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Is the UK ready for an Asian Prime Minister?

Indian-origin MPs in senior positions in British politics (Photo: IANS)

With British politics in turmoil after the resignations of nearly four dozen ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, aspirations to see an Asian Prime Minister rise among the ethnic populace.

The Asian front runners for the coveted position include Rishi Sunak—former chancellor of the exchequer, and Sajid Javid–former health secretary, whose resignations hobbled Johnson's leadership.

The other Asian names in the ring include Attorney General Suella Braverman, home secretary Priti Patel and Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi—who hails from Iraq. Of these, Braverman, the daughter of parents who came to the UK from Kenya and Mauritius, has already made public that she will contest for the top position.

India Narrative spoke with Lord Rami Ranger CBE on how prepared the UK is about accepting an Asian for the country's top position.

Lord Ranger says that the UK is ready to accept a Prime Minister of Asian origin as many politicians have proven their ability, loyalty and commitment to the UK. "Asian politicians have built their trust among the public, which is one of the most difficult tasks", he says.

Speaking about Sunak, Lord Ranger says that the former chancellor of the exchequer has done a great job during difficult times. "His support to families and the National Health Service (NHS) during the tough times of Covid-19 was well appreciated. He also saved jobs and businesses and kept the country going during the covid infection as the chancellor".

Sunak endeared himself to the masses after his decision to create an economic package worth tens of billions of pounds to support workers and businesses during the pandemic. However, his popularity declined over his wife's income in India as well as his violation of pandemic rules.

About Javid, Lord Ranger says that the former health secretary "is one of the most experienced ministers having handled the departments of culture, home and health over a number of years".

Javid has risen swiftly through Conservative ranks. Way back in 2014, then prime minister David Cameron had said that he hoped to see a British Asian become the prime minister in his lifetime. Cameron's observations came at a time when Javid, the culture secretary at the time, beat Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as the most influential Asian in the UK.

Lord Ranger also points to the other Asians who have served the country in high positions.

He mentions Home Secretary Priti Patel, President for COP 26 Alok Sharma and Attorney General Suella Braverman who have been handling senior positions in the Johnson cabinet. "The Asian politicians got their positions on the basis of merit and not ethnicity. Then there are scores of Asian civil servants, secretaries and advisors who have been working with the government and contributing to British society", Lord Ranger says.

However, with other senior Conservative Party leaders in the race for the top position, it will be the party elections which will decide the next prime ministerial candidate.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary and former soldier Ben Wallace and, former secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Michael Gove are expected to throw their hats in the ring. Both Hunt and Gove have been through the process as they had earlier contested for the top positions but lost to Johnson.

Though the Labour Party has been sitting in the opposition benches for a while, it is entirely possible that an Asian face as the prime minister comes from Labour, which continues to enjoy mass support from different ethnicities.