Oh Kwasi Kwarteng. You made this a Black History Month I’ll never forget

<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The collective self-esteem of white men must be at an all-time peak right now. In its centuries of existence, Britain had a grand total of 38 days without a single white man at the top table of its government – the short-lived first season of Liz Truss’s government.

Within that period, the once globally envied pound sterling collapsed to all-time lows, the cost of borrowing skyrocketed to nearly unsustainable levels, thousands of mortgage products and offers were withdrawn, the economy was run like that of a developing nation ruled by a drink-sodden semi-literate autocratic colonel and much of the world looked on in laughter or bewilderment.

Kwasi Kwarteng has ensured this Black History Month is one white men (whom he inadvertently helped resurrect from the political mortuary), hedge fund managers (in whose ranks I was once a lonely minion) and satirists like myself will never forget. A rare silver lining to this sorry saga is that the significance of it all will be best understood by Kwarteng himself, a learned Eton-, Cambridge- and Harvard-educated historian. If his expert grasp of history extends to horror movies he may recognise himself in an enduring trope: the Black guy getting killed off first.

You could be mistaken for thinking that British children of African descent would be in the streets tearfully mourning the fall of the most powerful Black person in British political history or that they may feel some degree of shared embarrassment about the nature of Kwarteng’s collapse. But a cursory look at social media platforms or WhatsApp groups, or a stroll into any (Black) barbershop, seems to reveal that the egg on Kwarteng’s face has triggered a collective outbreak of mass hilarity and celebration not usually seen this side of the Notting Hill carnival.

On two fronts in particular, this explosion of Black exuberance is understandable and justifiable.

First, as the old saying goes, “It’s the economy, Kwasi.” Like Reaganomics in the US, the victims of Kwartengomics (I’ll keep my suspicions as to why opponents didn’t label it “voodoo economics” firmly to myself) will include a disproportionate number of people who are, like him, Black. This is because Black African people are the second least likely ethnic group to own the homes they live in, and in the face of soaring interest rates those who do are likely to walk along a sharper razor’s edge than most others. They are disproportionately likely to be unemployed or poorly paid and therefore highly susceptible to any shrinking of the state.

Kwartengomics was manna from heaven for the rich. For the economically challenged it was, arguably, a surgical-precision nuke. Why wouldn’t its would-be victims celebrate the fact that it exploded at source?

Even those Black people who are well off were disproportionately likely to struggle to withstand the torturous Kwarteng-premium on their mortgages without screaming for mercy each month. Or at least downgrading from Waitrose to Lidl and Costco.

The second bone of contention lies in the burden of representation that all minorities, inadvertently or otherwise, carry when in high office, high-profile jobs or merely appearing in the media. As a high-profile Black person, your competence, conduct or craziness is deemed to be a reflection on other Black people. In a “normal world” this would be ridiculous, but whether you like it or not you are seen as a symbol, an ambassador or a representative.

So, even if you decide seemingly to chuckle through an event of national mourning or choose to gamble with the economy, at least be kind or responsible enough to do so without being sweaty and incoherent. In this regard Kwarteng became the opposite of respected and suave ethnic minority politicians such as Barack Obama or even Rishi Sunak.

Related: So farewell, Kwasi. Your career died so Liz Truss’s might live for at least 15 more minutes | Marina Hyde

In terms of political ideology, Obama and Sunak were hardly Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi, but both treated their backgrounds as something to be celebrated and respected. As Kwarteng transits from train wreck to his own notably hot and lonely corner of hell, one can only wonder if he has reconsidered his attempt to defend the government during the Windrush scandal.

From Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, Priti Patel, Shaun Bailey and Tony Sewell (soon to be a Tory peer), to the once great Kwarteng, at the root of the popularity of many leading ethnic minority conservatives in Britain (and in the US) lies good old-fashioned contrarianism. The more ludicrously extreme, the more political dojo points they are rewarded. Counterintuitively, diversity in the Tory party has now become a conduit for extreme politics. But here, for better or worse, the buck stopped with the markets.

The Conservative party’s love affair with the extreme-contrarian diverse politician has toppled its most visible example, but more than that, it has forever robbed it of its crown jewel: a reputation for sound management of the economy. More than that, it has bitten Britain where it hurts most: the pocket. That’s a bit of black history by anyone’s reckoning.

  • Nels Abbey is a writer, broadcaster and former banker. He is the author of the satirical book Think Like A White Man

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