A matter of representation


“We have a third prime minister?”


Yes, and I showed her his photograph.


“Oh, okay”.


For a soon to be six years old, it didn’t really mean anything to my daughter to see it was someone brown like us. When I told her that he was the first brown prime minister of the UK, she turned around a minute later and said, “Abba, I will be the second brown prime minister”.


“Well, you can still be the first brown woman prime minister.” And one who is a Muslim, at that.


Representation matters. Or does it? Especially when you don’t get to choose who represents you. I don’t think there is any group of people which knows this better than Muslims in the post-9/11 world.


As much as having a woman leader of state from a minority ethnic background is something we would like to see happening sooner than the next three or four decades and more often during that time, it will remain a big task.


The South Asian’s presence in the UK can safely be considered to have started becoming a part of the national fabric sometime after Partition. 75 years and 17 prime ministers before a South Asian. In contrast, it took 60 years between the time women became eligible to become MPs and one of them becoming a prime minister. Including the latest one to exit office, there have been 3 women in office in the last 40 plus years. And not a single person of Black heritage yet, even though their association with this country goes back much further than South Asians.


Of course, these facts are purely incidental and can mean nothing at all. Nonetheless, what’s quite certain is that even a quarter of a century later, it will be a big deal each time that a minority is accepted to high office. On a selfish note, let’s just hope that each one of them creates a legacy which makes it easier, rather than more difficult, for future generations to dream, aspire and achieve. Till then, let’s make the most of being in opposition.