Brexiteer MP who said mandatory face coverings are ‘monstrous’ once defended wearing blackface

Tory MP Desmond Swayne is very, very unhappy about the news that shoppers in England will be required by law to wear face coverings in stores from 24 July.

Speaking in the House of Commons as Matt Hancock took questions from MPs, Swayne gave the health secretary a piece of his mind. He said that wearing masks in shops is a “monstrous imposition”, and even insisted this would put him off going to the shops.

Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up.

Swayne’s remarks didn’t go down very well on social media. Wearing a mask while in a shop can hardly be described as “monstrous”, particularly considering Britain (and most parts of the world) have made far bigger lifestyle sacrifices over the last few months.

Swayne, an ardent Brexiteer, is also on the record as having opposed lockdown, saying he thought the economy should remain open instead.

People have now pointed out that Swayne once defended a different and offensive form of face covering.

Last year he defended dressing up in blackface after he was criticised by the likes of David Lammy for “blacking up” to dress up as musician James Brown. After an old photo went viral in 2019, Swayne said that blackface was an “entirely acceptable bit of fun”.

Defending himself, he wrote in a blog post:

I once went to a ‘Blues Brothers’ themed fancy-dress party as James Brown. I went to some trouble to be as authentic as possible. I can assure readers of this column that I have no intention of apologising.

Constituents often write to me having been infuriated by some latest absurdity of political correctness. I tell them that the best response is simply to laugh at it.

People have pointed out the irony in saying a harmless face covering, meant to promote safety, is “monstrous”, while on the other hand defending blackface a form of costume widely regarded as dehumanising and racist.

Swayne's intervention comes as a growing number of conservative commentators and Tory activists voice concern over the plan to make masks mandatory.

indy100 has reached out to Swayne to see if his views on blackface have evolved now he thinks having to “mask up” is such a "monstrous" imposition He hasn’t responded, but if he does we’ll let you know.

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