DATE: 5th November 2020, 6:00pm – 7:00pm
EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Is the left losing British Indians?
SPEAKERS: Sundip Meghani, Sunny Hundal and Sadia Hameed
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Rakib Ehsan
Dr Rakib Ehsan 00:03
So, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for tonight’s event: Is the left losing British Indians? Which I feel is a very interesting question but also one which is under-discussed when you’re looking specifically at the Labour Party, and the last general election which provided its worst performance since 1935. Much discussion, understandably, has been on labour losses in traditional industrial heartland, Northern England, the provincial Midlands, and also parts of Wales. But there is also evidence that labour fell some way behind among British Indian voters. And that’s definitely seen in sharp drops in the Leicester constituencies, also in parts of West London, especially the Harrow East constituency. So, some of the questions we’ll be considering tonight is what is driving this loosening, you can save this relationship between the British political left and British Indian voters? What kind of repair work can be done in order to rebuild ties? Or indeed, as so much damage has been done, does it present an opportunity for the Conservative Party to become the natural party of British Indians? Very happy that I’ve managed to put together such a wonderful panel for tonight’s event. So, before we get into everything, I’d just like to make a few short introductions. Firstly, we have Sundip Meghani, who is currently a solicitor at the independent office for police conduct. He is a former city councillor and parliamentary candidate in his home of Leicester and served the Labour Party for 20 years before he resigned from the party, saying that the party was institutionally racist, and an anti-Indian party that was against the interests of the working people. You don’t mince your word; you can put it that way. We also have Sunny Hundal, award winning writer and journalist, who founded websites such as liberal democracy, Barfi culture, and Asians in media. He has been reporting on South Asian communities for 20 years now. One could call him, despite his youthful looks, he’s very much a veteran in the game, I would say. And he has written for the Times, Financial Times, the Independent, Guardian, CNN, Al Jazeera, and I’ll stop there, so I won’t bore people any further. And last but not least, we have Sadia Hameed, she is a multi-award-winning human rights advocate, and she has been a very active force in the women’s sector for the past decade, especially when it comes to combating harmful traditional practices. She is the winner of the Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights organization Activist of the Year Award, and the Lift Effects Star Award. She is the founder and co-director of Four Freedoms, and she’s also the director of Gloucestershire sisters, where she does some wonderful work in terms of combating these harmful traditional practices. So firstly, I’d like to invite Sundip to open up this event. So Sundip, it would be quite interesting to hear more about your personal experience. You know, as I’ve mentioned, you served the Labour Party for 20 years, and then you resigned, what were the reasons behind that?
Sundip Meghani 06:51
Thank you, Rakib, thank you, to the Henry Jackson Society for organizing the event and it’s a pleasure to be here with Sunny and Sadia, both of whom I greatly respect. Thank you for inviting me tonight. So, yes, interesting political times. I’m very happy to go into all of this, as you’ve just proved Rakib, thanks for the introduction. As you said, I served 20 years as a Labour Party member and activist and also, for some years as a labour politician. I served in total, six years as a constituency officer, four years as a city councillor in Leicester. I served on the Leicestershire police authority, also as a parliamentary candidate in 2015, as a council candidate in 2018. And for four years, I lead a national branch of a trade union. So, I think I’ve earned my spurs in the Labour Party and certainly I think I’ve also earned the right to say what I’ve been seeing in regard to my perception and my experiences, as I said a moment ago, interesting political times, and not just because of what’s happening across the Atlantic. But we ate together tonight, just a week on from a determination by the equalities and Human Rights Commission, which found that the Labour Party is institutionally racist in regard to anti-Semitism and that was a finding in law. So, the question is no longer is the party institutionally racist, that’s been answered. The question is, to what extent is an institutionally racist and how, how bad is the rot? How deep is the rot? I quit the Labour Party on the 15th of August on Indian Independence Day, I thought the symbolism mattered. I published an article a week later, setting out my reasons for doing so which I’ll go into but it’s true to say that this is not a new phenomenon. I, for example, were sounding the alarm some 10 years ago, when I wrote an article about how the Labour Party was losing the Hindu vote the Indian vote more generally, but the party over the years didn’t choose to listen to those of us who were sounding the alarm. So, first of all, let me talk about examples of what we’re dealing with. What type of anti-Indian racism, bigotry, what exactly you know, what are these? What are these awful acts? Well, I mean, a lot of it has been bullying and harassment of British Indian labour members. Not least on social media, which is actually a bit of a scourge in modern times, except for when we’re organising, pleasant events like this. Routinely, British Indian labour members in recent years are labelled “Hindutva”, which is a new term that I wasn’t familiar with previously. It is used in the same way, deployed in the same way that Zionist is used to attack indirectly, British Jewish people, and that is a recent phenomenon. We’ve also had instances of British Indian labour members being prevented from participating in party meetings and events. We’ve had examples and cases of Hindu and Sikh traditions in particular, being mocked and insulted, often in open forums. We’ve certainly got a numerous example of complaints of anti-Indian bigotry and racism to Party HQ, being completely ignored. And this includes two very substantial complaints that I submitted back in 2017 and 2019, neither of which even received a reply, can you believe it, from a labour HQ, let alone any kind of resolution. Then, of course, if we look back to the summer of last year, when we got to the Labour Party national conference, we saw the adoption of that emergency motion on Kashmiri separatism. The chair of the conference, Claudia Webb MP, who I think is set to have her criminal hearing on the 11th of November at the Magistrate’s court, chaired and allowed that emergency debate to go ahead and many of us saw anti-Indian bigotry and racism and rhetoric spewed on the floor of a mainstream political party’s national conference. We then, going on to further examples talking about more examples, particularly in regard to politics. We’ve had instances in the Labour Party in recent years. But specifically, let’s look at 2019. In regard to parliamentary selections, there was a big debacle in Leicester east and I was involved in that admittedly, I should declare an interest in regard to what happened there. But we had other instances of safe-ish parliamentary seats up and down the country in Ealing North for example, in Birmingham, in Ilford south where we saw the local council leader a guy called Jas Asthwal, who was going to be a shoo in to be the prospective parliamentary candidate for the 2019 general election. And just before the election itself, miraculously, a complaint emerged, accusing him of impropriety, he was conveniently taken off the panel and a far-left socialist ally of Jeremy Corbyn was selected, and not long after that, Jas Athwal was exonerated of any wrongdoing. So that was another example of open kind of corrupt practices and dodgy practices in the Labour Party to deliberately block and prevent British union labour members from seeking to be representatives. Last year we also saw, no not last year gosh, it was earlier this summer, dozens of minority MPs signed an awful letter to Priti Patel, accusing her of not having authentic experience of racism. And they said that her by virtue of being an Asian woman didn’t justify or make her an authority on all forms of racism whilst at the same time they themselves these black and Asian Labour MPs relied on that same authority with which to Chastise Patel. So that’s a quick run through of the of the kind of bigotry and racism we’re talking about. And, obviously, we’ll have a bit more of a discussion later on. The reason I spent, gosh, 9-10 months from what happened in November last year in regard to the parliamentary debacle, which really was a bit of an eye opener for me. Then I spent a good 9-10 months during the last reading and research, a lot of soul searching, speaking to lots of people, really trying to make sense of why, you know, we know we know how the Labour Party has become anti-Indian, and racist and bigoted. But why is this happening? And the best explanation that I and many others have come up with, is, of course, the shift in labour politics, from kind of social democracy, which we saw under New Labour, mainstream moderate, sensible social democratic ideals, and then the party veered off to the left and embraced a Marxist socialism, foursquare. Initially, the problem began under Ed Miliband, and then of course, it was exacerbated by Corbyn. So, I’ll wrap up on this kind of key point which is, which is simply this the philosophy, the guiding philosophy of the Labour Party now, is what I understand and what certainly more accomplished writers and speakers have talked about as postmodern Marxist, Neo-Marxism, and what it does as a guiding philosophy as it tries to reinvent classical Marxism, but instead of the traditional hostility between the kind of working class proletariat and the ruling class bourgeoisie. What it seeks to do is firstly, separate all individuals into different identity groups, and then it categorizes all these various different identity groups into two categories, either that have been part of the oppressed category, or that have been part of the oppressor category. So instead of a class struggle, Neo-Marxism, postmodern Marxism, which is now the guiding philosophy of the Labour Party, seeks to exacerbate a power struggle between different identity groups. And of course, the explanation, quite simply, is that British Indians are too damn successful for their own good. British Indians have risen through the ranks in the space of one generation, from being at the bottom of the ladder socioeconomically, to now being at the top. And for the Labour Party, and particularly, I’m talking about labour members when I talk about the Labour Party because it is, of course, a membership organization. In the minds of British Labour members, British Indians are fair game because they are successful, they’re aspirational, they have values of educational attainment and family and hard work and faith and all these things. And that’s because of those intrinsic values that are integral to British Indian culture. And that’s the reason why British Indians have gotten to the top, in terms of socioeconomics. Now, for Labour members, British Indians are fair game. So, it’s because of this kind of identity politics and Neo-Marxist ideology.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 17:01
Thank you for that Sundip, thank you. So, I’d like to invite Sunny now, to give us his sort of initial thoughts.
Sunny Hundal 17:12
Thanks for that Rakib and I also want to start by saying, actually, it’s really nice to be on such a panel. I’ve all admired all your work from sometimes far, sometimes close, sometimes even disagreed with you all. So, you know, that’s fine. That’s part of debate, as it should be. I’ve been a labour member for about 10 years. And during that time, I’ve run a lot of campaigns, as well as publications, aimed at more the left side of the party and probably more to the left than Sundip is. But, you know, I share some of the concerns that he has outlined, but I do see things in a slightly different way and that’s what I want to shed light on today. So firstly, you know, is the Labour Party are losing Indian? And that’s, I think true, although it should be taken with a grain of salt. What we saw was, I think, if we look at the polls is that in certain areas, like Leicester and Harrow east, we saw a shift away from the Labour Party. But more broadly, we didn’t necessarily see a big shift amongst all British Hindus towards a conservative party. So, I think there is still a lot of reticence to vote for the conservatives, but I do see how in certain areas, in very targeted campaigns, the conservatives have been able to move over British Hindus. Especially in Harrow East where Bob Blackman has, you know, spends more time at the mothers than any of their local Hindus do. And people appreciate that, in those areas. And, you know, I mean, I’ve been reporting on the dirty tricks in that area for quite a while I won’t go into that. But, you know, there is a lot of slagging off going on as well towards Hindus who sort of seek to challenge some of the local community leaders, who I think also play their own game of picking one person over another. I mean, for example, during this election campaign, there was a blanket ban on allowing any labour candidate or, you know, a politician, to even speak at a Hindu Monday and sort of say, Well, this is what I believe in, you know, if you’re not even giving them a platform and saying, you know, Okay, tell us your side of the story or what you think on this issue, then you’re effectively, you know, taking the side. And to that extent, that happened in Leicester, happened in London as well. And I think actually what happened in Leicester, I’ve said this before, it was absolute, not just a tragedy, but it was it was a false, you know. They should have picked a local candidate and instead, they parachuted in someone who was loyal to Corbyn in the same way. As you said, Sundip they did with Jas Athwal, and again, it really, not only shocked me, it’s not shocking to be honest. You know, the Gordon Brown did the same, Tony Blair did the same, but it was quite blatant. And I remember reporting actually, this has been going on for a while. I mean, I reported in 2005, I think it was when in Southall, the conservatives had a defection from loads of local Labour MPs because they installed Brenda Sharma at that time. Even though the local Ealing council leader was a woman, an Asian woman, Sonika Nirwal, and she was not even allowed to be part of the shortlist. So, what we’re talking about here is a series of, you know, issues, what is to do with factionalism, which is very prominent in the Labour Party, and sometimes overlays with the politics, which is sort of Corbyn wanting to have his own left-wing socialist people in there, you know. So, all these issues are sort of joining together and sometimes it’s useful to separate them out. What I saw in Leicester, in Ilford East, as has happened in Southall beforehand, were people stitching up local constituencies, sort of selections for their own agenda. Not because it’s a political agenda, but because they wanted an ally in power. So, that’s one thing, you know, and the left has sort of, obviously, ignored all this because, you know, it suits their purpose. And one question that they always come up with, yeah, of course, the, you know, the Hindus and, and the Indians are more middle class. They’re racist, or the, you know, they’re Ugandan. So, of course, they’re going to, you know, vote for the Conservative Party. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because if you look at the modern Labour Party, there’s loads of middle-class people in the Labour Party these days. So, just because you’re going, becoming more middle class doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to start becoming conservative. But what’s really going on, I think, is that in one sentence, it’s a bad state of affairs. What labour essentially has done, I think, is basically said, we’re going to take the Muslims and we’re going to take the Sikhs and the conservatives have done more outreach with Hindus and Jews and therefore in a way they have drawn up the sort of the minorities in need piles and sort of done outreach with certain communities and not with others. So even though Jas Athwal, you know, was locked out of the local constituency, you didn’t really see a big fall in support amongst Sikhs for the Labour Party, because in those areas, they had a lot of engagement and a lot of support. Still with Sikhs, even though a lot of Sikh organizations were angry at the wages at work got thrown out. But there wasn’t like a good worker around the country saying we’re going to ban the Labour Party because of what happened to Jas Athwal. Why? Because the Labour Party has done a lot of engagement with Sikhs over the years. And so, in a way, this is what the issue comes down to, if you engage with a community, then that community is going to stick with you even if there are bumps in the road. And what’s happened is that the Labour Party, and the left, has essentially taken Hindus for granted for a long time. British Indians, what again, kinds of British Indians because you can divide them up into Hindus and Sikhs and Tamils and Gujarathis, and there are lots of different communities. But certainly, I think they’ve Gujarathis for granted for a long time. And now, you know, the opportunity was there for the conservatives to sort of you bring them over, thanks to what happened in India. And last point on that, what’s happening in India is truly to me very dangerous, because it brought a poison into the communities in this country. Because what we’ve got is a party in India, which has used WhatsApp, misinformation, lots of that, to spread poison amongst communities, turn Hindus against Muslims, against Sikhs, etc. And that poison is seeping into the body politic of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims in this country. And that’s what worries me because, you know, although the Labour Party has no clue about a lot of these dynamics, we do. And we have to be much more vigilant about it. And it does frustrate me, as somebody pointed out, there is a lot of people who immediately apply this test to Hindus, and you get Are you a Hindutva supporter? You know, what do you think about the Indian government? Where do you stand with the Indian government? Almost like as if, if you take certain sort of stances, you’re automatically Hindutva. And that’s dangerous. It’s like saying, you know, to Muslims, are you know, where do you stand on Palestine? Or therefore, you must be a jihadi, you know, and those kind of issues in a way that if you would not treat a Muslim that way, then do not do that with Hindus, or Sikhs, etc. But unfortunately, this level of debate, has become very common on the left and it’s frustrating. To summarize, I don’t think that the left and the Labour Party has necessarily lost British Hindus or British Indians forever. But I do think right now, it’s happening right in front of our eyes, because the Labour Party has taken these lots of minority communities for granted for too long. And that needs to change.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 26:32
Thank you for that Sunny, thank you. And I’d like to invite Sadia to just maybe build on some of those points and then add her own points in particular. Sadia, we’ve had some Sundip, and Sunny speak about what they feel are the issues that, you know, to what extent is the scale of the problem? What are your thoughts on it more generally, when you’re looking at the British political left’s relationship with British Indians more broadly?
Sadia Hameed 27:00
Thank you so much for inviting me and for organizing this discussion and raising this question and of course to those of you that are watching along right now. Thank you. It’s lovely to be here with Sundip and Sunny, I have followed both of them online as well. I was quite saddened to see what happened with Sundip, so I just wanted to say Sundip, it’s good to finally meet you. I wanted to start off with some more stats actually. According to the 2011 census, Indians are the third largest ethnic group in the UK making up to 2.3% of the overall population, and 1.3% of the overall population are Hindu and 0.7%. are Sikh and I think that Hindu – Sikh elements important because we often hear Indian Hindu used interchangeably. So, a 2019 Runnemede report revealed the British Indians have tended towards voting labour in general elections with well over 50% voting labour in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 general election. However, British Indian conservative votes rose from 30% in 2010 to 40% in 2017. British Indians have been economically out earning and outperforming their South Asian counterparts in the UK for some time now. So, why this shift in 2017 and not earlier, the idea that higher earnings automatically lead to an increased likelihood of voting conservative is not necessarily true. As both of my colleagues have pointed out. British Indians were loyal to the Labour Party whilst the Labour Party was loyal to them. Since the 2010 election, increased numbers of British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have opted to vote the Labour Party, with a smaller share of these ethnic diasporas voting for the conservatives. With a migration of South Asians to Britain, the political conflicts that had blighted this region have unfortunately also been imported to Britain and have transposed themselves into the British political scene in interesting ways. One such recent example was the Labour Party’s resolution on Kashmir, which Sundip just mentioned. So, on the 26th of September 2019, the National Executive Council of the Labour Party passed an emergency motion, calling for international observers to enter the Kashmir region, to monitor the situation which Corbyn very kindly volunteered to do. This follows the BJP his party, the BJP’s revocation of Kashmir’s legal recognition to limited autonomy under Article 370. This was subsequently viewed by many British Indians as a move by the Labour Party to quote the favour of Pakistani unmade voters whose vote would be decisive in the then upcoming December 2019 election. Such as the effect of this motion being passed by the Labour Party that campaign was launched during the 2019 election, by the British Hindu and Indian votes matter campaign, which tried to dissuade voters from voting labour, although they weren’t favouring any other political party. The labour rep resolution on Kashmir, the protests outside the Indian High Commission in London, including one protest on Diwali and the support for the prescribed Kashmir Liberation Front from the Labour Party reasons cited for their stance. Eventually, the backlash generated among some of the Indian diaspora forced Corbyn to issue an apology, as the motion was considered hostile to both Indians and India. In a letter to the Hindustani times into November 2009 Corbyn wrote, ”the emergency motion Kashmir came through as part of the democratic process of the labour of the labour conference. However, there is a recognition that some of the language used within it could be misinterpreted as hostile to India and the Indian diaspora. Labour understands the concerns the Indian community in Britain has about the situation in Kashmir and takes these concerns very seriously”. Needless to say, the reluctant and evasive terms struck by Jeremy Corbyn and his apology did little to modify the concerns of the British Indians, many of whom were formerly loyal to the Labour Party. Another contributing factor to the alienation of British Indian voters from the Labour Party was its reluctance to field Indian candidates in the 2019 election. The Labour friend of India group commented that, “we express our regret that the Labour Party has selected just one candidate of Indian heritage in 39 safely receipts, and no Indian heritage candidate in the 100 target seats. Furthermore, despite the National Executive committees panels shortlisting even selecting candidates in areas with large in Indian communities such as Lester, Ealing Ilford who West Bromwich and Darby, no Indian heritage candidates was selected”. which already Sundeep also mentioned. More generally, there appears to be a growing trend, a trend among the Labour Party and sections of the left particularly those influenced by post modernism and critical racial theory to resent successful ethnic minority groups. For instance, note the disparaging way that a 2019 Runnymede trust report describes British Hindu voters: Hindus are the ethnic minority group that most fits the stylized story of generational political change in Britain, as this electorate is increasingly made up of UK born children of immigrants, rather than their parents who face more discrimination on arrival and tend to be employed in working class occupations. Hindu voters have become more similar to their white right-wing voters, more middle class more suburban and wealthier. Know the analogy here used to reference British Indians, the more integrated and prosperous they become, the more they are sent to be white. This conflation of socioeconomic status and race for political purposes creates a narrative that excludes ethnic minority groups that have advanced themselves over the generations. This divisive rhetoric portrays comparatively poorer and more culturally insular diasporas as somehow racially and culturally authentic and passive victims of structural racism. If they are successful, they are rendered sell-outs, as they are no longer disadvantage and must have become honorary whites. Individuals from ethnic minority groups that have risen in socio economic terms but chosen their own political paths often report being racially abused by both left-wing activists and their own community members. The attempts by critical race theorists to devise a racial taxonomy whereby political persuasion and cultural loyalties can be ascertained solely on the basis of skin colour has now been extended Indians. Similar to how white working-class individuals often labelled Nazis, fascist and racist for raising legitimate concerns about issues such as migration, integration in Islamic supremacism, Indians and Hindus broaching these subjects are increasingly labelled Hindutva also Kostis. I noticed some of that happening when this event was advertised I had a few left leanings, who messaged me very quickly hyping up about Hindutva but making absolutely no valid points. Gone are the days when the Labour Party could blindly rely on Indian votes during separatists’ politics is rightly customer support from this increasingly prosperous and educated diaspora.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 34:48
Thank you for that Sadia, thank you. So, I’m going to open up the discussion a bit, but I wanted to go to Sundip first. So, Saida and Sunny have also made this point that as well as you know, we’ve had you know, British Indian Hindus, British Indian Sikhs, they’re also notable Muslim and Roman Catholic sections within the broader British Indian population. Sunny’s also talked about the sort of diversity of, you know, (inaudible), to South Indians, as well. But Sundip, there in Leicester you do have that religious diversity within the Indian origin population there, is it more the case that when we’re talking about this loosening of the relationship between the political left and British Indians, is it particularly sharp amongst British Indian Hindus? Or is it something that you’re noticing across all of the different religious groups, which have that shared Indian ancestry, especially in your neck of the woods?
Sundip Meghani 36:10
In order to go up to that point, and a couple of quick on the points on place watched a couple of quick on the points or comments that I have had. So, I think there’s a particular issue in regard to Hindu and Sikh communities. And the difficulty here is that every particularly, whenever I talk about British Indians and British Indian exodus from the left, and I’m sure all of us are in this kind of on the same wavelength. We don’t wish to segregate British Indians, whether they’re Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or whatever. But the problem is, for the far left, in particular,for that kind of socialist Marxist mindset, that’s what they want to do. That’s what they enjoy doing. It’s the age-old colonial trick of divide and conquer. So, it’s all very fashionable to turn against the Hindu and Sikh communities and perhaps be more sympathetic to Muslim communities and parts of the country. And one of the points I was going to make in regard to some of the central points that Sonny was making, is that actually the Sikh vote, and the Sikh labour vote has collapsed from my experience in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich and in Leicester. And another thing that came to mind, as he was talking, he was that this kind of separating people out into different identity groups, as I mentioned earlier, in accordance with that Neo-Marxist, postmodern Marxist ideology is appalling, it’s disgraceful. And that’s the kind of thing that those of us who are you know, second and third generation British Indians, we should not want to put up with it. We should not allow it to happen by proxy, because that identity politics is not the way that our communities and our and our faith and our cultures have existed, you know, we know that obviously, the kind of Indian mindset is more kind of secular and inclusive, and it’s only more in recent years, because of this hard left politics pioneered by Jeremy Corbyn and his lieutenants and things were really getting a bit out of hand. One of the kind of wider points I wanted to make was that, you know, for me personally, I’m not that keen on fighting out Indian politics here, you know, there are lots of degrees, there are lots of different things going on in Indian politics. And I don’t actually fully understand them, I have to admit. But what I don’t want is for us to fall into the trap of that divide and conquer that kind of far-left trap. Because the real problem in my experience, and the research that I’ve done is that it’s socialist Marxist ideology, which in my view, is a doctrine of hatred. You know, it’s authoritarian, it’s totalitarian, it’s this kind of left-wing extremism, and that left wing extremism in the Labour Party in particular, came from influx of extreme left-wing ideologues on the one hand, striving for unachievable perfection, at the expense of pragmatism and competence. And also, an influx of these kind of far-left academic intellectuals, many of which, you know, have this kind of bitterness, this kind of resentment built into them and a sense of inferiority. And what’s happened is that this kind of this this socialist Marxist Brigade, when they’ve taken over the Labour Party, when they’ve infected and polluted a once Great British mainstream political party, with their hatred with their bigotry with their anti-Semitism and with their anti-Indian racism. What they’ve done, of course, is pollute politics, pollute society, pollute the culture, of political discourse. And the other thing I wanted to say just a couple of other final points, just very quickly, I know we didn’t have much time. Is that there are other aspects in regard to these far-left Marxist socialists as well, we ought to consider and look at as to why British Indians have been turned away, being put off the Labour Party. On the one hand, we’ve got people who want to be white saviours, you know, they have this kind of Messiah complex as Jeremy Corbyn clearly has. And then you’ve got these black and Asian members on the far left, who act as racial gatekeepers, who want to tell us who is a proper black or proper Asian person. And then if you don’t play along, and if any of us, for instance, who are, you know, free thinking, and articulate and we know what we what we believe. And if we were to challenge far left Marxist socialist doctrine, which is now prevalent in the Labour Party, they would use racial epithets against us, we would be labelled Uncle Tom’s or coconuts. You know, that indicating that in that kind of mindset, in that kind of Marxist socialist mindset, you’re a coconut because you’re acting white. In other words, black and Asian people who are free thinking, who are articulate, who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, are acting white because they believe only white people should be acting that way. So, it’s that kind of built-in racism that built in bigotry that I despise. And obviously that’s why I left the Labour Party. That’s why I believe many people are leaving the Labour Party, and then British Indian voters in their droves are turning away from the Labour Party. I don’t think the party is repairable. I hope I’m wrong. But I think it’s a lost cause. I think the rot is just too deep.
Sadia Hameed 41:44
Can I just add something? I think, during the BLM discussion, we had quite a lot of people, but a lot of free speech advocates a lot of people that were opposing BLM, in Britain saying do not import Americanized racial politics to Britain. We’re not, we’re not America, right and I think that similar we need exactly the same attitude when it comes to India, Pakistan and that conflict in that region. We’re not India, we’re not Pakistan. Sundip makes a valid point, a lot of young, second, third, fourth generation, migrants from that region don’t actually understand what’s happening out there. And to have the Labour Party trying to pit us against one another for their own political gain. We have to be very, very careful of that they’re not wanting us to live cohesively together, they need that conflict to feed off of that.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 42:54
Maybe a good opportunity to bring Sunny in. Sunny, would you like to build on some of the points that we’ve had you know is it identity politics that we say that sort of that tribal identity and identitarianism on the left which grew under Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party? Do you feel that’s contributed perhaps towards, you know, a loosening almost of the left’s relationship with British Indians more generally?
Sunny Hundal 43:21
Oh, I mean, that’s a whole package, a can of worms, that you’ve got to open itself. Look, I don’t think it’s just possible to blame the Labour Party for this. I’ve been, like I said a member for 10 years before that I didn’t vote for labour, I ended up voting for Lib Dems in the 2010 election for my sins. But the point is that like, just to give you one example of what happened, the last election. The National Council of Hindu temples, wrote a specific letter to the Labour Party saying that they were going to ban the Labour Party from attending any motions or you know, and then calling them something like, associated them, with al Qaeda and ISIS because they supported Pakistan. So, you know, this, we can obviously condemn people for breaking down groups, by religion or by country, but I don’t think that we can entirely absorb the Labour Party of blame here. There are specific groups within the UK, who want to bring South Asian politics to this country. And you have to remember that during this election, there was a lot of WhatsApp forwards going around, I reported on this continuously. A lot of it was related to what’s happening in South Asia, a lot of it was related to India, and the politics there. And so, it’s impossible to disentangle them and say, we can’t break down the community, I agree with you, I run a website called perfect culture, I’ve been reporting on South Asians for 20 years. I hate the idea of breaking people down into smaller and smaller groups, and then selling them against each other. But we also have to acknowledge there are differences between communities, the Indian community is broken down into Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and even if you said Parsees and all the rest of it, you know. So, the fact of the matter is that each community is also different. And so, for example, in this country, you know, no one was appealing to Sikhs on the basis of what was happening in Kashmir, right, because that was seen as very much a Hindu issue. There wasn’t a Sikh group writing to the Labour Party saying that, you know, keep your nose out of politics in India, that was the Hindu forum of Britain and the National Council of Hindu temples, I’ve reported on all of this. So, on the one hand, I think that yes, the Labour Party is to blame for what’s going on. But on the other hand, there are people in this country also trying to set groups up against each other, and we shouldn’t let them off, you know, without condemning what they’re doing, or without saying, “What is this that you’re doing?” So that’s what I’m trying to say here, like the Labour Party, I mean, I don’t think the Labour Party, I wasn’t a fan of Jeremy Corbyn. I supported, in fact, Lisa Nandi for leader, but I’m happy with where Keir Starmer has taken. And I think one of the things that he’s doing well is staying away from the culture wars, that many on the left of the Labour Party want to keep on starting up. And he’s staying away from all of that, and I support it, because I think this is a trap for the Labour Party, and it’s a trap for the left. So, we don’t want to go down that route. But, if there are groups in the UK, and I’ve criticized Hindu groups, I’ve criticized Sikh groups, I’ve criticized Muslim groups, over the years, everyone, you know, if there are groups in this country who are trying to foment tension between communities, we have a duty, in my opinion, to call them out and say, this is wrong, what you’re doing. You know, and, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the election coverage, which is say, Actually, there are some Hindu groups who are blatantly trying to set communities against each other and that’s wrong. And the same way Muslim groups are trying to do the same thing as well. So, there are the difference between the communities. It’s not just the Labour Party, who’s you know, trying to create trouble.
Sadia Hameed 47:42
I do understand what Sunny is saying, but the trouble is that the Labour Party gets involved in that, that’s what we’re all seeing as outsiders right. That rather than them going, actually, this isn’t something we’re going to accept because this isn’t a country we’re in, we’re in Britain and we are all one nation. We are all supposed to be working cohesively together. Rather than doing that they get involved in that, you know, that environment that’s been created by separatists. They’re thriving on that. I don’t see the Conservative Party behaving in the same way, not that I’m a conservative either. But what it’s something that Sundip said about the coconuts and the Aqua Toms and such, so anything that does successfully integrate, and that doesn’t feed into this kind of separatist politics is seen as the enemy of the Labour Party, rather than somebody who could help work against the things that you’re talking about Sunny. So, I think that the issue is that the Labour Party specifically have a habit of facilitating some of this separatism by getting involved rather than going, actually, this is something that we shouldn’t get involved in, because this is causing division rather than unity. They’re not a unifying force anymore.
Sunny Hundal 49:04
I absolutely agree with that. I mean, I in fact, I’ve written an article saying that calling Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak a coconut is terrible and goes against, in fact, racist. I’ve said I’ve said it is bigoted. But and I’ve had flack for that, too, right. And I think that what’s going on, though, is that the left is going through its own contradictions and internal arguments about identity politics, which like I said, is a separate issue to unpack. The Labour Party is getting drawn into that, which I think is a mistake. And I think Sundip is right to warn against, Sadia you’re also right to warn against that. And it’s a problem, but they haven’t really figured this out, they haven’t really gone through the journey and realized that this is a problem and that, you know, we’re getting drawn into these issues, which other people actually, you know, should be dealing with. And that’s the end, and that’s why we’re losing a lot of people. You’re absolutely right, but I don’t think the situation is, you know, as Sundip said, irreparable. I do think it’s possible for the Labour Party to get its act together. And I hope so I hope it does under Keir Starmer.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 50:12
Yeah. Sundip, you said Sunny struck more of a positive note, when compared to your doom and gloom earlier on, where you said that this relationship, these ties is just beyond repair. But say if someone asked you what would the Labour Party need to do in terms of rebuilding its ties with British Indian voters that it’s lost, not just in the last election, but these can be voted that it’s lost in the last two or three general election cycles? Where do they need? Is it that just do not bother with these territorial disputes in the subcontinent? Is it more about the messages, their political messages wrong? Does it do they need to talk more about the significance of the family unit? Does it need to talk a bit more about entrepreneurialism? What do you feel that now, Starmer has come in it’s pretty safe to say that most people think the storm is a significant improvement when compared to his predecessor. Where would you and what would you like to hear from the New Labour leader if we were looking at labour repairing that damage that’s been caused, particularly under Corbyn’s leadership?
Sundip Meghani 51:17
Great question. So, this is probably my favourite or most important point that I would like to make tonight. And that and it’s simply this, British Indian values are British values. So, a lot of our fundamental values in British Indian culture are the same, or very similar, to mainstream working class, middle class, British values. Whether it’s to do with, you know, community, cohesion, collective support, family, family support, faith, love of country, a hard work aspiration, educational attainment, wanting for yourselves and your kids a better life than you had. So, all these kinds of standard mainstream sensible British values, they are British Indian values. And so, there’s two things really fundamentally in answer to your question that the Labour Party would want to do. Number one, as you alluded to, and as Sunny and Sadia have been talking about, is to stop trying to divide and conquer British Indians, stop patronizing the community, stop talking down to them, certainly stop treating them with such disrespect and disdain, cut out the anti-Indian bigotry and racism. Obviously, as I said at the start of the event, the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is the biggest problem. That’s the main problem that has infected the left. The anti-Indian bigotry and racism is a secondary issue. It’s not as pernicious as the anti-Semitism, but it’s also worth addressing and resolving. That’s the first thing which is to re-establish a better relationship with British Indians and also the future generations of British Asians, which premise look like us, you know, kind of professionals and working in mainstream jobs, all the rest of it. The other thing is more of a general political point. And it’s, and I’ve kind of touched on it a couple of times today. And this is where I don’t think Keir Starmer has the courage, the desire, to actually do the hard work, do what needs to be done, he’s too busy, in my view, kneeling down on one knee, you know, all this kind of just gestural nonsense politics. Because he because he did that, and then he tried to backtrack on it. And it’s kind of absorbing this stuff from America, which we don’t want to go down that route of civil unrest around identity, politics, and all this stuff. So, what he needs to do, but I don’t think you will, is get a scalpel, and cut out the cancer, which has infected the Labour Party. And we were talking and focusing on the Labour Party, that’s the kind of mainstream left-wing party in our country. The socialist Marxist, a far-left extreme politics, which has completely taken over kind of all effects of the Labour Party, in fact, to the party, you know, just dreadful, nasty, bigoted, hateful, divisive stuff. Because of these deluded, deranged ideologues, and resentful intellectuals, they need to make the tough decisions. You know, suspending Jeremy Corbyn is a very small step in the right direction, you don’t need to suspend him, you need to throw him out of the party. And then you need to throw out the other 30 or so far left Marxist socialists in Parliament, and actually just re-establish yourself as a kind of normal, modern mainstream British political party, that actually doesn’t talk down to British people, and doesn’t just disrespect British Indians in the way that it does with British Jews, or the working class or the middle class. So sorry, I rambled on.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 55:09
Please, please, don’t use the word. So, it’s great to hear
Sundip Meghani 55:14
But I just don’t think Keir Starmer will do it. I think he’ll, you know, focus on some of these kinds of peripheral changes, tinkering around the edges, you know, Corbin, I fully suspect Corbyn will be let back into the Labour Party. And that’s the reason why I will not, I can never see myself re-joining the Labour Party. I think it’s a doctrine of hatred. It’s divisive stuff. And it’s just a shame. It took me 20 years to wake up to this stuff, you know, but what happened, of course, it’s like, it’s like, you know, that there’s the anecdote of when you put a when you put a toad in a in a pot of water, and then put it on the on the cooker, and then turn up the gas and the water boil slowly. Now, you know, you don’t notice it until it’s too late. And but I joined was, was New Labour, social democracy, what I left was authoritarian, far left Marxist socialism. And that’s a very different kettle of fish. Let me tell you.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 56:09
Thank you Sundip. Sunny, just to hear your final thoughts before we have Sadia wrap up the event. When we’re talking about that sort of rebuilding phase, winning back lost British Indian voters. Sundip there perhaps feels that Starmer doesn’t have the spine, or he doesn’t have the spirit in him to lead on that healing process? Would you say you’re a bit more optimistic in terms of Starmers capabilities on this front?
Sunny Hundal 56:42
I will say that I think it will be a bad idea for Kier Starmer mode to throw out socialist MPs. That’s the job of their constituents, not the leader of the party. But you know, I respect that people have different opinions. And that’s fine. I have lots of different opinions to socialists in the Labour Party, to other people are in the right of the party. That thing about it. It’s a broad church. But let’s go back to the original question, which is about specifically around British Indians. And I don’t think that I think fundamentally, what happened here is that I don’t think the most British Indians paid that much attention to the inner workings of the Labour Party, they probably didn’t like Corbin, probably thought he was a bit too socialist. And but you know, they haven’t paid that much attention. What I do think is the problem is that they have not been engaged properly, and they’ve been taken for granted for too long. As you know, these people are always going to vote labour, so we don’t have to worry too much. And that lack of engagement is the principal reason why Hindus are moving away, Sikhs are on the verge of moving away, Jews have already moved away, and other communities may also move away. So, working class white people, for example, that’s a big problem for the Labour Party. So somehow, the party has to engage with all these groups, it may not give them everything that they want. But nevertheless, if you don’t make a community of people feel valued, engaged, and feel like they’re being listened to, then they are going to vote for someone else. It’s that simple when it comes to politics, it doesn’t have to be whether they’re Neo Marxist or neoliberal, it doesn’t have to be where they sit on the political spectrum. You engage your community, those people will talk to you, if they feel like you’re being listened to, they will vote for you. It’s that simple. So, I think that fundamentally, the problem with the I think the Corbyn Labour Party was that they just took the Hindu vote for granted. And there was an element of thinking that because these people are in India, they’re related to India, and India is seen as sort of this oppressor of Kashmir and all this kind of stuff, they kind of roll that together and sort of said, we don’t have to worry too much about the Indians, we don’t really want to focus on them. We get down this road, we’re actually engaging or having strong British Hindu leaders within the Labour Party is not seen as a priority, right. And if you don’t have those people, they’re engaging with the community on your behalf, then the community is going to feel ignored. It’s that simple. And that’s what happened. And so, if you want to go back to the basics, the Labour Party has to engage every community that wants to win back, it’s possible, you know, and let’s not be beat around the bush here, the Conservative Party has exactly the same problems when it comes to other communities, when it comes to racism, when it comes to taking communities for granted. The same issue applies in lots of different circumstances, they’re highly pro-business when they’re trying to push through Brexit, you know, in these different difficult circumstances. So, I think that these trends will ebb and flow, you know, and the Labour Party is not going to be banished forever. It can make its way back.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 1:00:13
Thank you. Sadia just to hear your final thoughts. So, do you think that it’s possible under Starmer’s leadership for labour to rebuild those ties with lost British Indian voters, that they’ve moved away from the party? Not necessarily now, you know, become die hard conservatives, many of them simply are just not as supportive of the Labour Party’s they used to be. That doesn’t mean they’ve automatically become Tories either. Did you sense there is an opportunity for Starmer to rebuild those ties? And if you do, what the what kind of what kind of political message, you know, what the main principles that he should really focus on?
Sadia Hameed 1:00:522
I think, I don’t trust Starmer. I don’t think a lot of people trust Starmer. I think the people have realized that he will go with whatever he thinks is going to gain him more popularity. So, he’ll kneel one day and then the next day he’ll you know denounce his kneeling? So, I don’t think people trust him. What I do think is that they have to start talking about the issues that affect the majority of the country again. And then people will automatically start trusting them. Because at the moment where they’re trying to win over some communities, and for a long time where they’ve been playing communities off one another, if they continue down that path, people aren’t going to trust them. They don’t trust them right now, but that trust is going to continue to crumble until there’s nothing left. I mean, I think, I imagine, in my lifetime that the Labour Party is going to become completely irrelevant. I think it’s, you know, its irrelevance is kind of growing, but I think it’s going to become completely irrelevant and redundant. Our political system currently has made it difficult for other parties to take its place. But I do think we need a new, truly Social Democratic Party. The hard left activists in the Labour Party that idealize Tony Benn, didn’t even realize how proud of an Englishman he was. I think we have to have that pride of being English back. Because that’s the only thing in Britain that is going to unify all communities, because that’s who we all are. Like Sundip said, right? We’re all British. And there’s nothing wrong with that, stop treating that as if that’s something poisonous. You know, one by one, every community that they dislike is being denounced and treated as if they are some kind of far-right activists, who don’t like who they are, or what they have to say. So, I think that they have to start coming back to unifying principles, and they need to start talking about ideas and policies, rather than pitting individuals against each other because they’ve been doing that for a really long time now.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 1:03:02
Thank you. Just to add my thoughts. I do think that a social democratic patriotism which emphasizes the significance of the family unit, entrepreneurship, also that, you know, the sense of community and that faith, you know, can be a source of strength and optimism for many across a range of religious groups. I think that would be in my personal view, I think that would be a positive direction for the British left more generally. But Sundip, Sunny, Sadia, I’d really like to thank you for participating in tonight’s event of thoroughly wonderful discussion and intellectually stimulating one, I hope everyone who joined in and watched this online event agree with me. So, I’d like to thank you all for participating tonight.