Writer Mohsin Hamid was on British domestic radio’s Today programme, talking about his new novel ‘The Last White Man’ (published Thursday, August 11) and it seemed ironic neither he, nor his BBC interlocutor Mishal Husain, said anything about the last white woman standing in the Conservative leadership election.
Ironic because so much was left unsaid.
Both interviewee and interviewer spoke about the perspective-altering reality of Mr Hamid’s novel. The protagonist, Anders, wakes up to discover that he has changed race and become a dark man and then everyone in the world changes race too, until there’s just one white man left.
What that means, Mr Hamid indicated in his radio interview with Ms Husain, is a world stripped of racial bias, one in which we don’t any longer know how “to sort” ourselves. If we’re all one colour, we can’t automatically elevate ourselves by referencing racial distinctions.
It’s an interesting premise, something both Mr Hamid and Ms Husain probably know a thing or two about. Both are brown people and have risen to the top in territories – cultural as well as geographical – that might loosely be termed ‘white man’s land’. Both are of Pakistani origin and both are enormously good at what they do. Both have been successful doing their thing. Both are at the top of their game, a world away from Pakistan (Mr Hamid is successful in Pakistan too and I’m sure Ms Husain is also admired there).
Mr Hamid’s interview with Ms Husain came after lots of reportage on the Today programme on Rishi Sunak’s prospects in the race to be Tory leader and thereby Britain’s prime minister. Mr Sunak was the frontrunner when the selectorate was Conservative members of parliament (MP). But his rival, Liz Truss, has been called “the frontrunner” for weeks, in fact, ever since the contest went out to the final selectorate – roughly 160,000 older, mainly white members of the Conservative Party.
How did that happen? More to the point, why did that happen? As a former chancellor, who did the job for longer than Ms Truss has been foreign secretary, Mr Sunak surely carried more weight in terms of government responsibility? As a Stanford MBA, former Goldman Sachs employee and hedge fund partner, he has shown his transferable skills and ability. Mostly, he comes across well as a retail politician, in comparison with Ms Truss, who relies on a wooden delivery and tiresome platitudes composed of Margaret Thatcher’s mantras, sans mathematical logic (or any logic at all).
Had it been anyone but Mr Sunak, I’m not sure Ms Truss would be the frontrunner. She is effectively the Tories’ last white woman standing.
(Click here for Mr Hamid’s interview with Ms Husain, if you want. It starts at 2:55:26 and runs for just a few minutes.)