Yes Prime Minister Mary Elizabeth Truss, says UK
Mary Elizabeth Truss (47), will be the third woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Mary Elizabeth Truss (47), is all set to become the third woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In a ballot of Conservative Party voters, she managed to trounce Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of Exchequer (the British term for what we understand as the Union Finance Minister) by a convincing margin.
Rishi Sunak is five years younger than her, and from a political perspective , was regarded by many as a greenhorn. At least that was the reason that many political observers and analysts felt contributed to his lack of success.
The other noteworthy feature in this remarkable election was an almost total lack of rancour between the two candidates .They had fundamental differences in the differing prescriptions they had to offer, but the political debate was conducted in a spirit of camaraderie and would indeed bring credit to the Conservative Party.
It is pointless to draw an analogy with what happens in the Indian political arena where the interactions between those seeking office is conducted in the most graceless manner. But the last two presidential elections in the United States had also debased the entire process.
I had lived in the British Isles (United Kingdom and the Irish Republic) for a long time many decades ago. And for people like myself, following what has been happening in that part of the world has been most instructive.
I commenced my medical career in the Irish Republic. In those days , the Catholic Church enjoyed a very special place in the Irish psyche . Even consuming meat on Fridays was, until it was revoked by the Vatican in the mid 70's, proscribed.
Divorce and abortion were a strict no-no and homosexuality was considered one of the most heinous sins. I recall being invited to a general practitioner's place for a meal. He had the same first name as myself and his wife, who had given birth to a baby boy , was an Irish nurse. I soon left Ireland and lost touch with them.
Lo and behold! About three years ago, I read in the newspapers that this baby boy who was born at the time had become the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. While a half Indian would certainly not have any chance of becoming the Prime Minister of the country in my days, there were some other very remarkable changes that I could not have imagined in my lifetime.
Divorce and abortion have been legalised in that country and most astounding was the fact that Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was a declared homosexual who was living with his partner. The Irish Republic has certainly come a very long way. And it is even more creditable as I do not think it neighbour, the United Kingdom is fully ready as yet to accept a homosexual Prime Minister! Ireland had certainly won the race on that account.
However anyone with even the most minor familiarity of British society in the 70's and the 80's would find today's ambience as unreal as Rip van Winkle did after his twenty year hibernation.
Sure, Britain had accepted a woman Prime Minister in the late 70's . But it was unimaginable for a coloured person to even think of breaking the glass ceiling. The petty racism e.g. non entry into public places and restaurants had of course disappeared.
But the racial undercurrents were strong and deeply entrenched at every level and almost always covertly disadvantaged the coloured section of British society. And this was prevalent despite the United Kingdom having perhaps the most stringent anti racial statutes in the world.
The Runnymede Trust , a highly respected body, brought out a report in the 80's that indicated that while overt racism was more or less non-existent in Britain , the one institution it was widely practised and openly so was the Conservative Party. And that was widely acknowledged by most impartial observers.
Maggie Thatcher had repeatedly stoked up racism by repeatedly declaring that the Caucassian British were feeling 'swamped' by the coloured immigrants. Senior Conservative MP's like Ronald Bell and Julian Amery ( whose father was born in Gorakhpur) always used disparaging and insulting epithets about the coloured population.
Enoch Powell had been thrown out of the Conservative Party during the Heath era. He was always close to Thatcher as was the senior journalist Peregrine Worsthorne, who never used to lose any opportunity to spout very insulting epithets towards his coloured countrymen. The notorious Harvey Proctor enjoyed massive support in his party whenever he came out with racist diatribes.
John Carlisle was always more concerned with preservation of apartheid in South Africa and he had the Prime Minister years. And Thatcher , despite voicing customary denunciation of the apartheid regime always went extra mile to work for the amoral apartheid regime and its supporters.
That is not to say that the Labour Party was free of racists; it certainly had its own share . But at least in my time , it was always covert. Liberals altogether had a better record but they were never seen as serious contenders of power in those days.
And it must be pointed out that there were a handful of Conservatives as well who did loathe racism with passion. Most notable among them was Peter Walker. My own MP, Sir George Young was genuinely appalled by racist practices. And Micheal Heseltine was always very candid about his anti racist instincts .
But they were only a handful ! That is why it was all the more remarkable that of all the political parties in Britain, it was the Conservative Party that had seriously considered a coloured person as a leader.
I recall watching a popular television programme called the Question Time in the mid 80's moderated by Sir Robin Day. This question was asked, "given that it was the Conservatives who had provided the first Jewish Prime Minister and the first female Prime Minister, would it be the Conservatives who would provide the first coloured Prime Minister?" It was of course a loaded question but the then Solicitor General, Patrick Mayhew who was on the panel , nodded vigorously.
Going back into history, I was intrigued to discover that despite the strong colonial instincts that guided the Conservative Party , it did sponsor a coloured MP in the House of Commons way back in 1895. His name was Mancherjee Bhownaggree and he remained an MP for 11 years.
But it must not be forgotten that he strongly supported the colonial positions unlike Dadabhai Naoroji (Liberal Party ) and Shapurji Saklatvala (Communist and later Labour Parties), the two other non Conservative coloured MP's in the House of Commons. The Party had to wait for another 74 years before Jonathan Sayeed , a coloured Conservative MP, entered the House of Commons.
It must be stated therefore that the Conservative Party has travelled a long road. Boris Johnson himself was married to a half-Indian for many years which would have been unthinkable in our days. And as it has been said that the best parameter of vanishing racism is when the medical and cricket hierarchy come from the minority community.
England has had a cricket captain of Indian origin. And it has had a number of presidents of the British Medical Association of Indian origin, the latest being Dinesh Bhugra who also happens to be a self declared homosexual. In that regard . Sir Patrick Mayhew's prophecy appears to be coming true although it has not yet been realised.
The other very notable feature of this election was the family background of Liz Truss, which was unknown to me until a few days ago. I discovered that Liz Truss is the daughter of John Truss, who was a professor of mathematics during my teaching days in Leeds. Nothing unusual about that -except that I vividly recall John being a very stringent Labour Party supporter (as was his wife, a nurse at my hospital).
In fact, more than once John Truss openly declared that he regarded Margaret Thatcher as the biggest curse to have visited the United Kingdom in the 20th century. Clearly he loathed Thatcher and that too viscerally. And now we have his daughter heading the party that accords iconic stature to Thatcher !
There are several lessons we can learn from what has happened in the British Isles! But do our politicians have the humility to acknowledge that they need to learn as well? The jury is out.