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London Eye: What’s Indian about British Indian MPs

London Eye: What’s Indian about British-Indian MPs

London Eye: What’s Indian about British-Indian MPs
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By Sanjay Suri  Dec 15, 2019 3:14:54 PM IST (Updated)

It’s customary to do a tally of Indian-origin MPs after every British election, and to the extent this measures an advancement of Indians in the British political space, it’s pleasing to see that number rising from 12 in the last parliament to 15 this time.

It’s customary to do a tally of Indian-origin MPs after every British election, and to the extent this measures an advancement of Indians in the British political space, it’s pleasing to see that number rising from 12 in the last parliament to 15 this time. That changing number records a migrant success story no doubt. But it doesn’t answer an attendant expectation some of us carry, that these Indian MPs—or British MPs of Indian origin to put it more precisely—would naturally speak up for India within the British Parliament when India needs to be spoken for. Most of the earlier dozen never have, and since they mostly continue, India holds only a weak hope from the additional few.

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London Eye
So who does speak for India? Prime Minister Boris Johnson answered it when he attended a pre-election meeting at the Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden. He pointed to Bob Blackman as “one of the strongest champions of the Indian community in the British Parliament.” It would be accurate to describe Blackman as simply “the strongest champion” rather than “one of the strongest.” The parliamentary record speak for itself; it tells us that none of the Indian-origin MPs speaks as strongly for India as does Blackman. He’s the one-man demolition job of the expectation that British Indian leaders would naturally speak for India.
If there’s an exception to this dismal dissociation, it would have to be Priti Patel, who does better than speak; as home secretary she can do, and does. The police rings she threw around India House in London on October 27 to protect it against Pakistani demonstrators said more than words could. And without doubt also Southall MP Virendra Sharma does speak firmly on occasion to add his voice to Blackman from the Labour side. And there, more or less, any alignment of British-Indian MPs with India ends.
Conservative MPs such as Rishi Sunak, who is the son-in-law of Infosys’s Narayan Murthy, has almost never done so, nor Alok Sharma or the others. Among the Labour MPs claimed as Indian, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is an out and out Khalistani, Preet Kaur Gill near enough that, and Valerie Vaz has been in the forefront of Labour MPs campaigning against India over Kashmir. You’d need to get apolitical about politics to claim these MPs as Indian, and to see their presence in the British Parliament as some sort of Indian advancement.
Who’s Divorcing Who
So Brexit at last. The divorce date is set for January 31, and no delays now. No more ifs and buts that have crowded British minds over the three and a half years since the referendum. Boris Johnson went into this election promising Brexit, and won the vote to now deliver it. Success then—but this will be success at a price.
It’s as good as certain now that Scotland will leave Britain as a consequence of this strong vote for Boris that overlapped with Brexit. The voting map for Scotland looks its yellowest yet, the colour of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party that stands for independence for Scotland won 48 votes out of 59, with six for the Conservatives, four for the Liberal Democrats and one for Labour. It is, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon lost no time in saying, a clear vote for another referendum. Not on Brexit, but on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.
Scotland voted to remain with Britain in a referendum in 2014. At the time, nine out of 20 in Scotland had voted to leave Britain. Only one in 20 Scots needs a change of mind for Scotland to be on its way from union with England to a union with the European Union. This election result would suggest that a change of mind from one or two in 20 would be the least to expect in a referendum on independence, for which moves are expected to begin in earnest in 2021. Consider that within the other referendum on Brexit, Scots had voted overwhelmingly to remain within the European Union. Who could be blamed for putting two and two together here to see that four sounds like a break-up of Britain.
If that comes—rather when that comes—the United Kingdom would be left a union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. How long Northern Ireland stays with England that has Brexited is a question that has come to be more than just whispered across Ireland, including Northern Ireland. Wales voted in favour of Brexit and it is stuck to mainland England. So that would leave a Britain that has dwindled to England and Wales, which then sit away from a union with Europe. It’s time for that eternal question around any divorce: was it worth it?
London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
Read his columns here.
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