Liz Truss’ cupboard is the primary in Britain with out white males in prime positions

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  • For the first time no white man in one of the top four posts
  • Kwarteng brings finance portfolio Cleverly to the international office
  • Diversity is now ‘normal’ in the UK, says expert

LONDON, September 6 (Reuters) – Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss has elected a cabinet in which, for the first time, no white person will hold any of the country’s top four ministerial posts.

Truss appointed Kwasi Kwarteng – whose parents were Ghanaian in the 1960s – as Britain’s first black Treasury Secretary, while James Cleverly is the first black Foreign Secretary.

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

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Suella Braverman, whose parents came to the UK from Kenya and Mauritius six decades ago, succeeds Priti Patel as second home secretary or home secretary for ethnic minorities, where she will be responsible for policing and immigration.

The growing diversity is due in part to the Conservative Party’s push in recent years to field a more diverse group of candidates for Parliament.

British governments consisted mainly of white men until a few decades ago. It was not until 2002 that Britain appointed its first cabinet minister for ethnic minorities, when Paul Boateng was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Rishi Sunak, whose parents were from India, was Kwarteng’s predecessor in finance and Truss’ runner-up in leadership context.

“Politics set the pace. We now treat it as normal, this diversity,” said Sunder Katwala, director of the non-partisan 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 army are still predominantly white.

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


Still, the Conservatives have the best track record of political firsts of any major political party, including appointing 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 describing Muslim women wearing burqas as looking like letter boxes.

The Conservatives elected all three British Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and now Truss. The first Asian MP, Mancherjee Bhownaggree in 1895, also came from the Conservatives.

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

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

When he came to power in 2005, the party had just two ethnic minority MPs out of 196 in Parliament, and he set about making his party more like the modern Britain it hoped to lead.

The following year, Cameron introduced a priority list of women and minority candidates to be selected, many for secure seats in the House of Commons. Truss was a beneficiary of this push.

“An important part of ensuring the strength and resilience of any group, including a political party, is avoiding everyone thinking and acting in the same way — avoiding groupthink,” James Arbuthnot, a member of the party executive’s Committee on Candidates, said Cameron presented the changes.

But Kwarteng has downplayed the importance of his ethnicity. He has said that although he faced racial abuse in the 1980s, he does not see himself as a symbol for anyone other than his constituents in Spelthorne, which borders London’s south-west suburbs.

“I actually think it’s not that big of a deal,” he said after being appointed first minister for the Black Conservatives. “I think once you get the point across, I don’t think it’s something that comes up that often.”

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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