Today is the day, nearly a year in anticipation has the British government decided to act towards securing the nation’s borders amidst record covid infections. Not a very bold move, not a very timely move but welcomed massively by many of us looking to compartmentalize the pandemic and move forward.
At the helm of this decision is Priti Sushil Patel, home secretary and immigration aficionado who up until the past few years was a relatively unknown MP for Witham in Essex. However, her rise through the conservative barracks has been nothing short of premeditated in a sense. Scoped out by Conservative party leader William Hague as a press secretary in the noughties to becoming an integral figure of the “new right” under David Cameron’s premiership, Patel has undoubtedly contributed to the revival of Conservatism in the wake of the Blairite era.
At the age of 48, considerably young in political terms, you would be forgiven for thinking that Patel has been handpicked, manicured, and reared for this level of notoriety; being seen as the “token right wing Asian”, yet this representation of Patel is patronising as is this idea of tokenism towards other minorities pushing the conservative narrative. Let us first note that Patel is a Thatcherite by declaration and has directly benefitted from a Conservative administration in the early 70’s who accepted 27,000 Asians after Idi Amin of Uganda ordered the expulsion of all ethnic Asians from the nation. She is a conservative through and through – staunchly opposing gay marriage and advocating for a more robust criminal justice system.
No doubt about it has Patel gone through the trials and tribulations to get to where she has today.
Not without controversy has she achieved this and many have criticised her for switching between governmental roles back to private positions for food giant Diageo or even consultancy and so forth. Moreover, recent accusations of bullying and a disdain for ministerial code as we saw in 2017 regarding unsolicited meetings with Israeli officials have brought Patel under intense scrutiny in the past. Martin Kettle of the Guardian spoke of Patel as “one of the embodiments of the Tory right’s current capture of the party” further adding “it is why she is still there” further assuming her political accolades were thin on the ground.
If you catch my drift, many of these accusations against Patel have similarly been thin on the ground, this is not an ardent defence and I watch agonisingly, a continually unclear stance on immigration reform, a lack of real depth when she speaks on policing protections and even ending the extortionate beer tax (arguably the biggest issue facing our country today!). Nevertheless, we are yet to see the real Priti Patel if you ask me – there is a huge grey area between what her real intentions are and how she is being portrayed by many neo-liberal and progressive outlets.
Until this grey area becomes a little more visible, we will then be able to embellish her with the future prime minister label. To many, this is obvious next step for Priti and countless emanating leaders distance themselves from key decisions to avoid scrutiny for much greater pursuits. This is where Theresa May fell flat – battered by the Windrush scandal and bashed by the left for the “go home” advertisements, she was a sitting duck before she had even assumed office, something which Patel seems keen to avoid.
Hold your horses and place your bets – today’s announcement could be a watershed moment in her political career and I must say a good play indeed. If Boris is the skipper, sailing towards a world record in COVID-19 cases, Patel is steering us into a safe harbour. Game on I say.