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international confex 2023

29 Nov 2022

The most diverse cabinet in history? Or is it?

The most diverse cabinet in history? Or is it?

Gabrielle Austen-Browne, founder of Diversity Alliance and co-founder of Diverse Speaker Bureau, talks representation in government.

I’m sure for many who care about diversity, the announcement of a female Prime Minister in Liz Truss, with the most diverse cabinet to date, would seem like a victory right? Most recently, following her resignation, the UK has also seen its first Asian Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak.

When Liz Truss was in power, four of the leading roles, including that of the Prime Minister, were held by two women, and three (before the sacking of the chancellor - Kwasi Kwarteng) by people of colour, while the post of Deputy Prime Minister was also held by a woman. A massive step in the right direction for gender equality and a diverse government…or was it?

Since then much has changed, but technically, much also remains the same. I don’t believe that this is a victory for diversity - because while the top team includes more women and people of colour, it is also one of the most socially exclusive of recent times, with the highest proportion attending private school in more than 25 years. We may share the same skin colour as our politicians, have the same sexual orientation or be the same sex, but that doesn't necessarily mean they represent our experiences or political values.

Time and time again we have seen evidence that just because someone is from a minority group, it doesn't mean they want to improve the lives of the given minority. It's rare to see their place of privilege being utilised to uplift others, in fact we see quite the opposite.

Take former Home Secretary Priti Patel’s stance on refugee policies, and now those of her successor Suella Braverman, who is expected to take an even harder line on immigration. Take Therese Coffey’s worrying views on abortion rights, or how about Rishi Sunak, who bragged about funneling public cash from ‘deprived urban areas’ and giving it to more affluent towns?

If our government leaders don’t include a variety of people from different backgrounds, with varied lived experiences that are reflective of the current population, then how can they truly represent the people of the country? I understand why these people are grasping so tightly onto their positions of power and privilege, because it’s scarce for minorities and particularly ethnic minorities to have them in the first place. This is sad.

So, until laws change, legislation is brought in, and systemic inequality is eradicated, ‘minorities’ in positions of power will not be ‘leaving the door open’ or ‘dropping the rope ladder over’ for their communities, in fact it looks like they will make their lives worse. Those were my immediate thoughts on the ‘celebrated’ diversity of the government.

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