Are we blase about progress for ethnic diversity in Politics?

WHEN Vaughan Gething became the first Black leader of a national government anywhere in Europe the Welsh public did not necessarily focus on the fact that ethnic minorities are taking on more leadership roles in politics.

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The focus was on what he could do for Wales and there was plenty of criticism of his track record as Minister for Health. Despite the blase acceptance for the third time in three years, a Black or Asian person has been chosen as a leader in Downing Street, Scotland, or Wales. There are also two women leading Northern Ireland’s government. This means that, for now, no white men are leading any of the four governments in the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt that British politics is becoming more diverse, with ethnic minority politicians having more profile and presence in public life than ever before. There are also moves within Wales to ensure more women are selected as MSs.

How much of this diverse change is registered with the people of Wales? Historically far-right groups in Wales have been relatively small and insignificant. There is a growing presence of the far right, which is not only focusing on issues of immigration and national identity, it seems that anything is fair game from religion to sexuality to education, employment and more. The common thread is that it is all the fault of the boogyman, Johnny Foreigner and the mass hoards of travelling boat people who are tagged with some hateful and insightful labels.

Whichever of the candidates won, it would have been food for those who thrive on opposing diversity and equality and propagating hatred based on skin colour and sexual orientation. Had Jeremy Miles won he would have been the first openly gay First Minister of Wales.

If you were beginning your journey into political observations in the early 1980’s you would have barely seen or heard of a black or openly gay politician in Welsh politics. Over the following four decades, the changes began to happen. At least seven European Prime Ministers have been openly gay. Remarkably the ethnic diversity within Parliament harks back to a much earlier time, the late 1700’s.

Based on data from unofficial sources including Operation Black Vote, the House of Commons Library estimated in a research briefing published in September 2022 that there were 55 ethnic minority members of the House of Lords as of September 2022. Of these, 11 were affiliated with the Labour Party, 16 were crossbenchers, 16 were Conservatives, six were Liberal Democrats, and six were unaffiliated.

This means that ethnic minority leadership is now the norm in Britain – but that is not yet the case in most Western European democracies. Britain still has work to do on race and discrimination, as evidenced by reports of rising antisemitism and anti-Muslim prejudice in recent months. However, it does have stronger anti-racism laws and policies than many of its European counterparts.

Overall, the increasing presence of ethnic minorities in business, the law, and other professions is a positive sign that progress is being made.

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