THE next Prime Minister is either going to be a woman or a person of colour. If you listen very carefully, you can hear Piers Morgan somewhere on Fleet Street yelling furiously into the ether. 

More or less anything that makes misogynists and racists twitch, gets the green light from me. A tweet in response to one of my last columns said “This @melaniecarmen_ does not take a day off from trolling straight white dudes” and, frankly, I want that engraved onto my headstone when I die. Why then, does this race for PM not fill me with joy? 

Firstly, because both Rishi Sunak and Lizz Truss are weak candidates. Truss does not represent the best of what women in politics can offer. She’s far from the strongest female parliamentarian currently sitting in Westminster and her record – regardless of your opinion on her politics – is, at best, uninspiring.

I was actually sat in the conference hall during her infamous cheese speech and, as someone who has fallen flat on my face in mud on TV, I can honestly say watching that speech was the most embarrassing moment of my life.  

Sunak feels somewhat more able. Yet neither his impactless demeanour at the dispatch box nor his disdain for working class people (this is the clip if you haven’t yet had the horror of witnessing it) exactly make him an appealing prospect. 

The other reason for my lack of enthusiasm, is that both candidates seem to be completely silent on the fact that they will in fact be representing underrepresented groups.

I’ll admit that my disappointment is redolent of the double standard facing underrepresented groups throughout society – we don’t ever expect white men to represent the entirety of their kind.

There was no call on Boris Johnson to prove how great straight white men can be. There was no pressure on David Cameron not to let down others of his demographic. However, when it comes to women and people of colour, they have to carry the weight of expectation from those whom they represent too. 

Modern American politics exemplifies this double standard clearly. Trump had been accused of 26 incidents of ‘unwanted sexual contact’ and 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour and yet the Wotsit-coloured sex pest waltzed into the White House, inept children in tow.

Eight women have reported Biden for kissing, hugging or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. – claims which have stayed very much under the radar. And lets us not forget Clinton becoming the face of intern banging.

But had Barack Obama put a single toe out of line, he would have been out on his ear. A question mark hung over him simply because his middle name is Hussein – no intern was forced to go anywhere near his pecker, but his Arabic middle name had Karens flapping in disgust. 

This double standard exists because the underrepresented have fewer opportunities, and thus more to lose. They are expected to bring representation, as well as get on with the job in hand – a pressure no male white Prime Minister has to contend with.  

This pressure is somewhat heavier on Sunak than it is on Truss, because he will be ‘the first’. Should he become PM (which, at time of writing is not looking likely), there will be questions asked as to not only what he represents as the first British leader of colour, but also what he will do to improve the lives of those whom he is representing. If his record is anything to go by, the answer to both questions will be: not a lot. 

For Truss it is a bit different as she has two predecessors. However neither Thatcher nor May were exactly Spice Girls when it came to championing female progress. Will Truss be any different? My hopes are not high. 

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What Sunak and Truss have in common is that neither have paid any homage to the fact that they have the opportunity to advocate for their respective underrepresented groups, from the most powerful office in the country.

Sunak has barely mentioned being of Asian descent and the qualities that not being white give him as a candidate. Neither has Truss reached out to the women who feel that politics is still a patriarchal environment unsafe for them to enter. Given the slew of sleaze allegations made against the Conservatives this year, now would be a pretty good time for her to do so. 

They’re both scared to highlight what they represent, because they fear it’ll make them unpalatable to any gammon who may find such qualities alienating.

If you’re reading this thinking ‘they shouldn’t have to bring it up, it’s irrelevant’, then I fear you’re exactly the kind of person I’m talking about.

We should absolutely be bringing these matters up because equality and progress do matter and should be considered priorities. An ability to further equality should be openly discussed as an attribute, not shied away from. 

As someone who spent far too long trying to get ahead by making myself palatable – sometimes going to quite extreme lengths – I know first hand that you can deny and deny your minority status until you’re blue in the face, but the world will always remind you of it.

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Racism won’t go away because you purport not to care about it. Misogyny won’t bypass you because you’re ‘not like other girls’.

Voters and parliamentarians will see Sunak as a British Asian man, and Truss as a woman. Neither can avoid this by simply staying silent on the matter.  

Sure, either of them moving into No.10 will be some sort of step in the right direction in terms of equality, but whether either will actually take that opportunity to drive forward real progress…well, it’s not looking promising. 

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