In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi famously visited Lancashire in north-west England at the invitation of mill workers facing hardship due to the Indian independence movement’s boycott of British-made goods as part of a Swadeshi movement against colonial rule.
Lisa Nandy, Opposition Labour’s shadow foreign secretary and daughter of Indian Dipak Nandy and Louise Byers from northern England, spoke of her own family’s connections with that visit during her speech at the party’s annual conference in Brighton this week.
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She said: “Almost a century ago the seams of my family were threaded together when the Indian independence campaign, supported by my grandparents, had devastating consequences for Lancashire textile workers. When the cotton stopped coming, the mills stopped running and the workers went hungry.
“But members of my family, who worked in those mills, were among those who welcomed to Lancashire. Because they knew, as I know, as the first mixed race woman to ever hold this office, that solidarity has power and our struggle is one and the same.”
The senior Labour party politician drew parallels with that common struggle to the modern day to say that the party will stand up to those who subvert democracy and avoid the taxes that fund schools and hospitals.
With reference to her immigrant roots, she noted: “Friends, we meet today in a city which looks out onto the ocean, from an island shaped by waves of . They include the many children of Empire, like my dad, who came here from India in the 50s and through the struggle to create the Race Relations Act helped forge our national story.
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“This is the country we can be. One that lifts our eyes beyond the horizon, to see that together – only together – will we change the lives of people here and across the world.”
She also attempted to galvanise the party membership and workers’ unions to bring energy behind defeating trade models that allow the market to be flooded with “cheap goods from China, built on low wages and bad conditions, hurting wages and jobs in towns across Britain”.