Empire strikes back – UK, Scotland, Ireland headed by South Asian descent leaders

Dr Tausif Malik

The United Kingdom, Scotland, and Ireland have been historically known for their predominantly white leadership. However, in a stunning turn of events, these nations are now being led by politicians of South Asian descent. This unprecedented shift in leadership has been dubbed the “Empire Strikes Back” by many political analysts and commentators.

In less than six months’ time, Rishi Sunak has become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Leo Varadkar is back for a second term as Ireland’s PM, and now Humza Yousaf has been elected as Scotland’s next First Minister. The common factor between all three leaders is that their family roots lie in the Indian subcontinent.

In the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, a British-Indian politician, Sunak, who was born in Southampton to immigrant parents from Kenya and India, is the first person of color to hold this position. He has been widely praised for his handling of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and his efforts to boost the UK economy.

In Ireland, Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant, served as the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 2017 to 2020. He is credited with playing a key role in securing a Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Humza Yousaf is another prominent politician of South Asian descent who is making his mark on the political landscape of Scotland. He is recently was elected by Scottish National Partly to replacing Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister of Scotland which is equivalent to the Prime Minister position. Yousaf, who was born in Glasgow to Pakistani immigrant parents, is a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and currently serves as the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government.

The oppostion leader in Ireland is Anas Sarwar who, was elected as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in February 2021. Sarwar, who is of Pakistani descent, is the first person from an ethnic minority background to lead a major political party in Scotland. He has made it his mission to address issues of social justice and inequality in Scotland, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise of these South Asian leaders in the UK, Scotland, and Ireland represents a significant shift in the political landscape of these nations. It also reflects the growing diversity of these countries and the increasing influence of minority communities in their political systems.

In fact there have been UK politicians of Bangladeshi descent such as Rushanara Ali – she was the first person of Bangladeshi descent to be elected to the UK Parliament. She has been the Labour Party MP for Bethnal Green and Bow since 2010 and has held various positions, including Shadow Minister for International Development and Shadow Minister for Education. The British Bangladeshi would be waiting for a star politician to break the glass ceiling and reach on the top.

However, this shift has not been without its challenges. Some have criticized these leaders for not fully representing the interests of their communities or for not doing enough to address issues such as racism and discrimination. Others have accused them of being “tokens” who have been promoted simply because of their ethnicity.

Despite these challenges, the emergence of these South Asian leaders in the UK, Scotland, and Ireland is a clear indication that the political power structures of these nations are changing. As these leaders continue to make their mark on the political stage, they are likely to inspire others from minority backgrounds to pursue careers in politics and to challenge the status quo. The Empire may be striking, but it is doing so in a more diverse and inclusive way than ever before.

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