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Leading 'ethnic minority Tory MPs reinforcing status quo with anti immigration rhetoric'

The study analysed the comments made in the Conservative Party Leadership contest last year around race, borders and immigration

Westminster London

Senior Conservative MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds are reinforcing class and race differences in British society and the racial status quo with anti-immigration rhetoric, argues a new research paper.

The study analysed the comments made in the Conservative Party Leadership contest last year by contenders Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Nadhim Zahawi, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch around race, borders and immigration in selected media appearances as part of their campaigns.

Academics claim these leading Tory MPs are acting as ‘post-racial gatekeepers’ by promoting an ‘us and them’ policy agenda which pits illegal immigrants against hard-working ‘model minorities’ such as themselves.

This in turn furthers social divisions, the academics argued.

The paper highlighted comments in the campaigns from candidates designed to exemplify their ‘Britishness’.

  • Nadhim Zahawi’s promotional material spoke about an immigrant obligation: “I have tried um to serve my country, the country that’s given me everything.” This is echoed by Savid Javid, one of the few candidates from a working-class background who said: “I wanted to give back to a country that’s given me so many opportunities.”
  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I’m standing here in front of you tonight for one very simple reason and that’s because our country, our United Kingdom, did something extraordinary for my family when it welcomed them here as immigrants 60 years ago and allowed them to build a better life.”
  • Suella Braverman wrote: “I’m the only candidate standing today who is honest about the solution to fixing illegal migration, namely small boats crossing the channel, if you want to be honest with the British people on delivering on Brexit or taking back control over our borders.”

The study pointed to what it claimed was “the increasingly hostile anti-immigration policies implemented by former Home Secretary Priti Patel and their continuation under Suella Braverman, both descendants of immigrants yet earnest defenders of British borders”.

In their opinion the academics believe “greater nominal ethnic diversity in the party may be only weakly aligned with more socially liberal attitudes, and ethnic diversity can not only coexist with, but can also facilitate the reproduction of the racialised, and class-based, status quo.”

Dr Rima Saini, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Middlesex University and lead author on the paper, argued: “We can’t equate ethnic diversity in the Conservative Party Cabinet with racial justice, it’s quite the opposite.

“Diversity within the Conservative Party hasn’t translated into better outcomes for the most marginalised ethnic minority communities, it’s simply a mechanism in order to modernise the party.

“This is very strategic and deliberate, post-racial gatekeepers are a function of the state and how the state works because it needs people to buy into this idea of an ‘us and them’.

“That some people deserve and do not deserve to be part of the imagined British community, because that’s how a state reproduces its borders, privileges and hegemony on an international stage.

“When we hear such damaging anti-immigrant rhetoric from someone in a political elite who themselves is from an ethnic minority background and can say race isn’t an issue, their words can be very powerful.”

The paper - The 2022 Conservative leadership campaign and post-racial gatekeeping – has been peer reviewed and published in The Institute of Race Relations’ quarterly journal Race & Class.

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