What should be joy: How Britain’s ethnic minority Prime Minister candidate is far from a representative of ethnic minorities
The fall of Boris Johnson gave way to multiple contenders all vying for their moment in Number 10.
Yet what has remained most notable is the number of diverse names to feature on the ballot.
The Conservative leadership election brought forward a historical first of five candidates who were all at one point in the running to be Britain’s first Prime Minister of colour. A feat the Labour Party has yet been able to replicate.
On paper, this should be a moment of celebration for Black and Brown communities, but in reality, it harbours fear about the future for those each candidate claims to represent.
"The nation’s next Prime Minister may well be from an ethnic minority, but this does not immediately amount to change for the communities they arise from"
Frontrunner Rishi Sunak and recently eliminated Kemi Badenoch and Sajid Javid have all supported dangerous policies which target their own ethnic groups.
Throughout the search for Britain’s next Prime Minister, these contenders have mastered the art of controlling each facet of their racial identity, whilst awaiting the right political moment to lean into a system they contest others for.
It allows for The Conservative Party to claim diversity at the highest level without tackling the widespread racial inequality that exists throughout society and outside of elite institutions.
The nation’s next Prime Minister may well be from an ethnic minority, but this does not immediately amount to change for the communities they arise from.
Sunak’s campaign video is a prime example of cherry-picking when to bring your heritage to the forefront of your identity.
The short clip relies heavily on his grandmother’s immigration story and highlights how she "boarded a plane, armed with hope for a better life and the love of her family," something Sunak praises and acknowledges as allowing for his own path in this country.
In this instance, the immigrant identity is allowed to be one of brave sacrifice. At one point he remarks on how he wants "everyone in this country to have those same opportunities," yet fails to see the irony in also presenting a manifesto headlining harsher border policy.
Badenoch who fell out of the race last week spoke on her own Nigerian heritage during this month’s Channel 4 debate and described the UK as "a country [she] chose at sixteen" after growing up in Lagos.
However, she also spent her time outlining proposed plans to "deal with the small boats issue" and control any further channel crossing. Meanwhile, Javid, who dropped out during the preliminary stages of the contest, has mirrored similar views when it comes to who gets to make a home in Britain.
At one point during his time as Home Secretary controversially asked how you could identify a ‘genuine asylum seeker' and called for stricter borders. Despite his own father moving from Pakistan decades ago and working as a bus driver, allowing for Javid had the chances he does today. He went on to become the first Asian cabinet minister, later succeeded by Sunak.
"Each contender has remained a prominent supporter of Priti Patel’s inhumane Rwanda policy and the recent Nationality and Borders Bill, which would have threatened their own parent’s journey into this country"
Still, ‘race remains the elephant in the room’ as they are yet to speak on issues impacting the ethnic communities they belong to regardless of their elite backgrounds.
Sunak, Badenoch and Javid may have broken barriers in reaching their cabinet positions, but they have erected several others in their wake. They could never represent our communities as their elite positions in society place them so far from recognising our needs.
Throughout this leadership race, the immigrant identity has become a symbol of resilience and courage, but only when it advances a political career.
Each contender has remained a prominent supporter of Priti Patel’s inhumane Rwanda policy and the recent Nationality and Borders Bill, which would have threatened their own parent’s journey into this country.
But this remains a double standard they have simply glanced past as they have fought their way through each voting round, all hoping to make it through to the first hustings.
Each politician has taken a measured and temporary step back into their family history, without any intention of taking those who are making a similar journey with them, should they take office.
They have presented a version of the UK immigration system which becomes a celebrated British rewriting of ‘the American dream,’ but only for the duration of a political campaign.
On a rare occasion, the same anti-refugee policy they voted through Parliament, now gives way to fleeting mentions of family-first values and the idea that the UK could become a home for anyone.
On September 5 we may have our first Prime Minister of South Asian descent, and while this is a moment we have long been awaiting, it is not one we expected.
This leadership race has proven once again that true representation is multifaceted, and one that considers lived experiences available outside of the elite upper class.
It has become a tapestry of hypocrisy in allowing minority politicians to stand on the backs of those that raised them, whilst also ensuring no one else follows. According to these contenders, there just isn’t enough room.
Anisha Mansuri is a recent MA Creative Writing graduate from the University of Birmingham, a poet, writer, and freelance journalist who writes on issues surrounding the experience of the South Asian diaspora, as well as the silencing of women in the current political climate.
Follow her on Twitter: @AnishaMansuri