Britain’s Conservatives Rise Above Identity Politics

Nadhim, Rishi, Sajid, Kemi, Penny, Suella, Liz.

An Iraqi-born Kurdish refugee, the son of Indian-born East Africans who emigrated to seek a better future for their family; the child of a Pakistani-born bus driver; an immigrant who escaped Nigeria’s political unrest as a teenager and worked her way through school working shifts at a local McDonald’s; a woman whose mother died when she was 15 and who worked as a magician’s assistant to make ends meet.

A Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Catholic, an unbeliever or two.

It all sounds like the introduction to an elaborate and nowadays very risky joke, or the casting of characters in one of those ever-so-bright TV commercials that our ultra-progressive corporate image-makers are now delighting us with several times an hour.

It is indeed an almost exhaustive list of candidates to run for the post of UK’s next Prime Minister after last week’s – next week’s – ouster of Boris Johnson Conservative Prime minister.

Ok, I left out a Tom and a Jeremy to complete the list of serious contenders (no cat and mouse jokes please). But the privately educated white men who are supposedly dominating in the media’s cartoonish portrayal are being outstripped by the rising regiment of women and ethnic and religious minorities. The current bet is that the two candidates who will make it to the final round of voting among all Tory party members after Members of Parliament scour the field will be Rishi Sunak, the scion of these East African Hindu immigrants, and Penny Mordaunt, the former wizard’s assistant.

The Labor Party, Britain’s non-binary sibling of the US Democrats – standard-bearer of oppressed minorities, scourge of the cisgender patriarchy – has had nine elected leaders since Conservative Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister nearly half a century ago. Each of them – including the current incumbent – was a white male.

Does any of this matter in the US, where the culture wars over race and gender are even more raging than across the pond? America’s racial history and contemporary social context differ in many ways from Britain’s, so there can be no simple parallels. But I think there are several broader lessons to be learned from this thoroughly modern mix.

First, Britain, like America, is widely caricatured by the media and progressive elites as irrevocably bigoted and racist. Right-wing voters are said to be “regrettable” and long for the happier days when white men ruled the world.

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It is striking, then, that the right-wing party in Britain seems perfectly content with the idea of ​​a woman (her third) or a member of an ethnic minority as the main voter in the next general election. The percentage of black or brown people in the UK population is much smaller than in the US – around 10% – but after three years of being led by a wild blond ambition there is not a shred of evidence that the vast majority of white voters are turned off by a person of color in the top job. America, of course, has already elected a black president.

A second lesson is another reminder that the Left’s assumption of an inevitable convergence between race or gender and political preference is wrong.

There is no logic or reason that says someone with darker skin should prefer open immigration, soft crime policies, or higher taxes. The minority candidates in the Tory leadership are among the most restrictive on immigration controls, a big issue in Britain. Similarly, in the US, the notion that Hispanics will inevitably favor one party for wanting to abolish border controls is belied by polls and ballots. On both sides of the Atlantic, those who have made it legally into a country often believe most strongly in borders and rules governing who gets there. Similarly with other political issues: there is no law that says a woman must support abortion rights or that black voters must support strict regulations on energy production.

A third lesson is the primacy of national identity over subcategories of personal identity of gender or race. Tory candidates are all proclaiming how proud they are Brits. You, like many voters, seem unconvinced that left-dominated cultural institutions insist that Britain’s history and identity is to be condemned for not being white.

But the most important lesson, for which there is welcome and growing evidence, is that most sane, ordinary people simply dismiss the idea of ​​their mandatory political affiliation with a group defined by their birth. These Tory contenders squabble over taxes and spending, education and international relations. They try to convince voters with political ideas – not by highlighting the number of X chromosomes they have or whether their mother wore a sari.

Of course, no one would argue that race and gender issues are irrelevant – especially given America’s history – or that prejudice does not exist.

But if our leaders could just stop insisting that these qualities are the essential, inescapable determinants of our life chances, the defining aspect of our humanity, we would all be much happier.

Review & Outlook: Boris Johnson brought about Britain’s exit from the European Union, but then failed to capitalize on the UK’s newfound freedom to regulate, opting instead to rule from the left before scandals like Partygate erupted. Images: AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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