The Hinduja Family is the richest in the UK and one of the richest Indian families in the world. London-based brothers, Chairman SP Hinduja and co-chairman GP, and their two other brothers – PP in Geneva and AP in Mumbai – are keen observers of politics in Britain and India.
GP Hinduja spoke with Hindustan Times on the 7 May elections in Britain.
How do you see the Indian community’s role in the 7 May elections?
The Indian community does not vote overwhelmingly in favour of one party or another and they do not vote as a bloc. Nor is there a particularly ‘Indian issue’ in this election. Indian voters are well integrated into British society, so they will behave like other voters, casting their vote for whichever party promises to deal best with their personal priorities.
Do you see Indians here voting for parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) or Green?
I can imagine Indian voters supporting all platforms, be they the need to deal with the deficit (Conservative), bolstering the National Health Service (Labour), better control of immigration and exiting the European Union (UKIP), providing a balance between Conservative and Labour (Liberal Democrats) or climate change and other green issues (Green).
Some estimates say that the Indian vote has become increasingly influential over the years.
In many marginal constituencies, every vote will count. Indian voters, like others, will assess the quality of the local candidate as well as the party leaders and may even be tempted to vote tactically to keep out a least favoured candidate. It is all a fascinating prospect.
It is said to be the ‘most unpredictable election ever’ – how do you see it?
The outcome is highly uncertain, which is unusual at this stage before an election. The reason is that the era of two-party politics seems to be drawing to a close. Neither of the major parties, Labour and Conservative, has been able to establish a decisive lead in the polls. The Lib Dems have been badly damaged by their transition from a party of protest to one of (coalition) government and are predicted to win fewer seats than in 2010. The dramatic rise of the Scottish National Party may lead to some shock results on the night and make it almost impossible for Labour to gain a majority in the House of Commons.
How do you assess the key issues and prospects of the two main leaders: David Cameron and Ed Miliband?
The main issues are well known, namely managing the economy and dealing with the deficit, with the Conservatives claiming that only they can be trusted to do the right thing; immigration and Europe, with the Conservatives playing the card that only they will offer the people an in/out referendum on British membership; the National Health Service, with Labour sounding the alarm about it being privatised by the Conservatives; and, last but not least, the qualities of the party leaders, where Cameron has a significant lead over Miliband. Unlike in 2010, there is no live head-to head debates between the two (or three) main party leaders. David Cameron has won his way on this – calculating that the only direction Miliband could go in such a debate, given his poor ratings, would be up. As the election approaches we see the Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck in the polls and the question remains of how many seats will the smaller parties gain and which of them will hold the balance in the new House of Commons. What is certain is that the under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government we have seen the economy grow again with zero inflation, falling unemployment and more confidence for the future. We may see more of the same Government emerge after May 7th, despite the Lib Dems having fewer seats.
Miliband has promised to scrap the ‘non-domicile’ tax route if he comes to power. It will affect many prosperous Indian-origin people.
This is an issue that is not as simple as it first appears, as it affects many individuals visiting and working in the UK, and most of whom are not multi-millionaires. Nevertheless, I compliment the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, for this proposal at the time of General Election. I have met Mr Miliband personally - he is very sensible and is a person with depth. During any election campaign, candidates make all sorts of statements and promises. However, with the campaign over, and whichever party takes power, a more thorough analysis of election proposals can take place. Personally I do not see Mr Miliband and his party embarking on decisions that would endanger London’s preeminent position as a global financial centre. So should he and his party go into government I am confident he will review the issues very carefully and look to Britain’s best interests in formulating policy in this area.