What are the causes behind a worrying disconnect between British Indians and the Labour Party? What was that all about the anti-India stance of the Labour Party in the Batley and Spen by-election poster? What are the main achievements of Labour Friends of India? Is the Labour Party doing enough to win over the British Indian vote?
These are just some of the questions we have culled out for this final excerpt from the iGlobal Battle for the British Indian Vote exclusive with Labour Party Councillor in the London borough of Camden, Rishi Madlani (RM), and Labour Councillor in the London borough of Brent and Co-Chair of ‘Labour to Win Shama Tatler (ST) with India Inc. Founder & CEO and strategist Professor Manoj Ladwa.
What do you think the leading causes are for what has been a pronounced decline in the Labour Party's traditional British Indian vote share?
RM: The first thing to note is that we are an important community at the key and heart of the UK. Report shows we're the second most sizeable minority, making up 1.4 million people. We have been taken for granted for far too long. It is important to start to assess some of these issues now.
There are many reasons why some votes will change, and votes will share.
A part of this is, as an established community, you know, my parents first came here in the 70s, and so many others from Uganda, and any South African connects, and we have similar experiences. But we had different community experiences. And for too long, the Indian community has been looked at as one homogeneous block. We are not one homogeneous block. We are multiple communities within communities, but actually, that come together.
ST: I think categorising everybody under a BAME category is difficult. I think those of us who are second and third generation economic migrant generation are about actually going beyond what our parents and grandparents wanted when they came to the UK. I think Labour, Conservative, and the political scene generally need to understand the Indian community beyond the immigrant. They've their version of Indian communities, which are very different. We're not one homogeneous group.
We have very different communities within communities whether it's Sikhs, Hindus, or Buddhist – various religious groups. We have different professions. We have different educational outcomes, and we have different businesses. So, I think what the Labour Party needs to be doing is talking to our values that resonate with our communities, around families, around education, around economic credibility, financial responsibility, and that's what the Party is moving toward. I think that last few years, we have had a lot of learning to do on that, and we're going in that direction.
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Reflecting on the Batley and Spen election controversy, is Labour Party consciously following an anti-India stance?
RM: I wrote about this issue specifically in our Labour list. This is unacceptable. For me, unequivocally unacceptable. And we raised through the Labour Friends of India and other channels. We spoke out specifically on social media and got a positive response from the Party. Now, we are a democratic party. There will be views; there will be multiple views by different people. And that is one of the beauties of the broad charge we have, and we should respect that those views exist. But actually, it's essential to have those Indian voices who can call it out when this is not right. And that shows the increasing power of groups like Labour Friends of India within the Labour Party.
So, when things like this happen, and you know, they will, because we are a democratic party, there will be local leadership making local decisions, and it is our job to call it out and educate, inform and make the Party more aware of issues affecting Indians. As the survey showed – only 3 per cent of the British Indian voters are interested in global politics on these aspects. They are much more interested in the economy in healthcare and climate change, which the Labour Party has stronger positions on.
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One of the accusations thrown at the Labour Party is that it's doing very little in terms of engagement with the British Indian community or the communities within the wider community. We saw Kier Starmer visit the Neasden Temple recently with Lisa Nandy. If you look at Kier's leadership over the last several months, this is pretty much the total outreach since he became Party leader. Is that good enough?
ST: I think I'll challenge that proposition a little bit. I think, going to Neasden Temple for a Hindu community is one thing. Kier and the leadership have been to other places like Gurdwara and so on. But I think engagement with Indian community has to go beyond going to Mandirs and temples and so on. I think there are many of us who are in leadership roles within the government within across the parliamentary Party they do a lot of engagement with our Indian communities on different levels, and I think we have to kind of say is engagement just simply could be turning up to an event? It isn't.
It's actually meaningful representation at decision making tables you know. At Brent we have at least four of us on cabinet who are in decision making who are of Indian descent. I know in Camden Rishi is doing a huge amount in terms of his work around pensions. We're actually making real-life huge decisions. I think I should challenge the proposition that going to Mandir or Gurdwara is one thing, but engagement has to be more than that.
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Could you point to three things that the Labour Friends of India have done that you believe are likely to stand out as achievements?
RM: I'm pleased as a British Indian to see Labour Friends of India and the Conservative Friends of India are doing so well.
I've just been with a cohort of 14 fellow Labour people through an extensive, intensive programme that I found absolutely inspiring over the last six months. These sorts of programmes are essential because we need top representatives, whether at the national or local level, so it's crucial to have Indian voices there.
I want to pay tribute to Darren Jones, Rajesh Agarwal, who refreshed the Labour Friends of India. It had gone a bit sleepy five-six years ago; I think everyone would admit that. But now, it has come back and even in lockdown, the celebration being held on Zoom for the Independence Day, these things bringing people together.
*Watch the full show here