Britain's divide-and-rule tactic may sound like an old relic but its long lasting impact continues to shape the opinions of a politically sensitive generation of former British subjects.
Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on a simple, often repeated campaign slogan of just three words “Get Brexit Done” after three tortuous years of Brexit deadlock, gaining him and the Conservative party, the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher.
However, this victory is also a triumph for nationalism sweeping democracies across the globe. Johnson is riding the same bandwagon as the likes of USA’s Trump and India’s Modi.
This wave of nationalism has also been captured especially on how diaspora of the former colonies of the British empire, the so-called Commonwealth voted in the last election. We can read the 2019 general elections as a continuity of the legacy of the British colonial rule, especially as it applies to the spread of votes between Labour and the Conservatives from previously colonised diaspora. The case in point here is African and South Asian diaspora voting intentions.
That vote spread reflects the British divide and rule tactic, creating a class of privileged and outcasts. As a result of this policy, the Asian colonies were hailed superior while African colonies were only given consideration insofar as they contributed to the empire’s coffers through resource extraction.
Indian presence in Africa and other parts of the world is due to British Empire. The British use of divide and rule approach meant that Africans and Indians were subjected to controlled antagonisms managed by the creation of racial hierarchies. Indians were placed above Africans in political and economic spheres. Indians whether in Uganda or South Africa were afforded a special relationship with the British.
This racial hierarchy between British colonial subjects translated into the ‘privileged’ voting Conservatives, and the ‘oppressed’ voting Labour.
This is in itself, considering British politics, Conservatives are considered the party of the rich, traditional and the privileged, while Labour is the party of the ‘many’, the liberal left and the (dispossessed). The Conservative managed to rebrand themselves and are now getting the vote of the white working classes. However, the approach toward the African diaspora has not changed. Old racial hierarchies have remained intact and have been very evident during Johnson’s campaign.
When it comes to courting the diaspora, the Prime Minister made no effort to reach out to the African migrant vote. However, for Indian diaspora, he rode on the rise of nationalism in India. "I know Prime Minister Modi is building a new India. And, we in the UK government will support him fully in his endeavour," said the Prime Minister during a visit to a Hindu temple in London. The Prime Minister had already alienated Muslims who form a very big part of the Asian community in the UK.
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