The one-dimensional diverse cabinet

30th Aug 2019
The one-dimensional diverse cabinet

(Photos Creative Commons)

Members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet include the son of Pakistani immigrants as Chancellor of the Exchequer [Sajid Javid], the daughter of Ugandan Asians as Home Secretary [Priti Patel] and an Indian-born International Development Secretary. The father of his Foreign Secretary is a Czechoslovakian Jew. The mother of his Minister Without Portfolio is from Sierra Leone. Boris Johnson himself was born in New York, and he has a Turkish paternal great-grandfather.

Those attending cabinet meetings include Chief Secretary of the Treasury [Rishi Sunak] who is from an Indian family and an Energy Minister [Kwasi Kwarteng] whose parents are from Ghana. His Government further boasts an Iraqi Kurd Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry [Nadhim Zahawi], a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families whose family originates from Nigeria, a Minister of State for the Commonwealth, the United Nations and South Asia of Pakistani immigrant parents, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Immigration with an Iranian father [Seema Kennedy], and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport whose parents are from Azad Kashmir.

Despite such a rich wide-ranging ethnicity, his Government has been described as a homogeneous statement of intent, underlined by less than half of the cabinet attending state schools (compared with 93 per cent of the population at large.) There is also an ideological purity that no one can serve who will oppose a controversial No Deal Brexit. The composition has been further criticised as being heavily male. It is also seen proving that the colour of skin does not necessarily reflect the political belief or of being representative of any particular communities.

Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, Kehinde Andrews, has warned not to be duped by the supposed ‘diversity’, insisting that “Tory racism hasn’t changed.” Johnson himself is “just a symptom of the wider problem of racism in the Conservative Party, which elected him in a landslide. Over half its members – who are 97 per cent white and average age 57 – believe Islam is a general threat to the British way of life,” he wrote in an article for the Guardian. All new BAME members supported such policies as Theresa May’s hostile environment, complete with its “go home” vans, and the Windrush scandal that deported black British citizens and denied others jobs, homes and hospital treatment.

Most represent some of the most rightwing figures even within the Tory party, including the new Home Secretary Priti Patel who adopted an aid policy as Secretary of State for International Development that was more about promoting opportunities for British business, but she was also forced to resign for holding secret talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. She was accused of conducting her own foreign policy in the Middle East outside of her remit and without any officials accompanying her while apparently offering to fund the Israeli army in the occupied Golan Heights.

Patel also supported Islamophobic comments by Johnson in his article in the Daily Telegraph saying Muslim women wearing the burka looked like ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robber.’ She told BBC’s Today programme that Johnson “was certainly not mocking the women” and that it was “taken out of context.”

One of the biggest outcries has been over the appointment Munira Mirza as head of the No 10 Policy Unit. She previously worked under Johnson as Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture when he was Mayor of London. Last year, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants was vociferous in the defence of his insulting comments about the burka, insisting that they would have gone largely unnoticed if they were said by any other politician and would not have “provoked the same hysteria had they been made outside the August silly season.” Johnson’s article was “reasonable, balanced and a thoughtful defence of Muslim women’s right to choose how they live,” she claimed in an article for ConservativeHome.


One Response to “The one-dimensional diverse cabinet”

mike edwardsSeptember 1, 2019

I suspect that there is nothing that the Conservatives could ever do which might please or satisfy the closed mind of the Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University. Thinking about it, such a title for a position of high academic excellence sounds rather racist in itself.


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