BAME cabinet ministers: modern-day courtiers or jesters?

BAME ministers
Ahmed Sule

In every society, there are categories of people of a different race, colour, nationality, or cultural traditions that differ from the dominant population. In the UK, the term BAME is used to define the non-white population of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities. Immigration, colonialism, and slavery are some of the main drivers for the prevalence of ethnic minorities in the Anglo-American world. 

From biblical times to the present, minorities living in countries with a history of oppression are sometimes elevated into political leadership positions. Modern-day Britain is not exempt from this trend. Some commentators have described the current UK cabinet as one of the most diverse in British history. Ethnic minorities occupy two out of four of the most senior and prestigious posts in the British government, with Rishi Sunak as the chancellor of the exchequer and Priti Patel holding the home secretary post.

Britain has a long history of racism, which is its original sin. Its impact is still visible today. According to the government’s own statistics, Black Caribbean people are “9.6 times as likely to be stopped and searched as white British people”. As of 2017, meanwhile, 1 in 25 White British people were unemployed compared to around 1 in 10 adults from Black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Mixed backgrounds. 

In recent years, the British government had to deal with the fallout from racial scandals like Windrush, the Grenfell Tower disaster, and racial disparities in the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. With the scale of racism in Britain, one would have expected the ethnic minorities represented in the government to help pull down the racial structures upon which this country was built, and also to call out racism whenever it rears its ugly head. However, in most instances, they’ve taken the path of least resistance by defending the status quo.

Court jesters

The present-day British ethnic minority politicians in Boris Johnson’s government appear to be playing a role not too dissimilar to the role played by jesters in the royal courts during the medieval and Tudor times. In the middle ages, the court jesters carried out a variety of functions including, but not limited to, comedians, story-tellers, jugglers, and messengers. 

The current crop of British BAME political leaders in Johnson’s plantation has been relegated to racial product placements, racial firefighters, and racial deniers. Just as the medieval British monarchs used to show off their jesters to their guests, the current government uses its “BAME heavy” cabinet as props to score racial brownie points. When Sky News’ Sophy Ridge challenged health secretary Matt Hancock about the composition of the cabinet, he said he was part of the most diverse cabinet in British history. 

Sam Gyimah, a former minister for universities, wrote recently in the Financial Times that he was determined not to be defined by his race and “didn’t want to be ‘the black politician'”. Despite the reluctance to be defined by their race, BAME cabinet members are shipped out to defend the government’s position during racial controversies. Angela Davis, the African American scholar and activist, once spoke about how diversity could be used for a visual effect “that allows the machine to keep functioning in the same old way … sometimes more efficiently and effectively”.

How has this Tory government been able to deploy its ‘ethnically diverse cabinet’ to allow the racial machine to function efficiently and effectively? Read on.

Kwasi Kwarteng

Kwasi Kwarteng, who is of Ghanaian heritage, is sometimes referred to as the Black Boris. He is one of the most highly educated cabinet members. Kwarteng attended Eton College and studied classics and history at Cambridge University. He also studied at Harvard University and has a PhD in economic history from Cambridge.

However, unlike his fellow Etonian in the cabinet Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has the high profile role of leader of the House of Commons and lord president of the council, Kwarteng has been given the de-facto position of a racial firefighter. Johnson has come under a lot of pressure for several racist comments made in the past. But in an interview with Channel Four, Kwarteng said, “To say he is racist is scurrilous, offensive and completely wrong”.

Kwarteng’s political nadir occurred in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal in 2018, when it was revealed that the British government had wrongly detained and deported predominantly Black British subjects who arrived in the UK before 1973, mainly from Caribbean countries. The government dispatched the Eton educated, Cambridge schooled, and Harvard trained government representative to defend its position against a Black UK grime rap artist named Marci Phonix on Channel 4 News. Phonix annihilated Kwarteng after the minister argued that the Windrush scandal wasn’t about institutional racism. In response, Phonix said:

You are not coming from the same place I’m coming from. You don’t represent the same people I represent. You would not know. And you don’t care… It’s a job for you… This is reality for me. When I leave here, my car can get pulled over for no reason

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch is currently the exchequer secretary to the Treasury and parliamentary under-secretary of state for equalities. She is of Nigerian heritage and spent part of her childhood in Nigeria. In May 2020, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that BAME people were more likely to die from coronavirus relative to white people. An official government report noted that racism and discrimination suffered by BAME communities contributed to the high death rates from coronavirus in those communities.

At a parliamentary hearing in Westminster, an opposition MP attacked the government’s policies and argued that ethnic minorities were more likely to die from coronavirus in England due to systemic injustice. Badenoch was emphatic in her response, noting Britain was “one of the best countries in the world to be a black person”. She also said the government has a proud record on race. She later described BBC‘s coverage of the hearing as “sloppy” and accused the media outfit of “fanning the flames of racial division” regarding Black Lives Matter protests and coronavirus.

James Cleverly

James Cleverly, who is of Sierra Leonean heritage, is a junior minister in the current government and former chairman of the Conservative Party. He has done a yeoman’s job in shielding the UK from accusations of racism. When the Duchess of Sussex announced she was leaving the country, a national conversation developed as to whether racism was the cause of her departure.

Thereafter, Cleverly did a tour of the media houses downplaying racism in the country. In an interview with Sky News, Cleverly argued that the UK is among the least racist countries in the world. And when Green MSP Ross Greer called Winston Churchill a white supremacist and a mass murderer, due to his role in the Bengal famine and his racist description of Indians and Chinese people, James Cleverly came to Churchill’s defence 

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid created history in 2018 when he became the first ethnic minority to become home secretary. As home secretary, Javid stripped Shamima Begum, who was groomed as a teenager, of her citizenship, thereby relegating British citizens with dual citizenship to second class pseudo-British status.

Moreover, when a group of men in Huddersfield were convicted for abusing children, he linked the ethnicity of the grooming gang to their crime tweeting, “Sick Asian paedophiles”.

Priti Patel 

Priti Patel succeeded Sajid Javid as home secretary thereby becoming the first Asian female home secretary. She uses her Ugandan Asian heritage to gloss over her racism. Following the UK protests resulting from the police killing of George Floyd, Patel was asked in the House of Parliament to act quickly to resolve structural inequality, discrimination, and racism. She responded by narrating how she received racial slurs in the playground and street and concluded by saying:

So, when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance for social justice, I will not take lectures from the other side of the House.

In January 2020, Patel came to the defence of the media when it was accused of racial hostility against Meghan Markle. At the 2020 Brit Awards, rap artist Dave performed a song titled Black, in which he called Boris Johnson a racist and criticised the media over its treatment of Meghan Markle. During an interview with the BBC, Patel described Dave’s comments as utter nonsense and highly inappropriate. 

‘Racism is bone-deep’

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson recently said that racism is “bone-deep” in Britain and the US. Since racism is structurally embedded in British society, all hands must be on deck to solve it. The solution does not lie in outsourcing it to a group of select BAME politicians.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the time has come for senior white politicians in the cabinet to shred their cloak of indifference and take a front seat in the fight against racism. BAME cabinet members should use their intelligence and experience to help usher in a racism-free society. Instead, they’re being used as pawns and puppets in a wholesale denial of racism in Britain.

Featured image via Wikimedia/ Chris McAndrew

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  • Show Comments
    1. BAME cabinet ministers: modern-day courtiers or jesters?
      /////
      Just to point out to Tory Govt members that has not been fully
      Addressed yet by them or responded to by them to my emails
      I sent our Tory M.P. Andrew Stephenson of Pendle /Colne area
      Prime Minister Ms May then in No,10.
      When Tory local council election in May were going on in my area
      Of Lancashire/ Pendle/Colne the Tory Govt plus our local area Tory M.P.
      Reinstated all Tory Cllr racist that had been barred from standing because
      Tory Govt whip at the time Did not wish them in their party.
      So, I asked Tory Prime Minister plus our local area Tory M.P. + Cllr why
      They were given jobs back to stand in our area JUST to gain seats only
      Not one of them respond including Ms May or our local Tory M.P.WHY?

      This reinstating of racist Cllr in our area we voters stopped Pendle/ Colne
      area from being overrun with Tory Cllr Resist as we voted against all
      Resist Cllr being reinstated in our local area election for council seats

      Point of this post
      P-1– Is Tory Govt need to clean up its own house first of racist Councilors
      in all local area now it not just about them running Govt and how many
      black or half castes members are in Govt party now it is also about
      the local area Cllr that have been proven racist by Tory Party itself yet they
      see fit to give them Jobs back within local area councils just to keep
      power on seats of local area Councils in that area.

      P-2 —In our area of Lancashire /Pendle/Colne it as a lot of Black/half castes
      Migrant people from all over the world living here so we resident have
      learned to get along over many years But Tory Govt reinstating Resist Cllr
      in our area is putting all our hard work to live alongside the many Migrant
      people round here at risk now So to the SIX Tory M.P. or Minister??
      In this article what are you all doing as Migrant people yourself???

      P-3 — To address racist within the reinstated local area Tory Cllr that
      somewhere bard by Tory Govt itself but to win the areas vote they were
      reinstated in our area were they possible by website or tweets offended
      our some of local area Migrant people + voter in my area so to the SIX
      Tory party members pictured in this article what will you do to address
      this matter NOW. Before new local area seats election or next G.E. time frame?
      I person that lives in Pendle/Colne area plus a voter would like to know will you
      all be addressing this problem within your Tory party now yes or no?

    2. While it makes sense for BAME members to go into politics to try and improve things I can never understand why they join the Conservatives or Republicans. Those parties serve a minority but it isn’t BAME, and that minority is the main oppressor of all others, as well as some majorities like the working classes in their home countries and all other countries in which they have “interests”.

    3. While entertaining sympathetic diplomats from neutral countries, Hitler would trot out two officers in the “Liebstandarte” (his personal bodyguard SS unit), Sturmbannfuhrer Goldstein and Standartenfuhrer Cohen, and say “Would I have Jewish officers serving in my personal bodyguard unit if I was an anti-semite? You should not believe all that Bolshevik-inspired Allied propaganda….”; the truth is, these men were real jews who had sold out, what Stalin would have called “Useful Idiots”, what Malcolm X would have called “Uncle Toms”; as Thatcher said when David Owen formed the SDP (when she offfered him the Governor-Generalship of Hong Kong) “You see Dennis, every man really does have his price…” There was even an entire SS regiment of British nationals who switched sides and joined the SS, the notorious “Britisches Freikorps”; and what about the Americans who fought against Washington during the revolution, “Butler’s Rangers”?

    4. Utter drivel and embarrassing to read both the articles and the comments. It’s up there with Joe Biden’s recent outburst, or the treatment Kanye West received for daring to have the wrong opinions.
      If it’s acceptable to refer to the BAME cabinet members as Jesters, I can think of numerous appropriate labels for Abbott, Butler et al. Though we all know how you’d react to that. Rank hypocrisy from the left as ever.
      Reminder, The Labour Party is still the only party alongside the BNP to be investigated for institutional racism. People can see you for what you truly are, even if you seemingly can’t.

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