Identity Politics in the Conservative Party

The leadership election has brought about a wave of Conservatives flexing about how diverse and inclusive the Conservative Party is compared to Labour. Among the first days of the elections, there were endless tweets about how the party has the most diverse leadership election in history.

Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine tweeted that the reasons why he’s proud to be a Conservative MP include “first trans MP” and “the most diverse cabinet in history.”

The online publication Spiked, released an article on how “The Tory leadership race is the most diverse in history. And this has sent the left into meltdown.”

The founder of Tories for Equality tweeted: “I feel proud that British children today, whatever their race, can look at the talented & diverse slate of conservative  leadership candidates & think “I could do that”. I didn’t have that growing up under the U.K. Labour government. Proud of my country & proud of my party.”

This is a new attempt to call the left the real racists while celebrating how greatly diverse the Conservatives are. It appears that too many Conservative party members truly believe that to defeat the libs you must become one. Die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

This is not to say that a candidates’ ethnicity and gender may be a key aspect of their campaign. After all, there’s merit to having a story of being an outsider or overcoming a struggle related to their identity. However, these MPs have been completely tokenised by those on the right. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done to these identity obsessed Conservatives, as long as their identity is good optics. And despite the attempted revision of history, this is not new for the Conservative Party.

The Conservatives have ridiculed the Labour Party’s anti meritocratic all female shortlists. However, it appears that the Conservatives are also guilty of identity politics hiring…

Under Cameron’s government, there was an active attempt to make the government less pale, male and stale. From David Cameron’s own account in a recent article, he wrote for The Times:

“I immediately froze the selection of Conservative candidates. I said that from our broader candidates’ list we would draw up a priority list, of which half would be female and a large proportion would be from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Associations in winnable seats would have to choose from this “A-list”, and they would be encouraged to select candidates through “open primaries” that were open to non-party members.”

Cameron admits that the call for positive discrimination was because “this wasn’t happening naturally”. Despite denying this was an act of positive discrimination, and instead dubbing it as “positive action”, Cameron states that “We headhunted great candidates from ethnic minorities and pushed them forwards.”

Despite Cameron’s doublethink to frame choosing candidates for the sake of their ethnicity as meritocracy exemplifies how the party has been poisoned by Blairism. How can the Conservative Party differentiate themselves away from Labour’s positive discrimination when it can be seen they acting in a similar nature?

Of course, this isn’t to state that the party leadership candidates aren’t deserving. The strongest, popular candidates are those from minority ethnic identities and/or women. It would be doing them an injustice to only celebrate them for their identity rather than what they believe. While the Westminster bunch pander to identity politics, it is clear that the party membership is focused on what a candidate wants advocates for more than the colour of their skin or what is between their legs.

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