London Diary: Revolving doors at 10 Downing Street

Brits have finally taken the plunge. Laid to rest doubts about their readiness to accept a brown man to lead the country

London Diary: Revolving doors at 10 Downing Street

Hasan Suroor

Revolving doors at no. 10

Brits have finally taken the plunge. Laid to rest doubts about their readiness to accept a brown man to lead the country. The question whether Britain would ever have a non-white PM had dogged the country ever since Barack Obama’s election as America’s first black President.

When Sunak was knocked out of the Tory leadership race a few weeks ago, Asian commentators rushed to conclude that he lost because of the colour of his skin. Indians were livid and even those who didn’t like Sunak for various reasons believed that he had been a casualty of racism.

The loudest criticism, ironically, came from quarters whose own credentials vis-avis ethnic minorities in India are dodgy, to put it mildly. Yet, the same quarters are now hailing Sunak’s elevation as Britain’s “Diwali Gift” to Indians—and by extension India.

The election of a person of colour to the country’s highest office is undoubtedly of huge symbolic significance for British Asians, but to read anything more profound into Sunak’s appointment will be to repeat the mistake Americans made when they mistook Obama’s election for a new dawn in US race relations. We all know what happened.

Sunak is here because the once famously boring and stable British politics has, lately, developed a taste for Italianstyle frothy political culture with governments changing at the drop of a hat. When his predecessor Liz Truss announced her resignation after being in office for barely five weeks, she became the fourth prime minister to come and go in just six years. Sunak is the sixth and faces an uphill task of uniting the party and restoring political and economic stability.

Truss was elected after a two-month long bitter Tory Party leadership election, but she never gave the impression of being in control. Ultimately, she was brought down by her fantasy vision of Britain as “Singapore on the Thames”—a small-state, low-tax, higher growth economy based on the idea of trickle-down neoliberalism.

It spooked the markets and as the economy crashed, she was forced to sack the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. But as pressure mounted on her to take personal responsibility for the mess, she finally gave in.

Sunak is not required to call for a fresh election, which is due in January 2025. Opposition Labour party is nearly 30 per cent ahead in polls and if elections were to be held ‘tomorrow’, Tories will lose.

Win for Indian Universities

Arecord number of Indian universities have made it into the Times Higher Education’s 2023 World University Rankings. India has emerged as the sixth most represented country with 75 Indian institutions ranked—up from 56 in 2020.

Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru not only retains the top spot but moves up one band from the 2022 rankings. Five Indian universities figure in the world’s top 500 institutions—and nine in the top 600—up from six in 2022.

Six Indian universities appear on the rankings for the first time. The Solanbased Shoolini University of Biotechnology and Management Sciences tops the list of first-time entrants.

‘Biased’ BBC and The Guardian

It’s more than a month since Leicester was rocked by an unprecedented wave of Hindu-Muslim violence, but the story refuses to go away with the two communities continuing to trade charges—each side presenting itself as the “real” victim.

In a new twist to the blame game, Hindu groups have launched a high-profile campaign to highlight what they describe as the “threat of Muslim extremism”. More than 150 Hindu organisations and temples have sent a letter to Downing Street alleging they feel under siege and seeking government intervention to ensure their security.

“It is frightening for the beleaguered Hindu community of Leicester ... sections of the Hindu community are being deprived of their basic rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” they said alleging an anti-Hindu media bias.

Singling out the BBC and The Guardian for “amplifying” misinformation on social media platforms, they wrote: “The media failed to explain why the damage suffered was almost exclusively by the Hindus.” A protest is planned against the BBC’s “Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu agenda”. A similar protest was held against The Guardian recently.

The backlash comes after The Sunday Times claimed that right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in Leicester received support from Far-Right British racist elements during the riots triggered by a row over an India-Pakistan cricket match. It also claimed that BJP’s Nupur Sharma was active in seeking white supremacists’ help to “call out blatant Islamic violence in Leicester” and saying “Hindus need allies, and we don’t have the luxury of perfection when Hinduphobia is so mainstream”.

And, lastly, once ‘elderly’ was a polite way to refer to old people. Now it is considered “ageist”. Manchester University has banned its use. The new term for old people is “mature individuals”.

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