The Conservative Party are not typically associated with the concept of diversity. However, the present Conservative line-up reflects a far broader set of demographics than in any previous era. Observing the recent leadership election is proof of the matter, with half of the candidates in the first round of voting coming from ethnic minority backgrounds.

A More Representative Party?

The leadership contest is now between Rishi Sunak, a man of Indian heritage, and Liz Truss. Neither of these candidates fully represent the type of politician that is most commonly associated with the Tories. Aside from the leadership contest, it’s notable that 24 per cent of all Conservative MPs elected in 2019 were female and 6 per cent come from ethnic minority backgrounds. The move towards marginalised genders and ethnic minorities suggests that white men no longer enjoy absolute supremacy within the Conservative Party — at least in terms of parliamentary representation. With Truss and Sunak fighting for the leadership, it is now guaranteed that the next leader of the party will be either a woman or a man of Indian heritage.

The above fact requires us to consider the archetypal Conservative. In 1979, just 3 per cent of elected Conservative MPs were women. In 2001, there were zero Conservative MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds. This gives us some context to the identity of the Conservative Party and who they have historically represented.

Sadly, despite efforts to shed their former image of being a white upper-class men’s club, the data suggests otherwise. Notably, the traditional white-male demographic continues to reflect the party’s core voters. Since 2019, the Conservatives’ voter base has been approximately 97 per cent white. These voters are also statistically more likely to be male, southern, and to have voted to leave the EU.

Maintaining the Status Quo

Despite diversification within the party, the Conservatives remain accountable to a demographic that has material interests in maintaining the status quo.

Clearly, better parliamentary representation within the party has not translated to better outcomes or opportunities for people of marginalised genders and ethnic backgrounds. The data and policies show that despite some examples of people from marginalised genders and ethnic backgrounds gaining political power, this power is used to uphold an economic system that preserves patriarchy and racial hierarchy. The evidence is in the policies and voting records of senior Tories who are non-white and/or non-male.

For instance, in her role as Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss famously took a stand against self-identification for Transgender people and opposed government funding to the LGBT organisation Stonewall. Former leadership candidate Kemi Badenoch, of Nigerian descent, publicly criticised the Black Lives Matter movement and the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools. Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is the daughter of Ugandan/Indian migrants, possesses an arsenal of socially conservative views and ideas. Despite her migrant background, Patel is one of the most outspoken critics of immigration and has overseen several radical policies. These include the introduction of a points-based immigration system and the heavily-criticised Rwanda asylum plan.

Power & Diversity

The distribution of political power partly explains the lack of progress towards fairness and equality for marginalised groups. Whilst MPs hold a degree of political power, they are not the only ones. The British media, for instance, continues to heavily influence public opinion by controlling debates on inflammatory topics such as immigration and ‘woke culture.’ Without a redistribution of media power from the current monopoly, the hostile environment towards marginalised groups will likely persist.

This raises an obvious question: is there any point to a diverse Conservative Party if everything stays the same? The answer can partly be found in the party’s obsession with ‘hard work’ and ‘individual responsibility’ as means of overcoming social barriers. The logic is simple. If politicians from diverse backgrounds can reach senior positions of power within the party, then this must be because conditions both within and without are improving. However, race and gender cannot be understood in isolation. The majority of Conservative MPs still come from the upper socio-economic pool — diversification or not. This gives them opportunities to climb economic ladders and gain career experience in a way that is not accessible to the masses. This, and the fact that many of them choose the status quo, suggests that a diverse Conservative Party stands for pretty much the same as a traditional Conservative Party.

The Conservatives have a knack for manipulating language. This is apparent in their approach to the concept of diversity. Their commitment to optics over material change has muddied the waters when it comes to genuine diversification and liberatory politics. We should not be fooled by their rhetoric. The Conservatives are just as ruthlessly committed to racial capitalism as ever.

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