Liz Truss’s Cabinet: her inner circle shows “the wrong kind of diversity”

September 18, 2022 • 9:15 am

If you read the NYT, you should definitely subscribe to the columns of Pamela Paul, now an op-ed writer but the paper’s former book-review editor.  This site has highlighted three of her columns: “The far Left and far Right agree on one thing: women don’t count“, “The limits of lived experience“, and “She wrote a dystopian novel. What happened next was pretty dystopian.” As you can tell from the titles, Paul is anti-woke, or at least “heterodox,” which probably puts her in bad odor with other NYT staffers. But I’m sure she doesn’t care: she’s been with the paper since 2013, and her job is secure.

This week we have another column by Paul bucking the NYT tide. Click to read.

Like Paul, I’m not “politically aligned with [Liz] Truss on most issues”. The new Prime Minister is a Tory, and I think most of her views are dire. But what I’m highlighting today is that the coverage of Truss’s new cabinet, which is as ethnically “diverse” as one could hope for, isn’t good enough for the Left. That’s because it’s the “wrong kind of diversity”, for the “diverse” members of Truss’s inner circle, while none of them are white men, are still conservatives. And that caused the press to beef (Paul doesn’t mention her own paper’s beefing, which I’ve put below). From the column:

But even amid all the pomp, one news item out of Britain has attracted curiously little attention. Liz Truss, the new Conservative prime minister, announced her cabinet, and for the first time ever, not a single member of the inner circle — what’s referred to as the Great Offices of State — is a white man.

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, is the daughter of Kenyan and Mauritian immigrants. The mother of the foreign minister, James Cleverly, emigrated from Sierra Leone. The new chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, was born to Ghanaian parents.

One could write a column saying “Truss appoints a diverse Cabinet,” but that wouldn’t sell papers, nor would “Truss appoints a conservative cabinet.” No, the press had to beef that the diversity was the wrong kind of diversity:

Did the left break into applause? Were there hosannas throughout progressive Twitter heralding this racial, ethnic and gender diversity as a step forward for society?

Not exactly.

Instead, the change was dutifully relayed, often with caveats. “Liz Truss’s cabinet: diverse but dogmatic,” noted The Guardian. The new team was criticized as elite, the product of schools like Eton, Cambridge and the Sorbonne. These people aren’t working class, others pointed out. They don’t sufficiently support the rights of those seeking asylum in Britain or policies that address climate change.

Perhaps knowing which side her bread is buttered on, Paul doesn’t mention her own paper’s column from ten days earlier:

And that column isn’t that different from the one in the Guardian. A quote from Castle and Landler:

Still, Ms. Truss’s inner circle, while progressive in its ethnic makeup, also has a hard ideological edge, which critics say makes it unlikely to pursue policy friendlier to Britain’s minority population, or for refugees arriving on the country’s shores.

Indeed, some argue that the diversity among cabinet ministers gives Ms. Truss the cover to pursue even more radical approaches, such as a plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda — a policy now the responsibility of Suella Braverman, the new home secretary, whose father came to Britain from Kenya in 1968.

“There’s a difference that makes no difference, and a change that leads to no change,” said Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, citing as one example the Conservatives’ immigration policy and the Rwanda plan.

And the cabinet was also criticized for being guilty of MERITOCRACY, the dreaded m-word which is increasingly pejorative because it is often at odds with diversity. Here we have a diverse cabinet chosen for quality—a meritocratic cabinet—but it’s the wrong kind of meritocracy, too. 


“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view. Even before Truss’s cabinet was finalized, one member of the Labour opposition tweeted, “Her cabinet is expected to be diverse, but it will be the most right-wing in living memory, embracing a political agenda that will attack the rights of working people, especially minorities.”

Another Labour representative wrote: “It’s not enough to be a Black or ethnic minority politician in this country or a cabinet member. That’s not what representation is about. That’s actually tokenism.”

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn. Is that fair?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. In science, one can get into trouble for promoting hiring or professional advancement based on merit, because, as everyone knows, it sometimes conflicts with “equity.”  If you write an article saying that scientists should be valued by their merit rather than their ideology, as my friend Anna Krylov did in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, you get a ton of pushback. Pushback is okay, of course (it’s free speech), but what astounded Anna, and me, was the dogged and ubiquitous insistence that meritocracy is bogus—just another tactic that white supremacists use to keep minorities down. (This is why, of course, standardized tests and grades are being eliminated left and right by American colleges.)

And in Paul’s column we see the denigration of meritocracy extends to politics Of course Truss would appoint a conservative Cabinet, and judging by the reaction, it was a high-quality Cabinet. But it was a Conservative cabinet. I’d rather have one with more liberals, but seriously, what can you expect from a Tory PM?

Beyond the unjustified denigration of meritocracy, the other point is that in both the UK and the US, you can’t expect someone to hold a certain set of views because of their ethnicity or skin color or “race”.  You’re supposed to, of course, but it doesn’t always work out that way. In America, plenty of smart black people are “heterodox,” including John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Wilfred Riley, and Coleman Hughes. Because they don’t agree with the likes of Ibram Kendi or Ta Nehisi Coates, they’re seen as traitors to the “black cause,” or even as “self-hating blacks.”  But the fact is that all these men have had thoughtful and intelligent things to say—they just don’t agree with others of similar pigmentation.

When are we going to learn that we need to judge arguments based on their merit, not on who’s advancing them? That’s elementary, and an extension of Dr. King’s famous (and derided) statement about not judging people by race.

Further, ignoring the diversity of opinion among members of a group can have consequences—political ones.  Paul notes this:

Black and other ethnic minority voters in Britain aren’t uniformly lefty, either. They cast 20 percent of their votes for Conservatives in 2019.

A similar diversity of political opinion among minorities exists in the United States, and it bewilders the left. An increasing number of Latinos are running as and voting for Republican candidates. Donald Trump got more votes from ethnic minorities in 2020 than he did in 2016. Black men’s support for Trump increased by six percentage points the second time around. And that was after the murder of George Floyd, an event assumed to have galvanized many minority voters on the left.

In his prescient 1991 book, “Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby,” the law professor Stephen Carter decried many of the assumptions around diversity nascent at that time — including the notion that racial or ethnic minorities are expected to think as a group, not as individuals. He bemoaned “the idea that Black people who gain positions of authority or influence are vested with a special responsibility to articulate the presumed views of other people who are Black — in effect, to think and act and speak in a particular way, the Black way — and that there is something peculiar about Black people who insist on doing anything else.”

It’s been three decades since Carter’s book was published, and that lamentable assumption has only gained purchase. As he pointed out then: “In an earlier era, such sentiments might have been marked down as frankly racist. Now, however, they are almost a gospel for people who want to show their commitment to equality.”

The assumption that your ethnicity gives you special authority to talk about race, and that you have to advance an ethnically “correct” viewpoint, may bring universities to grief as well. In fact, it already has, for “studies” departments pump out ideologically uniform products who go on to advance only one point of view and have a tendency to stifle those who disagree. And they go to other “studies” departments, perpetuating a suffocating uniformity of thought (and chilling the speech of opponents).

I’ll end with a similar statement made by Massachusetts Congresswoman and “squad progressive” Ayanna Pressley during a meeting in 2019. As The Hill reported:

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) reportedly said Democrats don’t need “any more black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” during a liberal Netroots Nation conference on Saturday, a comment that comes as racial politics threaten to divide the party.

The Washington Post reports Pressley said she’s not interested in bringing “a chair to an old table.”

“This is the time to shake that table. … We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice,” Pressley reportedly said during the event. “We don’t need any more black faces that don’t want to be a black voice.”

One rationale for making groups ethnically diverse is to ensure a variety of viewpoints, whose clash may result in something like the truth—or at least in agreement. But that’s not the reason for DEI initiatives. If if it were, universities would also be looking for and advertising the need for viewpoint diversity. As Paul notes, the two goals aren’t always the same.

35 thoughts on “Liz Truss’s Cabinet: her inner circle shows “the wrong kind of diversity”

  1. The world has gone nuts by eliminating merit based achievements. I’ve seen so many ignorant and stupid people of all races and backgrounds. Competence counts!

  2. If you take the position that meritocracy is a reflection of embedded prejudice, you will likely come to the same conclusion re merit.

      1. To be fair, meritocracy was redefined almost as soon as it was coined:

        In 1958, Young also wrote the influential satire The Rise of the Meritocracy, originally for the Fabian Society, which refused to publish it. In it he coined the word “meritocracy”, to which he gave negative connotations, and he became disappointed with how the concept came to be seen as an achievable concept worth pursuing.,_Baron_Young_of_Dartington#Political_career_and_thought

  3. I thought the primary argument for racial diversity was that that would bring new viewpoints to the discussion, i.e., viewpoint diversity? And if meritocracy is bad, then viewpoint diversity, which is merely viewpoint conformity, is about bringing in people who can’t do the job. It must be heartwarming to be selected on that basis. Who are the racists in this discussion?

    1. Of course in 2022 there are people of various ethnicities and skin tones with impressive resumes who are aligned with her political positions. Perhaps many of those complaining about these peoples “tokenism” are annoyed that they won’t be able to blame the policies they dislike on White Men.

    2. Indeed – Conservatives in a Conservative Party cabinet. Who’d a thunk it?!

      The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, used to call himself “the black Boris” and it sounds like he was a “young fogey” at university according to the BBC’s short (less than 15 minutes) Profile programme on Radio 4:

    3. She can’t choose whomever she wants for Cabinet. All ministers have to have seats in the House of Commons and for all practical purposes have to be drawn from the Government benches in order to ensure Cabinet secrecy. (The exception is a coalition government typically wartime.)

      1. Members of the House of Lords are sometimes, albeit rarely now, appointed to cabinet positions. Indeed, in the past cabinet members have been appointed despite not holding a seat in either chamber:

        Members of the Cabinet are by convention chosen from members of the two houses of Parliament, as the Peel convention dictates that ministers may only be recruited from the House of Commons or the House of Lords, although this convention has been broken in the past for short periods. Patrick Gordon Walker is perhaps the most notable exception: he was appointed to the Cabinet despite losing his seat in the 1964 election, and resigned from Cabinet after running and losing in a by-election in January 1965. Sometimes, when a minister from neither House is appointed, they have been granted a customary peerage. The Cabinet is now made up almost entirely of members of the House of Commons.

    4. > Why are the media surprised that a British prime minister given the ability to choose whomever they want in their cabinet would pick people who are ideologically in tune with them?

      That’s precisely the problem with all-or-nothing situations. We’re seeing more people in first-past-the-post systems embracing proportional representation and ranked-choice-voting. Yes, the Tories have a numerical majority in the House of Commons (357 of 650 seats). At least when there are coalition governments, there is more diversity of thought in the cabinet. Of course, there’s always the Swiss system, where all major parties are constitutionally guaranteed representation in the cabinet (the Federal Council?), IIRC. Still, I don’t know any system that implements proportional representation in all government bodies.

      In the US, on the other hand, cabinet members (as well as Supreme Court Justices) are appointed, not elected, and are ostensibly non-partisan civil servants. Of course, we all know better.

      1. I don’t think anyone has ever said that members of the U.S. “Cabinet” (the “Secretaries of…” this and that) are “non-partisan civil servants”. They are nominated by the President of the United States and serve at the pleasure of the president, and are expected to generally share the political agenda of the president. (It is fairly normal for a POTUS to have at least one Cabinet member from the other party, but that doesn’t make the Cabinet Secretaries “non-partisan”; it’s just a gesture towards “unity”.)

        In the United States nearly all of the several hundred positions requiring Senate confirmation (assistant secretaries and undersecretaries and so forth) are considered “political appointments” and are routinely replaced by every new administration. It’s only below that level that you get “non-partisan civil servants” who are expected to impartially serve whatever administration has won the White House.

    5. It’s a crazy gripe. Conservative governments appoint Conservative MP’s (that’s how government works in the UK). Conservative MP’s are on the right wing of British politics (but probably to the left of most US Republican politicians).

  4. Some of the most conservative views in the UK, certainly as far as immigration is concerned, have come from ministers who would qualify under the ‘diversity’ emblem. Priti Patel (sacked because of being in the Johnson camp) championed the notion of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, a position supported by many conservative voters, but entirely bereft of morality and unlawful to boot. Suella Braverman is a rabid Brexiteer and climate change denier (the two somehow seem to go together), and as Home Secretary now holds a great deal of power.

    I can link much of the thinking back to Margaret Thatcher, who was obsessed by the fact her father was a grocer, who pulled himself up by his bootlaces, and that somehow anyone can do the same if they make the effort. No room for slackers, nor for those who have fallen by the wayside for any reason. Ironically the first real issue Truss has had to confront is the escalation of energy costs, with the realisation she has to give state handouts to everybody so as to avoid economic chaos. Not the sort of thing conservatives like to preach.

  5. To be diverse one HAS to hold progressive values. If one does not hold progressive values top down, you are a traitor, nuisance.

    But especially a threat since you are as a marginalized person debunk the supposed homogeneity of “marginalized” group politics.

    But even more, you threaten the orthodoxy that these undifferentiated tectonic plates of “marginalized” group thinking actually exists.

    I am gay/Hispanic and know this topography really well.

  6. The Ayanna Presleys of the woke Left inadvertently give the game away: i.e., that the
    very use of the word “diversity” (with a capital D) was a con game all along. The con game is pretty much succeeding in academia, imposing uniformity in place of diversity with “Diversity Statements”. In the next stage, as comment #2 points out, the concept of merit itself will be jettisoned. I predict that it will be replaced by new magic words,
    such as “Cultural Competence”. Good luck, when that replaces competence of the old kind in areas like structural engineering, airplane design, and surgery. But of course we had a foretaste in the fields of Biology and Agronomy, in that galaxy far away.

    1. Indeed! “Diversity, Equ(al)ity and Inclusion” always seems to end up as Conformity, Heirarchy and Exclusion. Guess who’s top of the Heirarchy. And guess who’s bottom.

  7. It’s hard to think of an upside to Liz Truss being PM, but perhaps there is the germ of something positive here. When people see that her superficially diverse cabinet are still the same conservatives that Nye Bevan identified as “lower than vermin” in 1948, they might just be encouraged to judge people on the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin. One can only hope.

    1. They’re not superficially diverse. They are diverse – at least culturally – but their politics do not match the politics of the people pushing diversity. That doesn’t make them not diverse.

      But I agree, they do make us confront the fact that just being diverse is not what matters and that is why we get this “wrong kind of diversity” nonsense. As soon as everybody realises that it is the content of your character that is important, not the colour of your skin*, the game is up.

      *do I need to attribute that?

      1. > They’re not superficially diverse. They are diverse […]

        That’s a complicated statement to unpack. Yes, there is a high degree of diversity, but it is exclusionary diversity, like the term “people of color” really meaning “people of non-white color”. In much the same way, a North American group could claim to be ‘diverse’ for having people of Anglo, Saxon, Celtic, and Norman descent. That’s diverse, too, right?

  8. In his new book The New Puritans Andrew Doyle makes a similar point about the mistake of championing diversity and identity above everything else:

    As political scientist Mark Lilla has argued, an overemphasis on diversity has created ‘a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups’. No enlightened individual would suggest that racism, homophobia and sexism should not be tackled, but more often than not the disciples of intersectionality are blind to everything but their own grievances. The solution to an economic system that has been failing the poor for decades is not going to be discovered through progressive posturing, or tokenistic appointments that benefit only a few – usually middle-class and often privately educated – individuals from minority groups. The new puritans have singularly failed to understand that, when it comes to inequality, money is what matters most of all.

    Only about a quarter of the way through his book, but pretty good so far. The lack of inline citations is annoying – the various quotes are referenced at the back (just spotted one from our host, although from part of the book that I haven’t reached yet) but the reference numbers are missing from the main text in my Kindle edition.

    1. I’m reading it too. Good stuff.

      “The ideology of Critical Social Justice has never caught on in poorer communities, because those who are facing authentic hardship have little patience for the exaggerated, manufactured or imagined grievances of the privileged.”

      (There are no numbers in the text to refer to the notes at the back in the hardback book version either, so perhaps this is intentional to make the reading experience smoother? Not sure if this is a good idea or not.)

      1. Interesting. I’m not sure what the point of numbered references at the end of the book is if the places they refer to aren’t indicated in the text itself, so not useful in my, er, book.

        I’ve looked at the citations relating to our host. Both reference WEIT (this website, not the book): first for discussing a no longer available online post by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay on the website All Think and second for a post about New Zealand and “other ways of knowing”.

    2. Many thanks for the reference to Doyle’s new book, set to be published in this country in three months! It looks as though it will be an excellent addition to the literature on the topic, and I can recommend very highly indeed Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke, Inc (he also has a new book entitled Nation of Victims) and How Woke Won by Joanna Williams, author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity.

    3. “Tokenistic appointments that benefit only a few.”

      At my university, we are fighting anti-black racism by reducing administrative appointments and converting some of our assistant vice presidents and associate deans back into regular faculty members. We use the saved money in our budget to offer full-ride scholarships to many smart black high school students from poor families. We’re also hiring other black students to mentor the scholarship students throughout their time at university so that they can succeed after graduation.

      Ha ha ha no in fact we just created a new vice president position, hired a wealthy black business consultant (who has zero university leadership experience, but is a friend of the president) into that job, and hired a bunch of middle-class administrators to staff her office.

      So far the new vice president’s job seems to consist of writing emails to the campus community about increasing diversity.

      1. G*d – it’s just like a parody of the pilot episode of the TV series Black-ish, when the father, Dre, is proud to be his advertising firm’s first African American senior vice president (SVP) only to find that he’s being appointed as SVP of its brand new “Urban Division”, which he then feels conflicted about.

        For those unfamiliar with it, Black-ish is a fantastic program(me) for dealing with this issue, but doubtless it, or its actors, have been cancelled now for “wrong-think”.

      2. New departments of Critical Diversity Theory, soon to be established, will offer a PhD in writing exactly these emails. It will be called “Educational Leadership”.

  9. Grinding on the ‘diversity of the wrong kind’ in PM Truss’s cabinet is simply the classic story of the dog catching the car it was chasing. Now that you have it (skin tone diversity), what will you do NOW? Hmmm, I know! Chase the next car! Call me when we’re to the atomic level for diversity.

  10. Britain is in a dire economic situation right now. Energy prices are skyrocketing. Millions of people face the prospect of not being able to keep their homes warm this winter or to cook food for their families. Small and medium-sized businesses are seeing their energy bills rising by a factor of five, and many of them are warning that they will go bust. Schools — already chronically underfunded for the past 12 years — are telling parents that they may need to switch to a three- or four-day week, because they can’t keep classrooms warm this winter for a full five-day week.

    Meanwhile, the pound has sunk to $1.13, its lowest in almost forty years. Inflation is running at 10%, a level not seen in a generation. The NHS is facing an existential crisis.

    Now, do you suppose that the average Brit cares about the diversity of the people at the top of government? I doubt it.

    1. Absolutely. Geoff at #6 mentioned the irony of Truss having to prioritise financial hand-outs as one of her first acts in office. Worse, she won the Conservative Party leadership election by accusing her rival, Rishi Sunak, of planning to do the exact same thing she is doing.

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