UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is heading up a drive to counter disinformation that is feared to be causing a reluctance in the take up of Covid-19 vaccines among sections of the UK’s ethnic minority population, including British Indians.
During a virtual session steered by ‘iGlobal’ columnist Reena Ranger for the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) this week, the Gujarati-origin senior Cabinter minister made a special call out for the Indian diaspora communities to help fight back against fake news and help the National Health Service (NHS) in saving lives from the deadly coronavirus.
Here are some excerpts of the minister’s key messages for the Global Indian community, from life-saving vaccines to public service in political life and from Brexit to the UK-India “marriage made in heaven”.
We have been in the throes for 12 months now of this dreadful, appalling disease coronavirus. It’s been debilitating for our country, our politics, our way of life. We have got a massive vaccine rollout programme taking place, it’s the biggest mass vaccination campaign in the history of our amazing National Health Service (NHS).
So many members of our community are on the frontlines saving lives. We are seeing a degree of reluctance among some in the ethnic communities to have the vaccine. All sorts of disinformation is out there. I plan to be very vocal about this.
If we don’t step up to assure people within our communities that the vaccine is solid, safe, efficacious, it’s not conflicting with our religious values or anything of that nature, we will save lives.
From a humanitarian perspective, from a people-to-people perspective, this is so vital right now. It costs us nothing, it’s about protecting our friends, family and loved ones – be it through our gurdwaras, mosques or mandirs, it is important to relay that message.
I think it is fair to say we went backwards on UK-India but we are now accelerating and moving forward. Our wonderful Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] has a wonderful personal relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been invited to the UK for the G7 summit in June.
We are working with India on rebalancing this Indo-Pacific tilt and rules-based international system. At a time when China has done a great deal undermine democratic values and freedoms. That also speaks to our Global Britain agenda. Britain is a force for good in the world.
India is personal to me. Prime Minister Modi is a fellow Gujarati and a fantastic leader. I’m very keen to go to India, when we are released from lockdown and better days ahead, I will definitely be going. My counterpart is Amit Bhai [Indian Home Minister Amit Shah] and the connect between our ministers is very personal. We have a shared commitment to forge that strong relationship, to continue to develop our shared interest, the Living Bridge.
It’s a marriage completely made in heaven because it is one that works for us all.
I do feel like we are in a crossroads right now as a country. We’ve had the greatest moment of liberation leaving the European Union (EU), which I have campaigned for over 25 years. We rebuild now, we build back better, do things on our own and stand up for ourselves in the world and have a really strong Global Britain position out there.
We have changed our immigration system fundamentally with a points-based immigration system, underpinned by tech. The Student and NHS routes are going on well.
I am going to head into a similar root and branch approach to our asylum system, which is completely broken and dysfunctional.
We at the Home Office are a “heavy lifting” department that makes sure our citizens are kept safe.
Politics is not a conventional job, you have to go into it with eyes wide open. It can get personal, hostile and not very nice. But politics on the plus side is how we support people, communities, change lives and public service, something that I feel very strongly about.
Politics is about public service and putting people first. That should be our compass and we need to be prepared to fight for things that we believe are right.