Following the election of Barack Obama as US President in 2008, there has been great debate as to whether Britain can expect an ethnic minority Prime Minister any time soon.

Obama suggested that his story is a uniquely American one, and Britain simply is not ready, but in 2010 15 percent of the total UK population were foreign born, only a slighter lower percentage than in the USA. As globalisation draws more and more migrants from poorer countries to the richer world, it is estimated that in fifty years, foreign born people will constitute almost half of the total population.

A comparison can be made between the ethnic minorities of the US and the UK. A study by Professor Yaojun Li in 2009 showed that in Chicago or Miami the bulk of African-American citizens live in places where their race constitutes over 60 percent of the neighbourhood, and almost a third of African-American citizens lived in places where their race constitutes over 80 percent of the population. This shows that ethnic minorities may have been segregated from the ethnic majority in America, and so the minorities needed their interests to be represented. Li also found that in Bradford more than four in five Pakistani citizens live in places where their race constitutes under 60 percent of the population. But to what extent are minority voices considered in the UK?

African-Americans secure a bigger share of political offices than minorities in the UK – only 27 MPs, or 4.2 percent of the total number, are of ethnic minority background in the UK. However, in the last general election the national average turnout was 61.4 percent yet for Bangladeshi voters it was 76 percent, Pakistanis 70 percent and Indians 67 percent, and Black Africans matched the national average. This indicates a growing interest in politics in ethnic minority groups, which has reflected in the growing number of ethnic minority MPs.

It could be assumed that ethnic minority politicians, such as President Obama, just appeal to ethnic minority voters, but this is not true: while the majority of minority ethnic groups voted for Obama, so did a large proportion of the white majority. In fact, black  Conservative Party MP for Windsor Adam Afriyie claimed that “we are a sophisticated electorate in Britain, and I’m confident that we will make our judgements based on the qualities of the candidate presented.” We should not elect a representative purely on the fact that they are part of an ethnic minority. Similarly, we should not put pressure on current ethnic minority MPs to climb the ranks purely for the profits of a debate.

Thatcher did not lead to a tidal wave of representation for women – while Labour did introduce women-only lists, the Tory party is still very male dominated – and a surge of representation for ethnic minorities cannot be expected in the near future, even if Britain elected its first Black or Asian Prime Minister. Despite big generational changes and a reduction in prejudice, none of the data shows that this is likely in the near future. Besides, there is no strong minority candidate. Adam Afriyie said: “I do not believe that we’ll see [a Black or Asian Prime Minister] in my lifetime”, an expectation shared by many politicians. But studies have shown that the UK has less prejudice and greater tolerance than the US, so if they can do it so can we!


DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.