker Carlson (America Fox News host) all the time saying: ‘You know what they’re trying to do? They won’t stop until black people and women are in positions of power.’ So what?”

He added: “Why are you so afraid? And I think it’s because the quiet part a lot of people don’t realise they are saying is: ‘We don’t want these people who were previously oppressed to get into power because then they may do to us what we did to them.”‘

Underneath the video, which has more than one million views, social media users questioned Mr Noah’s comments, with some accusing him of “projecting” American views on race onto Britain.

Tom Holland, a popular historian and podcaster, wrote: 

Earlier in Noah’s show, the comedian Ronny Chieng joked that: “Indians are not Asians,” adding: “If this guy is Asian, how come when he became Prime Minister I felt absolutely nothing?

“I love how Indians try to have it both ways, like being Indian and Asian, pick a lane, okay?”

Mr Sunak was born in Hampshire, south-east England, to Indian migrant parents – a pharmacist mother and a GP father. He is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of billionaire Indian IT giant Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy – with whom he has two young daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.

When he was appointed as Prime Minister on Tuesday, the 42-year-old became the UK’s first Hindu PM, the first of Asian heritage and the youngest for more than 200 years.

Last month, Noah announced he will be stepping down as host of The Daily Show after seven years at the helm, during which time there have been reports of a sharp decline in viewership.

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