Priyanka Mehta Wednesday 20th November 2019 06:10 EST
(Clockwise: Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and Nigel Farage) 

On 12th December 3,322 candidates will be fighting tooth and nail in UK's 650 parliamentary constituencies for the upcoming general election. Out of the 3,322 candidates, less than 200 candidates across all parties or standing independently represent the South Asian diaspora based on analysing data obtained from Democracy Club and Sky News. This means that roughly 5-6% of the candidates contesting from these parties or independently are of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage. We provide a further breakdown and analysis of these candidates based on their national political parties.

Out of the 600+ candidates contesting elections from the Conservative Party, there are about 50 nominations representing the South Asian diaspora. Leading names include Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Shailesh Vara and debutantes such as Pavitar Kaur Mann and Gurjit Kaur Bains. The Conservative Party appears to have a balanced proportion of nominations between these ethnicities with about over 20 of these hopeful candidates hailing with an Indian-origin background. 

However, the same cannot be said for the Labour Party which has a total of about 30 South Asian candidates with only about seven Indian-origin candidates. Leading names include Seema Malhotra, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Afzal Khan whilst debutantes include Apsana Begum and Fazia Shaheen. This year, Labour's oldest serving MP and the face of Indian diaspora Keith Vaz has been substituted by Claudia Webbe in Leicester East. 

South Asian names from The Brexit Party include Parag Shah, Sudhir Sharma and Viral Parikh among others. Whereas, those from the Liberal Democrats include Kishan Devani, Anita Prabhakar among others.

Leicester East continues to be a crunch vote 

Following the appointment of Webbe, the chairman of a Constituency Labour party (CLP) has resigned, criticising leader Jeremy Corbyn in a letter. John Thomas, who is also a Leicester City Council representative, left his post at Leicester East, stating that he "can no longer follow the clown that leads" the party.

Whilst accusing the Labour leader of turning "this great party into a laughing stock” he criticised the choice of general election candidate for the constituency, saying it was "a fix". In an interview with LeicestershireLive, Thomas said he was not certain if Webbe would be able to defend the 22,428 majority left to her. He said,“Labour are taking this seat for granted. It was a safe seat for Keith Vaz. It is not a safe seat for Corbyn’s Labour.”

Earlier, politicians such as Navin Shah and Sundip Meghani had accused the Party of the lack of transparency and breach of the selection process for the constituency. In his letter to Jennie Formby, General Secretary of Labour Party, Navin Shah raised concerns around the selection process and Kashmir Controversy. He said,

“Claudia Webbe has stated in her reply to my tweet that the selection process comprised long-listing, short-listing and interviews. Claudia knows what’s gone on. I don’t, so can you please confirm how many applied, how many were long-listed, short-listed and the names of the candidates who were interviewed? Can you also confirm if Claudia’s NEC colleagues participated in her interview and decision to selection? I’m appalled that a number of very credible candidates have been completely overlooked and not even been contacted to formally inform us about the Party’s decision let alone give any explanation. I find this offensive and discourteous. As it stands, unless and otherwise you provide evidence to prove me wrong, I take a clear and strong view that the process was seriously flawed and manipulated favouring the successful candidate.

"Claudia chaired the meeting when the Kashmir motion was debated at the conference. First of all the ill-conceived motion should have been ruled out of order at the conference and furthermore Claudia failed to intervene and stop a speaker making deplorable comments about Indian army raping women, men and children and making allegations of 10,000 women gang-raped. This can only be ranked as poor chairing of the meeting with no efforts made intervene or challenge the speaker about authenticity of such offensive statements. Given the sensitivity and controversy surrounding the issue and also given the demography of Leicester East with a very substantial Indian community was this aspect taken in to account before arriving at the decision to select Claudia?”

However, Labour maintains that Claudia Webbe was an "excellent" choice.

Muslim voters can swing 31 marginal seats: MCB

According to research published on Monday 18th November, by Muslim Council Britain (MCB) Muslim voters could affect the outcome in more than 30 marginal constituencies. This appears as mosques across the country prepare for a nationwide registration drive.Fourteen of the 31 seats are held by Labour, 14 by the Conservatives and three by the SNP. The MCB, the main representative body for Muslims in the UK, is non-partisan. Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said, 

“As active participants in our society, Muslims – in all their diversity – can play a significant role in what may become a close election, and we hope that the parties listen and reach out to Muslim communities across the country to engage on issues of concern.”

The MCB said it was focusing on increasing Muslim voter participation and encouraging communities to engage with the election debate.

“Operation Muslim Vote 2019” against Tories 

Labour Party's resolution following the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir by the Indian Government “appears” to divide the British people. After some British Indian, Hindu and other community groups branded Corbyn's party as “anti-India”, a counter-narrative has now emerged from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC).MPAC is a London-based not-for-profit organisation, campaigning to oust 14 Conservative MPs including Indian-origin candidate Alok Sharma. They have recently created a campaign on 'Fundamal' to raise £20,000 for 'Operation Muslim Vote 2019'. The website claims that “Muslims have the power to decide the next UK Government”.

“A general election is our time to get them out of power and replace them with a Corbyn-led government, that has pledged to recognise a Palestinian state, stop the state surveillance policy of Prevent, stand up for Kashmir’s self-determination and much more.“The current government has been exposed as being deeply Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic. Many of their current ministers, such as Boris Johnson, and Alok Sharma have pro-actively defended the crimes against humanity committed by Israel and India against Palestinians and Kashmiris respectively,” writes Imran Shah a spokesperson for MPAC on fundamal. 

The campaign claims that all the money raised in this appeal will be used only for election purposes, and will be limited to leaflets, video production, digital advertisement, direct mail, travel expenses and mobilising volunteers.

There is no clear data to indicate whether the resolution's domino effect will be reflected in the upcoming elections as the Asian voter takes to the ballot.

However, print media campaigns and WhatsApp messages urging British Asians to vote against Labour and Tories have heightened the election drama. 

The resolution passed by the Labour Party in its Brighton conference argued for the Kashmiri people's “right to self-determination” while stating the humanitarian crises that exists in the recently formed Union Territory.

Johnson woos Asians in Gurudwara, youth protests to unseat him in Uxbridge

On 16th November, Saturday hundreds of young people descended near the Uxbridge Station for a protest march intending to unseat Boris Johnson. This march was organised by “Fck Boris” alongside students of other youth organisations after Johnson declared he will be contesting elections from Uxbridge despite enjoying a majority of only 5,000 votes. Johnson’s majority was cut from 10,695 in the 2015 general election to 5,034 in the 2017 election and is now the smallest of any prime minister since 1924.

This year, Johnson will be competing Labour's Ali Milani, a former president of Brunel University students’ union. Now, an internal CCHQ assessment indicates that Johnson is potentially at risk of losing his seat despite speculation that he has relocated himself to a safer seat. This comes in the face of new data which shows that since 2017, there are an estimated 3,000 people who have turned 18 and are eligible to vote in this election. A 5% swing towards the Labour Party and Johnson would struggle to retain his constituency. 

In the meantime, on the following Sunday, 17th November, Johnson donned a traditional Sikh headwear during his visit to the Gurdwara Sri Guru Sabha Sikh Temple in Southall in a bid to woo Asian voters.

Nearly two years ago, Johnson drew the ire of Sikh supporters after he praised lower duties on alcohol sales in India while visiting a Sikh temple. Some Sikh teachings forbid the consumption of alcohol in places of worship, and Johnson was forced to apologise for the gaffe. The Asian and minority vote is becoming an increasingly critical force in these general elections as indicated by the Gurudwara visits of both Corbyn and Johnson. However, if the intersectionality of the voters' age and religion is studied, then it is not clear if Johnson plays favourite for the young Asian population. 

“It’s been so great to have this kind of protest in my constituency!! I hope we can kick Boris out,” said Vaneet Mehta, an author campaigning for #BiVisibility in the UK, one of the few Asians attending the March on Saturday.

At least 10 other groups, including Grime4Corbyn, UK Student Climate Network and the Feminist Anti-Fascist Assembly, were among the organisations supporting the event. Alongside a parade, activists organised live performances, a light show and distributed pamphlets to all passing-by urging them to vote. This year for the first time, Brunel University will provide a regular shuttle bus to and from the campus to the polling station on election day. Such a service with the intention of a higher voter turnout at the polls expects students and staff to vote.

One in Four BAME not registered to vote: Election Commission

However, according to the announcement made by the Election Commission on Monday 18th November, one in four Black and Asian origin people in the UK are not registered to vote. The commission’s data states that 25 per cent of the non-white voters in Britain are not registered.

A closer study of this report indicates that off 25% not registered to vote in the UK, 24% of them are expected to be Asian voters. The commission also estimates that approximately 8-9 million eligible voters in Britain are not correctly registered at their current address.

“It is not possible to calculate the absolute number of people not correctly registered at their current address because the size of the population eligible to vote in Britain cannot be determined with certainty,” the commission said.

The calculation is, therefore, based on an estimate of completeness and an estimate of the total eligible population. The commission has now urged the public to register to vote by November 26.

Disclaimer: All numbers provided are approximate and can have +/- 5% error in its analysis. This list of the candidates includes all the names of the South Asian Candidates across four national political parties: Conservative Party, Labour Party, The Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party. However, the 200+ South Asian candidates also include independent nominations and some names from other parties such as the Green Party.

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