The new cabinet does not reflect Parliament. But it was never likely to, given that Parliament, while having improved it’s diversity with a 100% increase in the number of black MP’s, still does not fully reflect modern Britain.
It is no surprise given this fact, that the new cabinet has drawn criticism from equality campaigners. But is this indicative of the new coalition government, or an indictment of British politics?
In the new coalition government of the four women who have been appointed to cabinet positions, only two have been appointed to the senior ranks. The lack of black faces is more than noticeable.
Lady Warsi while making history in becoming the first female Muslim to take a cabinet role, and who has also become the Conservative party chair, is the only ethnic minority among the senior ranks.
This must improve. It is simply not fair to have certain communities excluded from government while other communities are over-represented.
If over half of the cabinet members have been privately educated it does not make sense that other sections of the Britain’s diverse population are under- represented, and under utilised when they are a valuable resource that have the potential to enrich our democracy.
The Conservatives have a real chance here to shed the ‘nasty party’ image that they have been tarnished with for so long. This will prove a challenge given that diversity within the Liberal Democrats is lacklustre to say the least.
New Labour at its conception at least could justifiably boast a real commitment to diversity. But that is not to say that the new coalition does not have the opportunity to emulate or to top this. Time will tell.
Unless diversity improves the idea that the coalition, born out of a hung parliament, represents a chance for transformational government will not sit with people for long – not least with Britain’s minority communities.
With an election that could take place within four years, the new government must begin dealing with this issue now. If they don’t they will be in real danger of allowing the Labour party, soon to have a new skipper at the helm, a real opportunity to re-brand themselves as the real alternative to the new government.
They will also be in danger of further alienating those communities which are already marginalised. Voter turnout from BME communities on polling day this year was significantly higher than in the last general election. Assuming it improves at the next election the government needs to secure BME voter’s confidence and fast if they are to remain in power.
By Richard Sudan