Monday 9 December 2019 4:49 AM UTC
London Dec 9: With just days to go before the UK General Election on Thursday, the new Parliament set to be voted in is expected to be the most diverse in Britain’s history based on projections and what experts believe has been a late surge in diversity from the country’s main political parties.
The last election in 2017 had thrown up 12 Indian-origin MPs, including the first female Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill and the first turbaned Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi – both for the Opposition Labour Party.
Next week’s election looks set for a hike on that number, with Labour’s Navendru Mishra and Conservatives’ Gagan Mohindra and Goan-origin Claire Coutinho among the frontrunners to clinch their party’s strongholds.
“The next Parliament looks set to be our most-diverse ever – with more ethnic minority candidates likely to be elected whichever way the political pendulum swings on election night,” says an analysis by the British Future think tank.
“Candidate selections have been very much a game of two halves – with a late surge in selections to replace retiring MPs and those who were standing down mitigating a decline in the proportion of non-white candidates selected in target seats,” it notes.
The ethnic minority surge in the number of MPs is expected to include all the Indian-origin MPs from the last election, except Labour’s Keith Vaz – who announced his resignation just ahead of the election in the wake of a sex scandal.
For the Tories, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Rishi Sunak, Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman are set for a return. For the Labour Party, besides Gill and Dhesi, the others contesting so-called safe seats include Keith Vaz’s sister Valerie Vaz, Lisa Nandy, Seema Malhotra and Virendra Sharma.
“Depending on the results, it’s possible that one in 10 MPs will be from an ethnic minority background. That would be a first for our Parliament – just a decade ago that figure was one in 40,” says Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future.
Some of the other Indian-origin candidates in the running that are fighting more of an uphill battle include Sara Kumar, the Tory candidate for West Ham in London who is up against a strong Labour majority.
Another Tory, Sanjoy Sen, has been fielded in a Labour stronghold in Wales, with other fellow candidates such as Akaal Sidhu, Narinder Singh Sekhon, Anjana Patel, Seena Shah, Pam Gosal Bains, Bupen Dave, Jeet Bains, Kanwal Toor Gill, Gurjit Kaur Bains and Pavitar Kaur Mann also in a tough fight.
Labour’s Kuldeep Sahota and Ranjeev Walia are in a similar boat, while Kishan Devani faces a fight in Montgomeryshire for the Liberal Democrats, alongside fellow candidates Anita Prabhakar, Dave Raval, Nitesh Dave and Meera Chadha Moynihan.
The campaign for the elections has been charged up with sections of the British Indian diaspora calling out the Labour Party over a perceived anti-India stance after it passed an emergency motion over Kashmir, implying the need for international intervention in the region.
Social media activity has been focussed on building a momentum over the issue, but it is ultimately unlikely to have a major impact on the final tally.
Some misleading reports of the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) outfit proactively campaigning against the Labour Party over the Kashmir issue were dismissed by its leader.
“Our effort has been to focus on all areas with a significant Indian diaspora population to try and better inform the electorate,” said OFBJP president Kuldeep Shekhawat.
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