Here’s an interesting fact. Only 14 per cent of people in England and Wales are ‘Black, Asian, Mixed or Other’ (i.e. non-white). Yet half the candidates vying to take the place of disgraced British prime minister Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party-and therefore the new prime minister-are non-white. Four out of eight.
In case you’re worried, this article is not about the internal struggle in Britain’s Conservative Party. Not only do I not know who will win the race; I can’t bring myself to care much about it either. The Conservatives are probably political toast in 2024 no matter whom they choose.
Only eight candidates were left by Tuesday evening, as three of the other hopefuls failed to win the support of enough Conservative members of parliament (MPs) to make the first cut. But all three who fell by the wayside were also technically ‘visible minorities’: Sajid Javid, Rehman Chisti, and Priti Patel.
The eight who remained were: Kemi Badenoch (Nigerian descent, born in England), Suella Braverman (Indian descent, born in England), Jeremy Hunt (English descent, born in England); Penny Mordaunt (ditto); Rishi Sunak (Indian descent, born in England); Liz Truss (English descent, born in England), Tom Tugendhat (ditto), and Nadhim Zahawi (Kurdish descent, born in Iraq).
Most of the candidates are probably non-believers, but even in Britain there’s still a minor political price to be paid for saying so publicly. So three are at least nominally Protestant, two are Catholic, two are Hindu and one is Muslim. And half of them are female. Hurrah for diversity, but what does this tell us about a) the United Kingdom, b) the West), and c) the world?
It says less about diversity in British politics than it seems to, for in fact the 65 Members of Parliament who are ‘non-white’ are exactly 10 per cent of MPs, whereas 14 per cent of the general population are. But the proportion has been rising since at every general election since 1988, and will probably soon accurately reflect the ethnic makeup of the population.
But fully HALF the contenders for next British prime minister are ‘non-white? Really? How does one explain that, especially when the Conservative Party, despite having more than half the seats in parliament, has only one-third of the ‘non-white’ MPs?
It’s probably down to the old story of recent immigrants working extra hard not just to fit in but to rise, since the hostility of some of the native-born makes them feel insecure. And those who do manage to rise, like most people who are financially and professionally successful in any society, tend to believe that their success is mainly due to their own efforts.
That’s a belief that will naturally draw them towards conservative political parties, and to strive harder to rise within them, so no mystery here, and no miracle either.
What is remarkable is that the white British majority, which was still clearly racist just a generation ago, is now quite content with a slate of prime ministerial candidates of whom half are non-white. None of them are token candidates, either, and the likeliest winner is Rishi Sunak. And nobody even notices that half of them are women.
Is this transformation occurring in the rest of the ‘West’ too? Yes, but at different speeds.
Australia, Canada and New Zealand all run around one-quarter ‘visible minorities’ (24 per cent, 25 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively), but only New Zealand has a similar proportion of MPs. Canada stalls out at 15 per cent visible minorities in Parliament, and Australia crashes with only 7 per cent. They do better with women MPs: 30 per cent in Canada, 39 per cent in Australia, 49 per cent in New Zealand.
Germany is about the same as Britain: 14 per cent visible minorities in the country, but only 11 per cent of the seats in the Bundestag. France is much worse: only nine members out of 577 deputies in the National Assembly are ‘non-whites’, although 15 per cent of the population are. They’re not doing well with women in parliament either: only 25 per cent in Germany and 27 per cent in France.
So far the United States is the only ‘Western’ country to have had a non-white head of government (Barack Obama), although Britain may soon have one too. In other respects, however, the US lags: only 23 per cent non-whites in Congress, although they are almost 40 per cent of the population-and only 27 per cent of the members of Congress are women.
And the show stops there. Apart from Western Europe and its daughter countries overseas, hardly anybody is running this kind of experiment with creating genuinely multi-cultural democracies driven by large-scale voluntary migration.
We can already conclude that these emerging societies are a great deal less turbulent and unequal than the pessimists feared (with the possible exception of the United States). It remains to be seen what advantages they might confer in the long run, but so far, so good.
The author’s new book is The Shortest History of War