PICTURED: James Cleverly
TWO WEEKS ago, Boris Johnson made me Chairman of the Conservative party, one of the proudest moments of my life.
Yet since then I have been astonished to see the vitriol from senior members of the Labour Party and the far-left that has been directed at me and fellow cabinet ministers Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Kwasi Kwarteng and Rishi Sunak.
We have committed the apparent sin of being BAME Conservatives and having the audacity to join the new prime minister’s cabinet.
As a country, we should be united in our celebration of the greater diversity we now see in senior positions in government.
As a new member of the cabinet I am committed to sending the lift down – opening doors for others and using my new platform to help to inspire the next generation of ethnic minority politicians.
Yet instead, members of the Labour Party are hijacking this proud moment in our history to say, “you aren’t good enough, you aren’t one of us”.
It would seem that the Labour Party only wants representative government, one that reflects modern Britain, if you agree with them. But that isn’t democracy, it’s dictatorship. My cabinet colleagues and I have been overtly and specifically targeted for abuse because we are BAME politicians. We have been called “sell-outs” and many other things – far worse – besides.
The ironic thing about these attacks is that they have come from the far-left yet directly mirror the far-right tropes they detest – suggesting that our appointments to the cabinet are tokenistic and are not held on merit.
AMBITION: Corbyn’s claim that his party can ‘unlock’ the talent of BAME people is not reflected by history, says James Cleverly
It is the Conservative Party that has appointed twice as many BAME people to the cabinet than Labour has ever done. A natural consequence of being the party of meritocracy.
It is patronising and, frankly, racist to only view BAME people as a collective, homogenous group. It denies the rich tapestry of faiths and communities we are fortunate to have make up the backbone of our United Kingdom.
It is precisely because of our multi-faith, multi-race democracy that we have a huge diversity of thought, opinion and political belief in our country – and it is this very fact which guarantees robust debate and sustains a healthy democracy. Yet, it would appear that many Labour MPs only want to see more diversity in senior positions in our government if those people in senior positions agree with what they say.
But diversity comes in many forms – not least diversity of thought. The Labour Party should not assume that it speaks for all ethnic minority people. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn has previously said that only his Labour Party can be trusted to “unlock” the talent of people from our BAME communities.
But it is the Conservative Party which has a long and proud history as the party of opportunity and meritocracy – ensuring that aspiration, ambition and hard work are rewarded whoever you are, wherever you come from and whatever you believe in.
Talent does not need to be “unlocked” – it needs to be recognised and promoted. Actions always speak louder than words. And despite the attacks that we have faced recently, I hope our new cabinet appointments show young people from all our BAME communities, across the length and breadth of our country, that there should be nothing holding them back.
With these new role models, they can see that everyone is able to go as far as their hard work and talent can take them.
James Cleverly is the newly appointed chairman of the Conservative party