In another excerpt from iGlobal’s recent , India Inc. CEO Professor Manoj Ladwa is in conversation with Conservative Party Councillor and Co-Chair of the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) Ameet Jogia to field some probing questions on the Tory efforts to win over the Indian diaspora vote.
The discussion was in response to an on British Indian voting trends and the swing factor that this 1.5-million strong electorate in the UK could hold in any General Election.
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We often hear that the Conservative Party is a natural home for the British Indians. Please elaborate.
I feel that the British Indian community is naturally conservative. And I'm talking with a small 'c' here. And it doesn't matter where you come from; it's where you get to in life - That entrepreneurial spirit to being successful in business, making money; hence you know why they're aligned with the Conservative Party of having around taxation and exports and so on. Education is as fundamental to the British Indian community as it is for the . Also, family, law and order - these are all naturally Conservative values.
So, it's not just me, but there are a whole array of politicians and parliament, Conservative politicians who feel that the Conservative Party is the natural home for the British Indian community. And that's what we've been trying to do for many, many years to reflect that. So, I would say that Conservative Party has and always will be the natural home for the British Indian Community.
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Despite years of wooing the British Indian voters, the indicates that the Conservatives are yet to catch up with the Labour Party. What do you think about it?
Well, I would say it in a different way. I think we've made tremendous progress. I've been working with the Party for half my life now, over 15 years. And there were many predecessors before me - Lord Dolar Popat, Lord Baron Jitesh Gadhia, Lord Ranbir Singh Suri, Lord Rami Ranger, who worked their whole political career to try and shift the British Indian vote towards the Conservative Party. If we look at some recent figures in 2005, only 11 per cent of British Indians voted for the Conservative Party, and at the last election, according to the Runnymede trust, it was up to 49%. So that for us, for the Conservative Party, that's a massive shift.
There is a lot of work to do, and according to Milan's report, the vote share for the British Indian community for the Tories is stabilising. We need to work on that to get to do more. So, I think we still have a long way to go, but I think we've made incredible progress in terms of increasing our share of the British Indian vote and also increasing candidates, MPs and even cabinet ministers within the Party. So, I think for us it's a good news story.
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And you think Conservative Friends of India fit for that purpose?
We've played an incredible role in increasing the number of candidates we have from the British Indian community both as MPs and also as counsellors. Now this includes people like and Suella Braverman, who worked their way up and have been huge supporters. And they've acted as a huge inspiration to the community. Right now, we're the largest affiliated group for the Conservative Party. We're a campaigning machine, and we are results that have paid off in key seeds. As Milan's research showed, the British Indian vote is the swing vote. So as an organisation, we really hammered in on key seats around the country to make sure we could capture that vote. The current chair is and me, and it's the first time in the organisation's history where we have a British Indian chairman.
So, it reflects how the diaspora is changing, how we need to be fit to the purpose in terms of more employing, more events online and being sort of relatable to all different ages and groups. And finally, we've been having great engagement within the community. Over the last year, with the pandemic, we've still managed to hold events. We've seen parliamentarians such as , Rishi Sunak online with thousands of members. So, I think we've done a great job, but obviously, there's a great long way to go. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Conservative Friends of India, which Lord Popat launched, and we've got great patrons such as Lord Rami Ranger. So, we hope to celebrate in a big way to mark our milestones and just sort of paint the way for the next decade.
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You've mentioned that there's been an unprecedented number of British Indian Cabinet ministers and so on. But really, how does this help the community? What are the tangible benefits that you can point to?
Well, in terms of diversity, the Conservative Party is way ahead compared to other parties. Our current cabinet is more diverse than any other put together over the last 100 years. The most senior posts in government are British Indians. We've got the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak. for Home Secretary.
The most politically important role this year, president of cop 26, Alok Sharma. We've got Suella Braverman, the attorney general, and lots more new MPs and candidates coming in. I think it's a great source of inspiration to other Tory members and candidates that this Party is inclusive. You can join the Party, and you can make a success of yourself. And I think it's something that we should all be very, very proud of.
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