No, Farage is not being racist about Sunak

His claim that the PM is unpatriotic clearly had nothing to do with race. Enough with the smears.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan

Topics Politics UK

Want to read spiked ad-free? Become a spiked supporter.

With a crushing General Election defeat for the Conservatives looming on the horizon, you could be forgiven for thinking things couldn’t get any worse for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak. But incredibly, they have.

Last week, Sunak decided to depart early from the 80th anniversary D-Day commemorations in Normandy, northern France. The prime minister spoke at a British-led event earlier in the day, but opted to miss out on the international ceremony so that he could pre-record an interview with ITV. Foreign secretary David Cameron filled in for him, and was photographed next to several world leaders in his absence.

Sunak is hardly known for his political nous, but even for him this was a new low. It is astonishing that he would snub an event commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Europe from the genocidal forces of Nazism – in favour of electioneering, no less. Surely he would have known that this would go down like a bucket of cold sick with most of the British public. His premature departure from the D-Day commemorations seems all the more ridiculous considering his plans to reintroduce a form of ‘national service’ in the unlikely event he remains in No10.

How on Earth did the UK end up being saddled with a prime minister who is comfortable being so disrespectful towards Britain’s history, heritage and traditions? Reform UK leader Nigel Farage made this point last week, arguing that Sunak doesn’t really ‘get’ Britain. Speaking to The Times, Farage accused the PM of having ‘no sense of our history, or feeling genuinely for the culture that is out there among ordinary people. He’s utterly disconnected in every way.’

Farage’s comments immediately sparked outrage. On the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuennsberg, he was asked if he was ‘trying, not very subtly, to emphasise the prime minster’s immigrant heritage’. On the same show, shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood accused him of engaging in ‘dog whistle’ politics. It was swiftly assumed that criticising Sunak for being unpatriotic must have racial connotations.

This is complete nonsense. Farage was asked explicitly in the Times interview whether he was referring to Sunak’s immigrant background. ‘No, no, no’, he replied. ‘Forty per cent of the contribution into world wars came from what we now call the Commonwealth.’ Yet the controversy rumbled on regardless.

For all the cynical cries of ‘racism’, Sunak’s premature departure from the D-Day commemorations was a slap in the face to many ethnic minorities as well as white Brits, whose forebears all took part in the Allied effort to defeat fascism. During the Second World War, the British Indian Army reached a remarkable size of 2.5million men – making it the largest all-volunteer force in history. Sunak’s race, ethnicity and religion are not barriers to him understanding the significance of the D-Day commemorations. There are plenty of ethnic-minority politicians who would have been honoured to spend more time with veterans and to have taken part in the afternoon ceremony.

What Farage was actually criticising was Sunak’s aloof cosmopolitanism. The truth is that our green-card-carrying, Silicon Valley-loving prime minister is a true ‘citizen of nowhere’. Having studied at Oxford and Stanford, and worked at Goldman Sachs, he is a fully fledged member of the well-moneyed, internationalist class that lacks any particularly deep connection to the nation. After all, this is the man who has been forced to deny he is planning to hop back to California post-election. Race has nothing to do with this, given there are plenty of white Brits who also fall into this same elite category. As Farage put it, Sunak is ‘utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how the ordinary folk in this country feel’.

It is clear as day that Sunak hasn’t had all that much contact with the small-c conservatism that characterises so many British communities, of all ethnicities. Despite what the racial identitarians may say, the majority of ethnic-minority Brits respect the armed forces and believe that Britain has, on the whole, been a force for good in the world. The D-Day snub is something many of them will have taken personally.

Rishi Sunak’s monumental misstep is proof of his profound disconnect from ordinary Brits. Farage was right to call it out.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today