Shabnam Nasimi is a Third Sector Consultant. She is the founder and Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Afghanistan.
The three great offices of state are held by a Home Secretary, Chancellor and Foreign Secretary from immigrant backgrounds. For children from migrant backgrounds up and down the country that is a very visible example of representation. The new Prime Minister’s cabinet will go down in history for a very profound reason – the diversity of “a cabinet to represent modern Britain”.
What is striking about the new Cabinet is how many of those who would once have been considered outsiders are now entrusted with the biggest posts in Government. A decade ago, no British Asian woman had ever been elected to the House of Commons. It was only in 2010 that Priti Patel was elected to the Commons among a cohort of British Asian women.
The change also reflects a shift in integration in British society, the expectations of the first British-born generation, who often grew up in the 1980s, that opportunities to rise in the professions and public life will be open to them.
This is also a symbolic repudiation of the idea that Boris is a “British Trump” – demonstrating that the Conservatives are determined to show that they will compete for the hopes and aspirations of Britain’s ethnic minority voters, rather than following the US Republicans down the path of stroking racial grievances.
However, despite noting how diverse and gender balanced the new team is, they didn’t get the jobs because they were women or because Priti is “Asian”: they got them because they’re bright, talented and, well, sound. I think it is very clear that there can be no suggestion of tokenism or political correctness in the new Prime Minister’s ppointments. We should celebrate the fact that the talents and skills of ethnic minorities are being recognised in the Conservative Party.
But what continues to bother me is that some Asian communities seem to think that unless you are politically left-leaning, you’re not Asian enough. As a Conservative activist, I have experienced these remarks first-hand, with people with leftist values dictating what and how I should think because I am from a refugee background, a Muslim and an ethnic minority.
I find it very unfortunate that instead of celebrating the achievement the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson have made in appointing the most ethnically diverse cabinet in British political history, the left continues to use ‘identity politics’ to overshadow these positive achievements and the scale of change in British politics.
These remarks continue to demonstrate why the Conservative Party is still only half as likely to win the vote of an ethnic minority British voter as a white British voter. Given that one in five of those who turn 18 are from an ethnic minority background, the Party’s challenges in appealing across the generations and to voters from all ethnic backgrounds are linked. It is therefore incredibly important that the new top team that is meant to represent “modern Britain” works hard to persuade the next generation of Britons that their message resonates enough to secure their support.
As Theresa May left Downing Street, she suggested that by the end of her time in office, little girls around the country could be confident they could succeed at anything they set their minds to. As Boris Johnson entered Downing Street, he pledged to enhance that confidence – and his cabinet proves to girls and boys of all ethnicities and backgrounds that he means it.