PM says ‘think big’ about British Asians in politics and public life
Categories: Latest News
Thursday November 06 2014
The PM was speaking during the GG2 Leadership Awards ceremony, which shortlists the most influential British Asian people in the country, and said:
“Let us think big about what Britons of all backgrounds can achieve.
“When I hear ‘sir’, ‘your honour’ or ‘right honourable’, I want them to be followed by a British Asian name.
“One day I want to hear that title ‘Prime Minister’ followed by a British Asian name.”
His comments coincide with the annual power list, now in its fourth year.
The Culture Secretary Sajid Javid topped the list compiled by the Asian Media and Marketing Group. The judges of the Power List expressed Javid earned the title for being “the only Asian voice at the heart of the Government’s senior decision making process and his commitment to ‘opening the cultural doors for all Britons in the UK.”
Others who made the top ten in the list include:
Malala Yousafzai (2), Labour MPs Keith Vaz (3) and Sadiq Khan (7), Tory MPs Priti Patel (6) and Shailesh Vara (9), as well as One Direction singer Zayn Malik (10).
The list also features 19 women including BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty and BBC Radio One presenter Jameela Jamil and Director of human rights organisation Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti.
Despite these achievements, the Prime Minister noted that “In Britain today there are still too few people from ethnic minorities in top positions.
“The absence is glaring in the boardrooms of the FTSE250, in the Chambers of the Houses of Parliament, football managers’ benches, on High Court judges benches, and in our fighter jets, our naval ships, our armed battalions around the world and I am clear this has to change, not to tick boxes, not to fill quotas but to realise our full potential.”
Cameron’s comments follows the announcement by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to launch an initiative to increase the number of ethnic minorities in boardrooms.
Reports published earlier this year by former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, and Professor Richard Webber, found that more than half of FTSE 100 firms had no ethnic minorities at board level and two thirds had no full time minority executive directors.
It is instructive that while much work has been undertaken on promoting gender equality in business and the economy, far less has been done to advance equality of opportunity for ethnic minorities.
The Labour Party is undertaking a Race Equality consultation to inform its policies on social mobility among minority communities. The National Equality Panel, convened by Labour MP Harriet Harman, published a report 2010 highlighting the impact of the ‘ethnic penalty’ on labour market participation among minority communities and especially Muslims.
Also noteworthy is the absence of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi in the ranking of the top 100. Culture Secretary Sajid Javid was singled out for the honour for being “the only Asian voice at the heart of the Government’s senior decision making process”. And yet, prior to her resignation earlier this year, Baroness Warsi had been “the only Asian voice at the heart of the Government’s senior decision making process” for some time.
Baroness Warsi’s absence and the PM’s aspirations for more BME representation in politics and public life is also the subject of a BBC Asian Network programme. In an interview with the network, Baroness Warsi spoke about the near certainty of the Tories losing ‘the Muslim vote’ in 2015.
In response to a question about whether the Tories have ‘given up’ on gaining Muslim votes, Warsi claimed the party’s leadership “realise a whole series of decisions” including the response to the Gaza crisis in the summer had made it extremely difficult for Conservative candidates to “justify their position in Muslim communities”.
The Conservative party’s refusal to condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the overwhelming support shown by MPs who voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state in a backbench motion proposed last month, may make it more difficult still for Conservative candidates to “justify their position in Muslim communities”.
Warsi also pointed out the comparative success the Conservatives were having among Hindu and Sikh communities stating these were “easier to penetrate electorally”.
The admission begs the question of whether, when the PM says, “When I hear ‘sir’, ‘your honour’ or ‘right honourable’, I want them to be followed by a British Asian name”, he is referring to all British Asians and not just those who respond positively to Conservative overtures.