Cross Post

Tory Leadership Race

It is early days yet and already the  ethnic diversity of the Tory Leadership slate has caused comment, some of it predictably sour and racist from the sort of people who usually hector the plebs from the pedestals of Right Thinking™.  Sunder Katwala has some thoughts on whether the Tories are ready for a non-white leader and Prime Minister.

No political party in a major western democracy has ever produced a leadership field with anything like the levels of ethnic diversity in the Conservative contest of 2022. The pace of change is extraordinary. A party which had just four non-white MPs in its history before May 2010 now has half a dozen ethnic minority leadership contenders just over a decade later.

This can be celebrated as an advance for meritocracy in British politics – but it is also a more nuanced story than that. David Cameron, who inherited a parliamentary party with one black MP and one Asian MP in 2005, had a transformative impact on the culture in selections. Cameron wanted his party to catch up with Labour, which had 13 of the 15 ethnic minority MPs then – and a 50 point lead among ethnic minority voters too. Significant efforts at cultural change were needed to move closer towards fairer chances for minority candidates in both major parties. A Black or Asian Prime Minister was improbable – to the point of near impossibility – at the turn of the century, and a much less likely prospect as recently as 2015 as it is today.

Today, Labour still has twice as many ethnic minority MPs than the Conservatives. One fifth of the Parliamentary Labour Party – 41 out of 200 – are black, Asian or mixed race. The Conservatives have 21 ethnic minority MPs – 6% of the group. So this unusual majority-minority leadership contest arises because one in three ethnic minority Conservative MPs has declared for the leadership, compared to one in 66 of their white British counterparts. Half of the six ethnic minority Conservative women MPs have declared themselves leadership candidates.

Why did Nadhim Zahawi, Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman run as Ben Wallace, Michael Gove and Steve Baker stood back? That disparity in ratios may just be a fluke of the moment, but ethnic minority Conservatives clearly feel they have the vision and voice for these times – while their colleagues appear to support their leadership credentials. Can other parties say the same?

Meanwhile Labour seems to be having problems with the ethnic minority community it has assiduously courted. Perhaps it hasn’t bent over enough.  h/t Mohd Ali