Rishi Sunak’s challenge

Published October 26, 2022

THE United Kingdom has its first non-white prime minister, who, at the age of 42, also happens to be the youngest PM the country has seen in two centuries. It is indeed a historic moment for many reasons. That an ethnic minority MP is now sitting in 10 Downing Street is a milestone moment, as it sends a strong message that people from any faith or heritage can and do have representation in public service at the highest level in the UK. It is also a hugely symbolic moment for a country that for almost 200 years colonised the nation to which Mr Sunak traces his roots. Many have remarked that a few decades ago, the notion that a British citizen of Indian origin would have led the government of the former colonial power would have been shocking and unheard of.

But although Mr Sunak’s elevation is indeed a welcome moment, it by no means suggests that the UK is now a post-racial society. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that racism continues to be rampant in the UK. From reports of racism in the judiciary and in immigration offices to studies on the discrimination that minorities face in their daily lives, it is clear that unfair treatment and even abuse are not uncommon. Therefore, the fact that Mr Sunak has what some would consider the ‘perfect’ Tory pedigree ie, a boarding school education, an Oxford degree and multiple family connections to wealth, is very relevant. While Mr Sunak is the first Asian PM in the UK, he is also, by net worth, the wealthiest man to ever make it to No 10. What lies ahead for Mr Sunak? A divided Tory party that has for months made a public spectacle of itself and a nation battered by rising costs of living. With a loaded in-tray, and a public whose patience for change in the executive office has worn thin, Mr Sunak has his work cut out for him.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2022

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