'The representation we don't want': What do people of colour really think about UK’s PM candidate Rishi Sunak?
A wave of Conservative party resignations in early July prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign reluctantly. Britain is now in the process of deciding who will lead the country.
The final parliamentary vote saw Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss announced as the two leading contenders going head to head for the race to be Prime Minister, with a final decision on who will lead the country to be announced on September 5.
In the last month, a record number of POC candidates had thrown their hats in the ring to contend for PM, such as Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Suella Braverman and Rehman Chishti but all of them were voted out leaving Rishi Sunak as the only POC candidate to be left standing.
"I think it’s a step forward that we had so many people of colour contesting, but in reality, none of them could represent us," 45-year-old Nasreen from London told The New Arab. "As a South Asian, from a struggling background I can’t say I trusted any of the candidates to look into our needs."
"I think it’s a step forward that we had so many people of colour contesting, but in reality, none of them could represent us"
The Tory government has been accused of Islamophobia, Xenophobia, racism and an unsympathetic stance towards refugees over the years. Boris Johnson had initially pledged to launch an investigation into Islamophobia but failed to do so and even went as far as dismissing its existence within the Tory party.
Furthermore, a report on Race and Ethnic Disparities was heavily criticised as being ‘divisive’, adding to the list of reasons why many people of colour are reluctant to support the current candidates.
"As once a refugee myself, I can say that none of the POC candidates would have supported me or understood what we have been through," Nasreen continued. "The Tories have never even backed an enquiry into Islamophobia – they all seem to dismiss it. They are not interested in addressing problems that we (people of colour) experience daily in and out but instead pander to right-wing policies."
"As once a refugee myself, I can say that none of the POC candidates would have supported me or understood what we have been through"
While some people celebrate the fact that many POC candidates had contested the race, others feel that the candidates could not relate to the majority of the UK’s 6.9 % Asian and 3% Black community.
"Seeing people who look like you is important. This can help inspire others to go into politics if they see someone who looks like them," begins 24-year-old Jaya Pathak. "However, that does not mean that every brown person will be inspired by Priti Patel – I absolutely would never be and personally find her atrocious – but for some people, seeing a diverse cabinet may inspire them.
"Representation has many levels and on a superficial level, seeing someone who looks the same as you has power," Jaya, the Co-Executive Director at Yet Again and member of the Executive Committee of the Labour Campaign for International Development, adds.
Jaya feels that there are other layers involved and that ‘"we shouldn’t expect our communities to have the same views on political candidates."
She continues, "Just because people of colour are elected does not mean that racism doesn’t exist. It absolutely still does. And people can’t excuse that just because there are POC MPs. These are two different issues which have a different set of causes and require a deep systemic change."
"Just because people of colour are elected does not mean that racism doesn’t exist"
She further highlighted feeling strongly about how we should approach right-wing MPs of colour, "‘I don’t agree with many of the right-wing brown MPs, but rather than just attacking them and assuming they should think how I think because we are both brown, I would want to question why they think that way? Why do others who aren’t brown have the same views?"
Mohammed Safi, the Director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation in Scotland told The New Arab that "Rishi Sunak and even Suella Braverman (who got voted out) are worse than their white counterparts."
Mohammed was frustrated that Suella Braverman had run her July campaign based on "harsh" policies expressing dismay at the fact that Braverman was calling for the abolishment of human rights law – which protects people from torture and inhumane treatment.
"Suella Braverman said people should go out to work and shouldn’t be on benefits, but they are trying to prove to the British people that although they are POC, they are still harsh and brutal against us. They don’t represent me nor my race – they are, after all, Tories."
Mohammed also believes that the leading candidate, Rishi Sunak, "does not represent the ethnic minorities in Britain nor what they stand for."
"These are the elites, they are rich and they do not relate to common or working-class backgrounds"
"These are the elites, they are rich, and they do not relate to common or working-class backgrounds. Both Sunak and Braverman were supporting the policies in Rwanda. I am from a refugee background and both of them are calling for asylum seekers and refugees to be sent to Rwanda."
As the race has now narrowed down to two candidates, people still feel that they are yet to find a candidate – whether POC or not – who they can trust to address the current systematic problems that exist for both Black people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK.
Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and Universal Peace Federation Ambassador. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Middle East Eye, CNN, BBC, and others. She was awarded the FIPP the global network of media Rising Stars in Media Award 2018.
Follow her on Twitter: @tasnimnazeer1