20 April 1990

Tebbit proposes cricket test for immigrants

On this day in 1990, the Los Angeles Times published an interview with Conservative politician Norman Tebbit, in which he questioned the loyalties of Asian immigrants to the United Kingdom. Using the example of cricket – a popular sport in the Indian subcontinent – he declared that: ‘A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?’

Tebbit’s comments caused a storm back home, with representatives of the Asian communities declaring them hurtful and disgraceful. Politicians were similarly outraged. ‘He is a clever politician using soft language about cricket,’ said the Labour MP Jeff Rooker, who called for Tebbit to be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred. Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown hoped that Tory leader Margaret Thatcher would condemn the ‘outrageous and damaging remarks’.

Away from the Westminster hothouse, however, reactions were less febrile. Middle England remained largely unperturbed, as illustrated by this letter to the Daily Telegraph

Norman Tebbit with Vanessa, mascot of the village of Upshire


Letter to the Daily Telegraph

Sir, The fuss over Norman Tebbit’s so-called ‘cricket test’ put me in mind of a simple method of testing the allegiance of foreigners. My old school, Hadleigh’s, had its share of exotic creatures even in the 1920s, and all boys were put through a ‘cricket test’ that left no room for doubt. One by one, we stood in front of the wicket with our hands behind our backs while the First XI bowlers sent down their fastest deliveries, aimed just below the waist. No protective boxes were allowed, and any boy who stood firm was ‘in’. Colour didn’t come into it.

Cedric Lawton

Esher, Surrey

Picture: PA

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