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After Dec 12 election, Britain’s new House of Commons likely to see more Indian-origin MPs

The 2017 election saw a record 12 Indian-origin MPs elected (seven Labour and five Conservative), but with the Conservative Party nominating candidates from the community in two of its strongholds, the number is likely to rise to at least 14.

indians-abroad Updated: Nov 26, 2019 13:50 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain will have a general election on December 12, 2019.
Britain will have a general election on December 12, 2019.(Bloomberg)

The December 12 general election in Britain is expected to result in a small increase in the number of Indian-origin MPs with at least three new faces entering the House of Commons, marking a new record for the participation of the community in British politics.

The 2017 election saw a record 12 Indian-origin MPs elected (seven Labour and five Conservative), but with the Conservative Party nominating candidates from the community in two of its strongholds, the number is likely to rise to at least 14.

The two new Conservative candidates are Claire Coutinho (Surrey East) and Gagan Mohindra (Hertfordshire South West). Coutinho has been advisor to Rishi Sunak, chief secretary to the Treasury, while Mohindra has been a councillor in the Epping Forest District Council.

There has been much anger and worse over Labour’s candidate selection, particularly in Leicester East, which has been held by Keith Vaz since 1987. Its candidate there, Claudia Webbe, faces challenge from two community candidates snapping at her heels: Bhupen Dave (Conservative) and Nitesh Dave (Liberal Democrats).

However, Labour’s Indian-origin group of MPs is likely to be joined by Navendu Mishra, who has been nominated from its stronghold of Stockport. Son of parents from Uttar Pradesh, Mishra is sitting on a comfortable party majority in the Greater Manchester constituency.

The Conservative Party has increased the number of Indian-origin candidates from 13 in 2017 to 18 – the highest among parties. Labour, which has been facing anger from the community over its stand on Kashmir, has reduced the number from 14 in 2017 to 10.

Sections of the community have been campaigning against Labour’s candidates, but sitting on large vote shares, it remains to be seen to what extent such efforts dent the base of its sitting MPs, particularly Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) and Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham Edgbaston).

Besides Dhesi and Gill, the seven-member Labour group in the last House of Commons included Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra, Keith Vaz, Lisa Nandy and Valerie Vaz; the five Conservative MPs were: Priti Patel, Shailesh Vara, Alok Sharma, Rishi Sunak and Suella Fernandes.

The Liberal Democrats party has fielded eight and the Brexit party 11 candidates from the community.

The first three Indian-origin MPs in British history were Dadabhai Naoroji (1892, Finsbury Central), Mancherjee Bhownagree (1895, Bethnal Green North East) and Shapurji Saklatvala (1922, 1924, Battersea North).

There was then a gap of 63 years before Vaz was elected to the House of Commons in 1987. His election and that of three others in that year is seen as a turning point in the history of participation of ethnic minorities in British politics.

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