Not long after the United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister Liz Truss was outlasted by a head of lettuce, Rishi Sunak took the position. As head of the conservative party and the wealthiest person in Parliament, he became the first prime minister of South Asian descent. He will have a lot to undertake as the U.K. goes through a cold winter, food shortages, double-digit inflation and an energy crisis.
“He’s now going to be prime minister, and can I just throw in, that it is highly significant that he is the first prime minister from an ethnic minority,” Robert Hayward, a British member of the House of Lords, said in an interview with CNN. “The message that sends to a worldwide audience is really highly significant.”
While it should be celebrated that someone from an underrepresented community was elected to power in Britain, I fear, with his political mindset, meaningful change for minority communities will not occur.
It is much like how when Barack Obama got elected the United States saw little change in racial violence and agitation. According to the FBI's hate crime statistics, over Obama’s presidential term the number of hate crimes was relatively consistent, only fluctuating by about 100 cases. I believe the same is likely to happen in the U.K.
A prime example of this stagnation includes Sunak’s position on policing.
“We need to put more police officers on the street,” Sunak commented on policing in a Twitter post on Aug. 25. “We also need to make sure they have the tools they need in order to keep us safe.”
Later in the video, he spoke about how "wokeness" hinders the police force and that stop- –and -search is an effective technique.
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However, data reinforces the idea that stop and search unfairly disadvantages minority groups. According to the Home Office, a ministerial department of the U.K. government, there were 7.5 stop and searches for every 1,000 white people, compared with 52.6 for every 1,000 black people from 2009 to 2019. This doesn’t even take into consideration the other racial minority groups that are similarly stopped and searched disproportionately compared to white citizens.
Sunak’s promotion also does not bode well for the working class and low-income families in the U.K.
“I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from the Labour Party that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone,” Sunak said to a crowd in Royal Turnbridge according to the New Statesman. “I started the work of undoing that.”
It is important to note that Royal Turnbridge is a primarily upper-class county.
In conjunction with Sunak’s plans to change funding to certain counties, Britain is also going to be facing a cold winter this year. In these lower-income areas, people cannot afford to heat their houses and buy food. What will Sunak do about it? Take funding out of those neighborhoods and funnel that money into the pockets of those who can already afford necessities.
His immigration policy also faces scrutiny. When he was the chancellor of the Exchequer, the U.S. equivalent of the secretary of treasury, he pushed through hundreds of millions of pounds into anti-immigration funds. Earlier this year he also helped implement the Nationality and Borders Bill, according to an NBC article.
The same article reported that, this bill contained a clause, later removed, that would have allowed the U.K.’s government to revoke the citizenship of anyone it deems has a claim to another nationality. He also assisted in implementing the Rwanda Policy. This policy sends people that wanted to seek asylum in the U.K. to Rwanda instead. This blatantly xenophobic policy is in some ways very similar to the immigration policy under the Trump administration and will likely only get worse while Sunak is prime minister.
Under Sunak’s leadership, I don’t think the U.K. is on track to success. The Conservative Party will likely only appeal to those at the top while leaving underrepresented communities and low-income communities behind.
Owen Darland (he/him) is a freshman studying international studies.