London Diary: Britons have no issues with Indian-origin Rishi Sunak or Priti Patel as PM

Three-quarters of Britons feel that social diversity is part of British culture, rather than a threat to it and 84% would be comfortable with an ethnic minority prime minister succeeding Boris Johnson

London Diary: Britons have no issues with Indian-origin Rishi Sunak or Priti Patel as PM

Hasan Suroor

Indian origin PM fine with Brits

Even as diversity has spawned vicious culture wars in India and several other countries, in Britain it’s widely regarded as one its biggest assets and a source of cultural enrichment.

Three-quarters of Britons feel that social diversity is part of British culture, rather than a threat to it, according to a survey. It found that 84 percent of Britons would be comfortable with an ethnic minority prime minister succeeding Boris Johnson. Two prominent Cabinet ministers of Indian origin--Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and Home Secretary Priti Patel--are hotly tipped to be front-runners for the top job.

Sunder Katwala of British Future, the think-tank which commissioned the survey, said: “The diversity of our society is a settled fact. The debate we now need in the 2020s is what we should do to make that work fairly for Britons of every creed and colour.”

Yet, it’s not all hunky-dory with less than half of those questioned saying that relations between different ethnic groups had improved over 10 years. Many fear that things could get worse in coming years because of economic pressures and corresponding social unrest.

But meanwhile...

The idea of diversity appears to have eluded Britain’s police establishment. Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, nearly one-third have never had a black officer in the top four senior ranks, according to the latest data. Nineteen have never had a black chief inspector, superintendent, chief superintendent or chief officer since records began in 2007. And more than a third of the forces have never had an Asian officer in the same ranks.

The disclosure comes amid growing calls for the police to be declared “institutionally racist”. At one stage, even the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) debated the issue and there were voices which favoured acknowledging institutional racism but were overruled.

Cesspit of sex & sleaze

A few weeks ago, I wrote here that few Britons wanted to become an MP — an indication of the low esteem in which politicians are held. Now, one of Britain’s sharpest political commentators who has spent a lifetime reporting politics at the highest level says it’s the worst time to be a politician.

“I’ve never in 30 years seen MPs so depressed and demoralised, adrift and self-pitying,” wrote Alice Thomson in The Times.

Tainted by sleaze and sex scandals (nearly half a dozen MPs across are being investigated over allegations of sexual assault), not surprisingly the electorate holds them in contempt. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s shameless defence of his role in the “partygate” scandal despite being fined by the police for breaking lockdown rules has further undermined respect for the political class.

“Politicians languish at the bottom of career-choice polls. Waste disposal workers, teachers and nurses are more satisfied with their jobs. Ask any MP whether they would encourage their child to follow in their footsteps and they look appalled,” Thomson wrote.


Britain’s invisible poor

Invisible poverty in Britain has become so bad that children are suffering from food poisoning and going to school in unwashed clothes as parents switch off their electrical appliances to save money, according to antipoverty campaigners.

There are reports of children becoming ill after eating food stored in fridges and freezers that have been turned off to save electricity because of the soaring cost of living. Schools have claimed that children are turning up in unwashed clothes to avoid the cost of running washing machines.

Simon Fann, manager of a food bank in the English coastal town of Cornwall, told The Times that he believed similar problems were being experienced across the country.

And this while Nero in Downing Street fiddles —wining and dining with mates, and plotting his next move to stay in power.

Growing fatter & fatter

If you thought Americans alone were disproportionately obese, think again. Their cousins on this side of the pond are not far behind.

On current trends, Britain is on way to be the fattest nation in Europe in a decade, the World Health Organisation has warned. By the early 2030s, around 37% of British men and women are expected to be obese. At the moment, the figure stands at 28%.

The projection is driven by takeaway services and sedentary lifestyles. If obesity continues to grow at the current rate for some countries within the region, it will overtake smoking as the main factor in causing cancer.

According to Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, WHO’s lead for noncommunicable diseases in Europe, Britain is ahead of other European countries in having a lifestyle more susceptible to obesity. These include “more and more digital screen time”, online food deliveries and exposure to junk food advertising. Obesity rates are increasing because the measures being taken by the government are not enough.

And, finally, “Fuliginous”, if you didn’t know (I bet you didn’t, nor did I), means “filthy vapour” and is still used in some British weather reports!

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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