Rishi, Kemi, Suella. The historically diverse race to be British Prime Minister.


LONDON — In the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and then the next British prime minister, there’s a Rishi, Suella and Kemi – vying against a Tom, Penny and Liz – to replace a Boris.

The Tory leadership candidates are the most ethnically diverse in British history – but not so much ideologically.

It is a matter of pride, and bragging, on the part of center-right Tory leaders, who seem almost giddy that their field is more diverse than previous contests in the opposition Labor Party, a center movement -left, which seeks to represent minorities. in Great Britain.

This year’s Tory field is also far more diverse than the last Tory leadership contest, won by Boris Johnson in 2019. Then of the 10 candidates to start the race, nine were white. Now half of the suitors are minorities.

Whether Britain is moving towards a “post-racial” society, or remaining mired in institutional racism and colonialist attitudes, remains a matter of debate here, with evidence for all parties.

What is clear is that this diverse field of candidates did not arrive by accident, but by design. It is the result of almost two decades of political recruitment and promotion efforts.

The candidates vying to be the next British Prime Minister

British demographers have traditionally used a sort of clunky term to describe non-whites in Britain – BAME, for “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic”, a catch-all that has come under considerable criticism and may soon be deleted.

The UK’s population is overwhelmingly white (87%), with the second and third largest racial groups Asian (6%) and black (3%), according to the Office of National Statistics.

But four of the eight candidates who qualified for the leadership race fall into the BAME category: Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and Nadhim Zahawi. When the first-round votes were tallied on Wednesday, Sunak was in the lead and Zahawi had been knocked out – along with Jeremy Hunt, who ran and lost to Johnson in 2019.

Two other prominent Tories from ethnic minorities – Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid – decided at the last minute not to run.

Of those still in power, all are downright conservative – although they differ somewhat on tax cuts and social spending. All three minority candidates voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, despite a campaign fueled largely by anti-immigrant sentiments. And all three resent identity politics.

Delivering her speech to conservative activists and lawmakers, Braverman said, “Don’t vote for me because I’m a woman. Don’t vote for me because I’m brunette. Vote for me because I love this country and I would do anything for it.

Braverman, who is Attorney General for England and Wales, was born in London to parents of Indian descent who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius.

Announcing her offer on ITV, Braverman said she wanted to cut taxes, cut public spending, stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally and also “get rid of all that woke rubbish”. Sunak also criticized “awkward and non-sexist language”. When Badenoch launched, supporters saw the unisex toilet signs replaced with “men’s” and “ladies” signs.

How the next British Prime Minister will be chosen

This field of candidates can trace its political origins back to 2005 and the election of David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party, after a Labor-battling general election. At the time, the Conservatives had only two minority lawmakers in Parliament. In 2001, the Conservatives had none.

“Cameron was the modernizing leader of the Conservatives, a party then seen as traditionalist and narrow-minded,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “He was young, still in his thirties. Essentially, he argued that the Conservatives needed to change their sales force.

In a 2005 speech, Cameron said he planned to “change the face of the Conservative Party by changing the faces of the Conservative Party”.

Bale said Cameron understood that many first- and second-generation immigrants were good targets for the party’s message: They ran small businesses and were family-oriented, but distrusted government and resisted high taxes.

Cameron therefore pushed local associations of his party to find and promote younger and more diverse candidates to run for parliamentary seats in safe Conservative Party constituencies.

Badenoch, 42, represents the constituency of Saffron Walden, considered a “safe seat” for Tories since 1922. Bale described him as “old Tory and whiter than white”. After being elected to parliament in 2017, Badenoch praised the UK for giving her a chance to live the ‘British dream’.

Badenoch was born in London to parents of Nigerian descent and spent most of her childhood in Lagos and the United States.

Tanya Gold, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, wrote that the Conservative Party’s ethnic diversity could be “confusing and irritating to some leftists, who think these people should be leftists because everything else is crazy”.

Labor still dominates as a collector of votes among minorities. In the last general election in December 2019, age was the dominant predictor of preference: older voters opted for the Conservatives and younger voters for Labour. Defining support by race and ethnicity is harder to do in Britain, but based on poll data, survey group Ipsos MORI estimated that in 2019 Labor performed much better results than conservatives among minority ethnic groups, taking 64% of all black and minority ethnic groups. voters, while 20% voted for the Conservatives and 12% for the Liberal Democrats.

Yet the Tories note that they – not Labor – were the first party to see a woman, Margaret Thatcher, as prime minister and then promote another, Theresa May, to the top job.

Among today’s six candidates for prime minister there are four women – and so the Tories could put a third woman at 10 Downing Street by September.

For his part, Johnson continued to promote diversity, naming what he called “a cabinet for modern Britain.” The Economist noted, “Boris Johnson is such a living embodiment of white privilege that it’s easy to forget just how diverse his cabinet is.”

Politics being politics, two of those various cabinet ministers – Sunak and Javid – launched the exodus from government last week, leading to the announcement of Johnson’s resignation.

Sunak, the former chancellor and finance minister, was born in Southhampton, England, to parents of Indian descent who had emigrated from East Africa. He went to some of the most elite and expensive schools in Britain, including Oxford. He is married to British-Indian fashion designer Akshata Murty, a billionaire daughter of the founder of Indian IT company Infosys. The couple were the subject of a recent mini-scandal which revealed that Murty was filing as an ‘undomiciled’ UK resident, meaning she paid no UK tax on almost -all of its phenomenal wealth.

Currently, Sunak is one of the best candidates to replace his former boss.

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