With Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss now confirmed as the final candidates in Tory leadership contest, by September, Britain will have either its first racial minority prime minister, or its third woman prime minister.
But do Britons think prime ministers from minority groups make life better for minorities in Britain? And how long do Britons think it will be before the UK has a prime minister from an ethnic minority or LGBT group? YouGov polling shows how LGBT+ Britons, ethnic minority Britons and the wider public feel about the demographic makeup of future PMs.
Would a prime minister from a minority group make life better for minorities?
Ethnic minority Britons are split on whether a prime minister from an ethnic minority background would make things better for ethnic minority groups (39%) or have no real impact (39%).
Black Britons are the least optimistic about whether an ethnic minority prime minister would make things better for ethnic minority groups, at 30%, with 44% saying it would make no real difference and one in 11 (9%) saying that an ethnic minority PM would make things worse.
Mixed ethnicity Britons and Chinese Britons are much more likely to be positive, with around half of each group (50% and 49% respectively) saying they think a prime minister from an ethnic minority group would make things better for ethnic minority groups. South Asian Britons are less confident, at 39%.
The wider public are more likely to think an ethnic minority PM would make no real difference (49%) than make things better (32%) for people from ethnic minorities.
Would another woman prime minister make things better for women?
The country’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, might have made history and broken barriers, but she was no feminist, reportedly telling an adviser that feminism was “poison”. Theresa May was a champion of women in the Tory party, but critics say she did little to advance the rights of British women in general.
Indeed, most women (54%) have no expectations that a female prime minister would make things better for women in the UK. There are, however, more women than men who do think that a woman prime leader would make things better for women, at 32% versus 20%.
Would an LGBT prime minister make things better for LGBT+ people?
LGBT+ Britons tend to be more confident that an LGBT prime minister would improve things for LGBT people in Britain.
Half of LGBT+ Britons (52%) think that a prime minister who is gay, lesbian or bisexual would make things better for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, while virtually the same number (51%) would say that a transgender prime minister would make things better for transgender people. A third expect they would not make any real difference to life for gay, lesbian and bisexual people (33%) or transgender people (34%) in Britain, while just 7% say they would make things worse for them.
The wider public are less sure that an LGBT PM would be a boon for the queer community – only three in 10 (29-30%) say an LGBT prime minister would improve things for LGBT people, while more say an LGBT prime minister would not make any real difference (42-47%).
Conservative voters are far more likely than Labour voters across the board to say a minority PM would make no real difference to things for minority groups: 67% to 56% for a female prime minister, 59% to 42% for an ethnic minority PM, 57% to 39% for a gay, lesbian or bisexual PM and 49% to 37% for a trans PM. Some 15% of Conservatives think a trans prime minister would make things worse for trans people, compared to just 5% of Labour voters.
How long will it be before the UK has an ethnic minority prime minister?
Generally speaking, the British public are relatively optimistic about the diversity of the roster of future PMs, and the public are more likely to say that they “don’t know” when the country will have prime ministers of certain demographics than to believe the UK will “never” have them.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is of Punjabi heritage, now stands a very real chance of being Britain’s first prime minister from a racial minority. These surveys were conducted prior to Boris Johnson’s resignation, so attitudes may have shifted in light of the current state of the leadership race, but in the spring more than half of the public (54%) thought the country would have a South Asian prime minister in the next 20 years.
Ethnic minority Britons (and South Asian Britons) were not much more or less likely to think the country will have a South Asian PM in the next 20 years, at 49% and 53% respectively. However, as before, ethnic minority Britons and South Asian Britons were more likely than the wider public to say that the UK will never have a South Asian prime minister (11% and 13%, compared to 5% for the general population).
A quarter of Black Britons say the country will never elect a Black prime minister
The majority of the Britons (56%) think the UK will have a Black prime minister within 20 years, with one in 10 (10%) saying we will have one in more than 20 years. Hardly any Britons (4%) think the country will never have a Black prime minister.
Ethnic minority Britons are less confident than the wider public that the UK will have a Black PM within 20 years (45%) and are more likely to predict that the country will never elect a Black prime minister (14%). Black Britons themselves are more pessimistic still – a quarter (25%) say the country will never elect a Black prime minister. There are currently just 20 sitting Black MPs, and although Kemi Badenoch made it to the final four of the Tory leadership contest, she was knocked out of the race on 19 July.
Will the country ever have a LGBT prime minister?
There were no openly LGBT candidates for the Tory leadership, although there are 60 LGBT+ MPs sitting in parliament. The public are much less confident that the country will have a LGBT prime minister in the next 20 years: 41% think the UK will ever have a gay prime minister within this time frame, 36% a lesbian PM, and 29% a bisexual.
LGBT+ Britons themselves are more optimistic. Half (52%) think the UK will have a gay PM within 20 years, 41% think we will have a lesbian prime minister within this timeframe, while 39% feel the same about a bisexual PM. Only 4-8% are certain that the nation will never have a leader from one of these groups.
With Tory MP Jamie Wallis the only sitting MP to have come out as trans, it seems unlikely that the country will have a transgender MP in the near future, if at all. Indeed, Britons (including LGBT+ Britons) are more confident than they are for PMs for other minority backgrounds that the UK will never have a trans leader. Around a quarter (24%) of the general population and 20% of LGBT+ Britons say this.
Just one in six (16%) of both groups think that the country will have a trans prime minister within the next 20 years.