TOP TEN TO WATCH IN POLITICS
In the powerful landscape of British politics, a diverse group of trailblazers has emerged, shaping the nation’s political and policy discourse. Among them, British Asian politicians have been major forces of change, by challenging conventions, breaking barriers and championing the interests of millions not only from their community, but also from across the UK.
We celebrate the accomplishments of ten extraordinary British Asian trailblazers in politics, who have fearlessly paved the way for a more inclusive and representative democracy, and have set an example for many to follow.
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar is a well-known face in Scottish politics today. He is the first Muslim and person of colour to head a major political party in the UK.
Sarwar’s career as a politician began in 2010, after which he has gone from strength to strength. He was appointed the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in 2016. Before becoming a politician, he worked as a dentist in Paisley for five years.
He has openly spoken about his experiences with racism throughout his childhood, which led him to introduce Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia and campaign against hatred and intolerance.
His plans for the future not only include his party’s continuing success but also serving the people of Scotland. He wants to promote unity as well as get rid of structural inequalities and injustice that people in Scotland face every day.
The first person of an ethnic minority background to be appointed the First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf has proved that there are no limits to what British Asians can achieve.
Born in Glasgow to immigrant parents of South Asian origin, Yousaf had to face racism as a Muslim kid. From a young age, he had the drive to bring about change and actively engaged in community work, played key roles in fundraisers for charities and worked for youth organisations. He stepped into the world of Scottish politics in 2005, and quickly became one of the strongest and experienced politicians in the scene.
He was appointed the First Minister of Scotland in 2023, prior to which he served as the Health Secretary. He has also overseen the justice and transport portfolios in the past. Yousaf is deeply engaged in legislative matters and policy development in Scotland, and diligently works towards creating a more inclusive society.
As only the second female Muslim MP in Scotland’s history, Anum Qaisar has become an inspiring figure in the eyes of many British Asian women who want to pursue a career in politics.
Born to Scottish Pakistani parents, she had to balance the aspects of her identity being a Scottish, Pakistani and a Muslim woman. After being discriminated against at school, Qaisar, with the support of her family, learned to stand up for herself and decided that she would become a trailblazer in her own right.
She is a strong supporter of the Scottish Independence and is working on a number of campaigns including paid menstrual leave for women, pushing the government to do more research on the Asian community in the UK and understanding the ongoing cost of living crisis having a disproportionate impact on people of colour.
Welsh politician Natasha Asghar made history as the first female ethnic minority member of the Senedd.
Before her election, she worked in the banking industry, in the National Assembly for Wales and in the media industry, presenting shows on television and radio.
Following her father Mohammad Asghar’s footsteps, who was the first ethnic minority and Muslim Member of the Welsh Assembly, she decided to join politics and stood for Newport East twice in the general elections. She also stood for Blaneau Gwent and Torfaen in previous Senedd elections, as well as a been a candidate for the European Parliament.
She is the first Member of the Senedd to be interviewed by GB News, and British Vogue has recognised her as ‘a force for change’. She is passionate about making a difference and strongly believes one should ‘not just talk the talk, but they should walk the walk too.’ With every step she takes, she leaves an indelible mark on the political landscape, inspiring generations to come with her resolute dedication to a world characterised by compassion, progress, and the pursuit of a harmonious future.
Alok Sharma is a highly-qualified politician of Indian origin who has held several posts in his career. He was a certified chartered accountant before entering politics and worked on a factory production line as well as tutored university students. He also has over 16 years of experience in the banking sector.
In May 2010, he successfully ran for the position of Conservative MP for Reading West. Sharma’s vision extends far beyond the boundaries of his constituency, embracing a global perspective that envisions a world brimming with harmony and cooperation.
He has expressed strong opinions about the climate crisis and was responsible for the UK government‘s ‘2020 Energy White Paper: Powering our net zero future in response to tackling climate change’. In 2021, Sharma assumed the full-time role of President for COP 26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. For his work in politics, he was knighted in the 2023 New Year Honours List.
In the realm of British politics, Ranil Jayawardena has made significant efforts in illuminating the path towards a better tomorrow. His unwavering passion, profound wisdom, and unyielding commitment to the greater good make him a true embodiment of leadership.
Born in London to parents of mixed Indian and Sri Lankan heritage, Jayawardena first stepped into politics by working in the office of North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot on a voluntary basis. He then served as a Councillor of the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane in Hampshire from 2008 to 2015. He was elected as the MP for North East Hampshire in the 2015 general election, which was the largest margin of victory by any Conservative MP in the election.
Jayawardena combined his service in local government with working for Lloyds Banking Group plc and is a freeman of the City of London. He also has wide ranging commercial experience from the pharmaceutical, construction, transport and leisure sectors.
Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti is an inspirational figure in British politics, who radiates an aura of distinction and noble purpose.
With an illustrious academic journey that culminated in the completion of a prestigious law degree at the esteemed University of Wales Aberystwyth, he has imbibed the wisdom of the ages and harnessed it to serve the greater good.
The son of an Imam in the UK, Chishti is a Pakistani born British politician from the Conservative Party. Prior to running for Parliament, Rehman served as a Councillor, representing both Gillingham and Rainham, demonstrating his deep-rooted connection with the community he grew up in.
He actively supports several local charitable causes and participated in the fundraising activities for Cancer Research. He has championed the rights of ethnic minority communities and set up APPG for Community Engagement to address issues faced by diverse communities in the UK.
A member of the Labour Party, Lisa Nandy has been serving as the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since 2021.
Born in Manchester to parents of mixed Indian and English background, she studied politics at Newcastle University and public policy at Birkbeck, University of London. After that, she went on to worked as an aide to Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard, a researcher for homelessness charity Centrepoint and a senior policy adviser at The Children’s Society. Stepping onto the hallowed ground of public service, Lisa Eva Nandy fearlessly championed the cause of the marginalised.
She then served as a Labour Councillor for the Hammersmith Broadway ward on Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council. After an elaborate political career in the Parliament for a decade, she stood as a candidate in the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, coming in third place, and was subsequently appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. After a reshuffle in November 2021, she was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
A trailblazer in her pursuit of justice and equality, Rupa Huq has dedicated her life’s work to breaking down barriers and dismantling systemic discrimination. She recognises that the strength of a society lies in its inclusivity, and thus, she has made it her mission to champion the rights and welfare of ethnic minority communities.
Born to parents who moved to Britain from East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), she was a senior lecturer in sociology at Kingston University. In 2015, she was Elected as the Labour Member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton.
Huq actively engages in policymaking to shed light on issues that have historically been overlooked. Through her advocacy, she aims to create a society that values and embraces cultural differences, and promotes equality. Beyond her parliamentary duties, she actively connects with communities, offering support and lending a listening ear. Her dedication goes beyond rhetoric, as she actively works towards dismantling systemic barriers and empowering others.
A Conservative MP, Saqib Bhatti is a prominent figure in British politics who stands as a steadfast advocate for his constituents and a proponent of positive change. He started his career as an accountant and in 2018 became the youngest person and first Muslim to become the President of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. He also launched ‘Muslims for Britain’ and is credited with delivering the Leave the EU (European Union) vote in Birmingham.
He has been the Member of Parliament for Meriden since the 2019 general election and the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Business since September 2022.
He actively advocates for policies that promote social harmony, inclusivity and equal opportunities for all. By promoting these causes, he works towards building a society that is fair, inclusive, and supportive of diverse backgrounds.