Liz Truss’ cabinet is the first in Britain without a white man in top positions

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  • First time no white man has held one of the top four positions
  • Kwarteng takes finance portfolio, Cleverly at foreign office
  • Diversity is now ‘normal’ in Britain, says expert

LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss has chosen a cabinet where, for the first time, a white man will not hold one of the country’s four most important cabinet posts.

Truss has named Kwasi Kwarteng – whose parents came from Ghana in the 1960s – Britain’s first black finance minister while James Cleverly is the first black foreign minister.

Cleverly, whose mother is from Sierra Leone and whose father is white, has in the past spoken of being bullied as a mixed-race child and said the party needs to do more to attract voters black.

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Suella Braverman, whose parents came to Britain from Kenya and Mauritius six decades ago, succeeds Priti Patel as the second Ethnic Minority Home Secretary, or Home Secretary, where she will be responsible for the police and immigration.

The growing diversity is partly due to a push by the Conservative Party in recent years to field a more diverse set of candidates for parliament.

Until a few decades ago, British governments were made up mainly of white men. It took until 2002 for Britain to appoint its first ethnic minorities minister when Paul Boateng was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Rishi Sunak, whose parents are from India, was Kwarteng’s predecessor in finance and second to Truss in leadership.

“Politics set the tone. We now treat it as normal, this diversity,” said Sunder Katwala, director of nonpartisan think tank British Future, which focuses on migration and identity. “The pace of change is extraordinary.”

However, the upper echelons of business, the judiciary, the civil service and the military are still predominantly white.

And despite the party’s diversity campaign, only a quarter of Tory MPs are women and 6% are from minorities.


Nonetheless, the Conservatives have the best record of policy firsts among the major political parties, including the appointment of the first Jewish prime minister in Benjamin Disraeli in 1868.

This is despite the fact that ethnic minority voters are far more likely to support the opposition Labor Party and the ruling party has been accused of racism, misogyny and Islamophobia.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized in 2019 for portraying Muslim women wearing burkas as looking like letterboxes.

The Conservatives elected Britain’s three female prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and now Truss. The first Asian legislator, Mancherjee Bhownaggree in 1895, was also from the Conservative background.

Johnson assembled the youngest and most ethnically diverse cabinet in history when he elected prime minister in 2019. His three finance ministers included two men of South Asian descent and one of Kurdish descent.

The changes followed a years-long effort by former leader and Prime Minister David Cameron.

When he took office in 2005, the party had just two ethnic minority members in parliament out of 196, and he worked hard to make his party look more like modern Britain than he hoped to manage.

The following year, Cameron presented a priority list of female and minority candidates to be selected, many for secure seats in the House of Commons. Truss benefited from this push.

“A key part of ensuring the strength and resilience of any group, including a political party, is to avoid everyone thinking and acting the same way – to avoid groupthink,” said James Arbuthnot , a member of the party’s board of directors. nominating committee when Cameron introduced the changes.

But Kwarteng downplayed his ethnicity. He said that although he suffered racial slurs growing up in the 1980s, he sees himself as a symbol of no one other than his constituents in Spelthorne, which borders the south-west suburb of London.

“Actually, I think it’s not that bad,” he said after being named a prominent black conservative prime minister. “I think once you take stock, I don’t think it’s something that comes back that much.”

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Humza Jilani; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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