• Monday, June 27, 2022


Boris wins, but will he unite Britain?

Boris Johnson

By: Lauren Codling


BORIS JOHNSON has promised to “deliver Brexit and unite the United Kingdom”, as he won the race to become Britain’s next prime minister on Tuesday (23).

The Conservative MP and former London mayor made the comments after he comfortably beat his rival, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, with 92,153 votes to 46,656 for the leadership role.

Following his official meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday (24), Johnson is expected to pick his cabinet and closest advisors. He is likely to chair his first cabinet meeting on Thursday (25).

According to reports, Johnson could assign the most diverse cabinet in history as Asian politicians Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma and Rishi Sunak are among those rumoured to be up for ministerial roles.

Addressing the party faithful in central London on Tuesday, Johnson insisted that the UK would leave the European Union on October 31.

“We are going to get Brexit done on October 31 and take advantage of all the opportunities
it will bring with a new spirit of ‘can do’,” he said. “We will once again believe in ourselves and what we can achieve.”

Promising he would find a way through the Brexit deadlock, Johnson said: “Like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

He also thanked outgoing prime minister Theresa May for her “extraordinary service to the party and her country”, adding it was a privilege to work in her cabinet. Johnson acted as May’s foreign secretary until he resigned over Brexit.

On the new prime minister’s relationship with India, Conservative MP and staunch Johnson supporter Priti Patel said he was “committed to securing a new and improved trading relationship” with the nation.

Priti Patel MP is rumoured to be in the running for a ministerial role in Boris Johnson’s cabinet

“(Johnson will be) ensuring that the values we share, the rule of law, democracy and dynamic entrepreneurial spirit should be at the heart of one of our most important partners on the
global stage,” Patel said. In a letter earlier this month, Johnson played up his personal relationship with prime minister Narendra Modi as he promised to deliver a “truly special UK-India relationship”.

Meanwhile, some experts have cautioned that Johnson may not prioritise the issue of race inequality within the UK.

Sir Simon Woolley, the founder and director of pressure group Operation Black Vote, urged Johnson to continue to work on the platforms which his predecessor had created to tackle discrimination and inequality.

During her time as prime minister, May launched the Race Disparity Unit as well as the
newly implemented Office for Tackling Injustices (OfTI) earlier this month.

Having closely worked with May during her leadership, Sir Simon said they agreed “that
tackling racism, equality of opportunity and social mobility were all beyond party politics”.

“Thereafter we could set about plans to tackle these issues – it was grown-up politics at its
very best,” he told Eastern Eye.

“Like Theresa May, Boris Johnson will be entrenched in the quagmire of Brexit, but he needs to demonstrate that he will not see the foundations May has established as ‘her thing’, but rather the nations platform from which he (should) help continue building.

“Everyone benefits from unleashing BAME potential talent.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, admitted that there was some “anxiety” in the race equality sector on Johnson’s appointment.

Dr Zubaida Haque has admitted the race equality sector are “nervous” regarding Johnson’s appointment

Speaking to Eastern Eye, the academic said: “We are nervous and looking to get reassurance from Boris Johnson that he is committed to race equality and addressing racism.”

She highlighted concerns on Johnson’s past comments in relation to the BAME and Muslim community. For instance, the politician faced controversy last year when he said that Muslim women in burkas resembled “letterboxes”.

“It is not just about the irresponsible language – it is also that he doesn’t apologise afterwards, and he doesn’t understand the significant harm he causes with his words,” Dr Haque said. “He has no qualms about using (the language) and he doesn’t care about the consequences.”

On Monday (22), a coalition of race equality organisations wrote an open letter to Johnson which urged him to continue the work undertaken by the Race Disparity Unit.

They asked for reassurance on his efforts to challenge racial inequality, noting that he was the only leadership candidate who did not sign up to Diversity2Win’s five pledges, created to ensure a more diverse Britain and Conservative Party.

Dr Haque also revealed concerns on speculation surrounding Johnson’s choice of political advisors. Some reports claim that Munira Mirza, who held the title of cultural advisor to Johnson when he was mayor of London, could be appointed as an advisor on No.10 policy.

Noting that Mizra had defended Johnson after his comments on Muslim women, Dr Haque also highlighted Mizra’s criticisms against the Race Disparity Unit and Labour MP David Lammy’s 2017 review on racial discrimination within the criminal justice system.

“If Munira Mirza is going to be in charge of No10 policy, then that makes (the race equality sector) a little bit nervous, but only in terms of the fact that she has been very critical in the past about the evidence in relation to racism in society, Theresa May’s Race Disparity audit
and David Lammy’s review of BME outcomes in the criminal justice system.

“The issue will be how much influence she has over Boris Johnson’s decisions in these areas,” Dr Haque said.

Dr Faiza Shaheen has urged for a general election

Dr Faiza Shaheen, the director of CLASS, the centre for Labour and Social Studies, also revealed her concerns on Johnson’s priorities.

“There is no way to sugar-coat this – with Boris Johnson we now have a prime minister that promotes policies that will widen  inequalities and who uses rhetoric thatfuels racial divisions,” Dr Shaheen said.

“Successive governments have fanned the flames of burning injustices and we can expect more of the same from the new prime minister.”

She added that the Conservatives needed a new public mandate.

“A general election will also finally give us the opportunity to consider the kind of broad change that will improve the lives of everyday people,” she said.

Eastern Eye

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