In the film ‘Kramer versus Kramer’ where a marriage is ending in a bitter divorce the father, facing losing custody of their son, asks the court to, ‘Show me the law that says the is the mother the better parent by virtue of her sex?”
In much the same way, it has always baffled me is how is it, that just by dint of someone being a woman or B.A.M.E, that they are in somehow imbued with greater insight into the concerns of the electorate, than a white male?
It seems to me that other factors play a far more important role. What did their parents do? Were they affluent, or did they claim benefits? As a child what were their parent’s aspirations for them? What school did they attend? Was there an expectation that they’d do to university? Indeed, if they did they go to university, which one was it? What was their peer group there and what is it now? Have they ever had a job outside of politics and if so, what was it? And so on.
Factors such as this – social one’s – I would contend, could have more of an influence on one’s outlook than mere gender or skin colour alone. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that sexism or racism aren’t daily experiences faced by millions of people everyday, in countless ways, and these can and will have an influence. What I am saying is that that the one’s life chances are massively helped or hindered by the womb you happen to pop out from. That’s luck, nothing more. Everything that happens to one from that point on depends on that random act of chance. Someone born into life of comparative privilege, comfort and ease, will not, I contend, by dint of being a woman or B.A.M.E, be a better candidate for election solely on that basis.
I was struck by this truism on Friday night, whilst watching ‘The Leaders Debate’ on the BBC. Consider please Rishi Sunak, who was standing in for the interview averse Boris’s Johnson. A look at Wikipedia tells us,
Rishi Sunak was born on 12 May 1980 in Southampton Hampshire to Yashvir and Usha Sunak. His father Yashvir was a GP and his mother Usha was a pharmacist who ran a local pharmacy. His early education was at the independent school Winchester College, where he was head boy. Sunak then studied Philosophy, Politics, Economics at Lincoln College Oxford. After graduating, he obtained an MBA from Stanford University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
All that tells us is that his parents instilled in him the importance of academic achievement as a means of improving one’s life chances, and had made some lifestyle choices in order to send him to private school. Isn’t that what a parent should do, want a better life for their child then they had for themselves? His parents might have managed to get him a bursary or he could have earned a scholarship? Well done them if they did. Going to a public school and then Oxford doesn’t in and of itself necessarily provide any clues as what his future might be.
He worked as an analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs. Sunak then worked for hedge fund management firm The Children’s Investment Fun, becoming a partner in September 2006. He left in November 2009to join other former colleagues at new hedge fund firm Theleme Partners which launched in October 2010 with an initial $700 million.
How is his background, education and employment history is in any way markedly different to any other Conservative Cabinet Minister? When I listened to him on Friday night, he sounded just like all the other posh boys who think that inexplicably they have an inalienable right to govern. That isn’t to doubt him to be fine and decent chap, but does a life of relative ease and privilege – relative to that endured by most people – give that much of an insight into the everyday concerns of everyday people? I’m not suggesting it precludes it, but I am suggesting it makes it much more unlikely.
We do not live in an egalitarian society, one where talent will out. A disproportionally small amount of the population go to a public school or to a Oxford or Cambridge, but of those that do, a disproportionally large amount of them will become MP’s, Cabinet Ministers and Prime Ministers. The irony is that even as we’re told we do live in an egalitarian society and that where you were born and to whom needn’t affect ones chances, state schools will see their funding cut even more, even more parents will turn to public schools for their children. Well those who can afford to anyway.
One might argue that as a white, heterosexual male, I’ve been the recipient of white privilege and therefore know not of what I write. Certainly there hasn’t been much white privilege in my life, but then am I best placed to judge?