Labour Friends of India (LFIN), the diaspora group affiliated with the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, on Wednesday issued a statement condemning its party’s failure to select enough Indian-origin candidates to contest the upcoming General Election.
The outfit, which “aspires to strengthen the relationship between British Indians and the Labour Party and enhance the age-old relationship between the UK and India”, acknowledged that relations between the Indian community and Labour have been “strained” over its perceived anti-India stance on Kashmir and the lack of appropriate representation in its candidates list is likely to make matters worse.
“We express our regret that the Labour Party has selected just one candidate of Indian heritage in 39 safe Labour seats, and no Indian heritage candidate in 100 target seats,” an LFIN statement ahead of the Thursday deadline for parties to finalise their nominations for the polls next month read.
There are five Labour MPs of Indian heritage who are up for re-election in the coming election while Nav Mishra, contesting from the safe seat of Stockport in Greater Manchester, is the only first-time candidate of Indian-origin in the running.
LFIN also pointed out that with the retirement of Goan-origin Keith Vaz on Sunday, there is no chance of an increase in the number of Indian heritage Labour MPs in the new House of Commons.
Sundip Meghani, an Indian-origin former Labour Councillor and solicitor, who had applied to succeed Vaz’s seat from Leicester East, also attacked the party’s selection process after being snubbed in favour of NEC member Claudia Webbe.
“I cannot stay silent on the obvious dodgy practices and nepotism involved in this process, where Labour’s ruling Executive chose a member of the Labour’s ruling Executive, as the candidate,” a statement issued by Meghani said. He also said the hasty imposition of a candidate who was not of Indian heritage “in a seat with one of the highest Indian demographics in the country is a slap in the face for the Indian community in Leicester and across Britain”.
“It shows just how little the Labour Party values and respects the Indian community, particularly Hindus and Sikhs,” he said.
He also pointed out that it was Webbe who chaired Labour’s National Conference in September when it called for independent intervention in the Indian state of Kashmir, another reason she was an unfit candidate.
“Labour is taking the Indian vote for granted and I condemn this crooked outcome,” Meghani said.
The Labour Party has traditionally attracted loyal support from the Indian community, with over 50 per cent of Indians living in the UK voting Labour in 2017, according to the Runnymede Trust.
However, growing resentment over the controversial emergency motion passed at the Jeremy Corbyn-led party’s conference in September has led to an outburst of anti-Labour sentiment among the British-Indian community.
Amid mounting criticism, party chairman Ian Lavery intervened earlier this week to issue a statement which stressed that the Labour Party will not adopt any “anti-India or anti-Pakistan position over Kashmir”.