The snotty headline on the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times, “Sunak’s Ascent Is a Breakthrough for Diversity, With Privilege,” proves conservatives will never pass the media’s lopsided diversity tests.
The game is rigged. Even when the UK Conservative Party makes history with Rishi Sunak, the first Hindu and first “person of color” to rise to prime minister, instead of indulging in the usual paeans to racial progress, the Times instead sat on its hands and spouted Labour Party talking points and whining about “privilege.” (The UK Labour Party, for all its guff about diversity, has yet to elect or appoint anyone but a white male prime minister.)
Reporters Megan Specia and Isabella Kwai opened Tuesday’s front-page piece with a charming, non-ideological bit of scene setting about Hindus in Britain celebrating the holiday Diwali and also “something new.”
….the news that Rishi Sunak, the eldest son of a doctor and pharmacist of Indian descent, will become prime minister, the first person of color to hold Britain’s highest political office.
But the mood turned dour; there were social grievances to be aired.
Mr. Sunak, 42, has always expressed pride in his Indian roots, and he regularly points to his upbringing as the son of immigrants. But he has not put his heritage at the center of his political message, focusing instead on his experience in finance, and the British news media has not dwelled on his ethnicity.
Instead, it is Mr. Sunak’s elite education and extreme wealth that have drawn scrutiny -- and become something of a political liability in a society famously divided by tensions over class.
“We are very proud and very excited, being Hindus from India,” said Priya Gohil, who was just leaving the temple with her family in the borough of Harrow after offering Diwali prayers. “It’s just very relatable.”
What was less relatable to many was the air of privilege attached to him.
Mr. Sunak attended the elite Winchester College, a private boarding school in Britain, then went to Oxford University and Stanford. He made a fortune in finance, working for Goldman Sachs and two hedge funds before his political career began. He is also married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of one of India’s wealthiest men.
Skepticism about his wealth has followed him throughout his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party, though many of his predecessors have also come from privileged backgrounds. The issue remains resonant even after he emerged on Monday as the winner of the contest to lead the country.
What makes this especially galling is that the Times pushed a similar theme in September, upon the ascent (before the quick downfall) of the previous Conservative PM Liz Truss, who emerged victorious after the resignation of PM Boris Johnson. The Times couldn’t attack "retrograde" Truss’s new cabinet for being lily-white, so it attacked it as “diverse in background but not in ideology.”