US President-elect Barack Obama would never have become the British Prime Minister because of "institutional racism" in the Labour Party, the head of Britain's equality watchdog has claimed.
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told The Times: "If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour Party."
He said the Conservative Party had made more progress when it came to its selection procedures than Labour.
He said: "The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It's institutional racism."
He added that he opposed all-black shortlists but said "positive action" was needed by all parties.
His views were supported by Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor, who said he did not believe he would see a black PM in his lifetime.
But Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, disagreed and predicted a black or Asian Labour PM would be elected in his lifetime.
A Labour Party statement in response to Mr Phillips said it continually reviewed its procedures to ensure its elected positions reflected British society.
A spokesman for the party said it has a "proud record of promoting ethnic minority candidates.
Commentary: The Labour Party continues to have racist procedures in selection. So far, out of 650 MPs, there are only 2 black women, Diane Abbot and Dawn Butler (both Caribbean). There are not African women in the British Parliament at the moment.
Baroness Amos (House of Lords) and Patricia Scotland (Attorney-General) are the highest ranking black females in the British Govt. There appears to be very little opportunities for blacks within both parties. It takes years to get anywhere within the political landscape. Their meetings are usually male dominated and older (over 40s). They will not listen to proposals for change. Unfortunately, not listening to the needs of the minority ethnic population in London cost them the election of the London Mayor in May. It is predicted that when black people register and vote it makes a difference. It is therefore possible for there to be a black Prime Minister in the UK. Whether it will happen in our life-time remains to be seen. We need to organise ourselves, mentor the younger ones and get the