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UK poll: Conservative party nominates 13 Indian-origin candidates, Labour names 14

Both parties had five Indian-origin MPs each in the last Parliament.

world Updated: May 17, 2017 15:05 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
June 8 election,Britain,Labour
Labour candidate from Feltham and Heston, Seema Malhotra is one of 14 Indian-origin people to be nominated by the Jeremy Corbyn-led party.(HT Photo)

The upcoming June 8 election in the United Kingdom has been referred to as the “most boring” in recent years – no standout quote or image so far – but as the cut-and-thrust quickens with Labour’s manifesto on Tuesday, the Indian contingent is showing more diversity.

Many Indian-origin candidates in the Conservative and Labour parties are professionals — doctors, lecturers, businessmen. Most of them are born in Britain, such as Navendu Mishra, whose parents hail from Uttar Pradesh. Others were born in India and moved to the UK for work.

The Conservative party has nominated 13 Indian-origin candidates, down from 17 in the 2015 election, while Labour has named 14, the same number as in 2015.

Both parties had five Indian-origin MPs in the last Parliament.

Mishra, the Labour candidate from Hazel Grove, Greater Manchester, told HT: “My mother was born in Gorakhpur; my father in Kanpur. I originally got involved in the Labour party after the 2010 general election and have been active in the party ever since.

“I served as the election agent for Hazel Grove Labour party in the 2015 general election and learnt a lot about the political process. I have lived in Hazel Grove for many years. In addition, I am a known Labour activist in our constituency as well as Greater Manchester and the wider North West region.”

Another Indian-origin candidate is Neeraj Patil, a doctor in the National Health Service who gained his medical qualifications in 1993 from Gulbarga, Karnataka. He was in the forefront of installing a statue of 12th century philosopher Basaveshwara near the Houses of Parliament in 2015.

The 10 MPs elected in the last parliament may be comfortably placed, but most of the candidates face a stiff challenge given the large margin of victories of rivals in their constituencies. However, Paul Uppal, who lost in Wolverhampton South West in 2015 by 801 votes, is expected to win.

Sunder Katwala, director of identity think-tank British Future, told HT: “The 2017 election appears a much more one-sided contest than the much closer contest in 2015, when David Cameron’s Conservatives placed significant emphasis on British Indian voters.

“A strong national poll lead puts less short-term pressure on the party to reach out. The Conservative party continues to see itself as having a long-term interest in breaking down the historic allegiance of Indian voters to the Labour party.

Voters from the Indian community, Katwala said, wanted to see EU free movement rules change after Brexit, but were worried about the ratcheting up of anti-immigration rhetoric during the rise of UK Independent Party and want to see firm action from all parties on challenging racism and hate crime.

He said: “Progress on Indian and British Asian representation in the House of Commons is set to be steady rather than spectacular, after the surge in ethnic minority MPs in 2010 and 2015. The Conservatives may overtake the Labour party in having more ethnic minority and British Asian MPs.

“Yet with such a strong poll lead, this could have been a time for the Tories to double-down and select more black and Asian candidates. That may be a missed opportunity and there is pressure inside the party to step up the pace of progress next time.”

There is some concern in Conservative ranks that Indian-origin candidates in constituencies where they have little chance of winning have been told to direct their energies in other constituencies, particularly to canvas among community members.

Indian-origin candidates were among the first non-whites to be elected to Parliament — Dadabhai Naoroji was elected from Finsbury Central in 1892, followed by Mancherjee Bhownagree (1895) and Shapurji Shaklatvala (1922).

It was only after 1987 that the parliament saw a substantial number of non-whites being elected. The number spiked since the 2010 election — from 27 in 2010 to 41 in 2015.

The June 8 election is expected to return a similar number of MPs from the black and minority ethnic communities (including the Indian-origin contingent) – 41 in the 2015 election – but the number reveals consolidation of minority representation in Britain’s parliament.

First Published: May 16, 2017 17:19 IST