25 October 2022 marked not only the festival of Diwali but, more significantly, the arrival of an East African Asian to the Prime Ministership of the country – an unprecedented development in British constitutional history.
If I am not leaping for joy at Britain’s “Obama” moment in Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister, it is because it is tinged by the distaste for a politician who is as determined to restrict immigration to this country as his parents were determined to emigrate to the country he’s now leading. I simply cannot understand how some children of immigrants can snub their own personal histories. Epitomised most sharply by yet another EastAf, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
What is it about these East African Asians that drives them so? Does their relentless ambition suggest another aspect of migration – the constant drive to prove oneself? Having left the original homeland in the Indian subcontinent at the end of the 19th century, the pioneering Asian immigrants felt impelled to allay feelings of betrayal by remaking themselves – more educated, more money, more status. Full of hubris, like Oedipus, out to make themselves anew in a foreign land. A hubris imparted to successive generations and ignited afresh by migration to Britain in the 1970s.
So while Sunak’s ascension carries also the irony that the long end-of-Empire days of Britain’s current decline are being presided over by a child of Empire (as an Indian politician claimed, this is the “revenge of history”), it lays bare the hubris that is the DNA of so many current politicians: not so much service to the nation as service to self. A case of “I’m alright, Jack” – with the caricature of a trade union official played not by Peter Sellers but by Rishi Sunak.