UK’s Most Powerful Politicians Now Come From South Asian Heritage

Politicians of South Asian heritage appear to be having a moment in the British Isles, with politicians claiming Indian and Pakistani ancestry holding several of the islands’ most powerful political offices.

On Monday, Humza Yousaf was elected leader of Scotland’s ruling left-separatist Scottish National Party (SNP), and he will be sworn in as First Minister on Wednesday. 

In doing so, the Pakistani-born politician will join several other South Asians at the top of British politics, an impressive achievement in a country where some claim significant levels of institutional racism exist. As First Minister, Yousaf will lead Scotland’s devolved government, which is one of the United Kingdom’s four constituent home nations. 

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as a whole, is also of South Asian descent and was born in England to parents of Indian Punjabi ancestry, a region on the India-Pakistan border.

Yousaf is the first Muslim national leader in the United Kingdom, while Sunak is the first Hindu national leader. 

Meanwhile, Buddhist Suella Braverman, who like many Anglo-Indians has parents who came to the United Kingdom from India as a mobile administrative and middle class via the British Empire in Africa, administers home affairs for the Sunak government across the United Kingdom, including policing and border control.

In fact, Braverman is only Britain’s second Home Secretary of Indian origin. Priti Patel, a fellow Conservative politician, recently held the position of senior minister.

In addition to the national Prime Minister, the Scottish First Minister, and the Home Secretary — all of whom hold one of the highest offices in the land — the Mayor of London, the country’s capital and largest city, is of South Asian descent. Mayor Sadiq Khan was born in London to Pakistani parents who immigrated to the UK in the 1960s.

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Moreover, the geographical area of the British Isles is shared by the UK and another state, the Irish Republic. Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, is also of South Asian descent, his father being an Indian immigrant doctor.

Certainly, ‘Indians’ now have the highest median income in the United Kingdom, slightly ahead of ‘Chinese’ and ‘White’ in government statistics and comfortably ahead of ‘Other Asians’. Paradoxically — or perhaps not — ‘Pakistani’ rates lowest among those polled, with median incomes a full third lower than their ‘Indian’ Subcontinent neighbours.