On Monday 20th October, amid the NHS and immigration policy plans, Miliband hosted a Diwali reception at the contemporary styled Conrad Hotel in St James' Park. It was a jovial atmosphere, tinged with relief after a tough couple of months in the election drive. Through the serenade of live Indian music, senior Labour politicians such as Camberwell and Peckham's MP Harriet Harman, Rt Hon Keith Vaz, MP and Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan took the stage to speak while Labour councillors and supporters from across the country, including Goodness Gracious Me's Nina Wadia, conversed and exchanged ideas on the warmly lit floor below.
'This is a good opportunity to meet colleagues who are also friends' said councillor Sundip Meghani of Leicester City Council. 'We can catch up and talk about developments in a relaxed setting.' Key seat candidate for Harrow East Uma Kumaran was a particular crowd drawer. Meghani too, seemed in touch with the needs of young and working adults as we discussed the creative influence of 'The Curve' Arts centre in Leicester's cultural quarter and the issue of roadworks at Belgrave Circle.
However Miliband's Diwali address, given neatly in the middle of the evening, showed a grave awareness of the challenges that lie ahead for his party: 'We must remember our shared history' he said after an initial jolly opening: 'I think this is the best Diwali party going on tonight!'
'This is not just a celebration for Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Jain faiths but for everyone in the community. We will only succeed by using every person of every faith in the national community. Tonight is about Diwali, but we do have a journey to make ahead of us: jobs for younger people, business, our health care system. The stakes are very high.' Sadiq Khan, who has recently urged his party to take a harder stance against the Green Party for floating voters, added that 'we must work together to get Labour in charge. We must get the policies right. This includes getting more brilliant British MPs of Hindu faiths.' MP Harman said it is vital that we get Labour into power if we are to have a 'free and prosperous' society. The lighting of candles by the children of Avanti school to represent the prevailing of 'good over evil', set an aptly sentimental mood before the beginning of the speeches. As the evening buzzed on, the attitude underlying was a cautious but determined optimism.