Op/Ed: UK Sikhs should grasp this opportunity to shape the Labour Party

The recent General Election has been a huge setback for the British Sikhs in terms of parliamentary representation by failing to return or elect any Sikh candidates from across the political spectrum.

2015 General Election

For the Labour Party and its activists, the result of 7th May was a nightmare with an unexpected national swing towards the incumbent Conservative Party and sweeping rise of the Scottish National Party up north of the border which until then had only been theoretical. What was made clear in the early hours of the morning was that the pollsters had got it largely wrong and somewhere along the process the Labour Party had also got it badly wrong. Some political strategists argue that the poor performance was fundamentally due to the party’s weak leadership whilst others point to its lack of national messaging to ‘aspirational voters’ and voter identification process on the ground.

The fundamental fact is that it was always going to be a hard task to win back power from an incumbent government but we had hoped that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government had made enough mistakes to give us a fighting chance of limiting the Conservatives to a single-term. After all, we had employed full-time campaign organisers in all of our key seats, we had policies which had public input through Your Britain and focused groups, and we even hired Arnie Graf, Barack Obama’s mentor to teach us how to connect with people. We wanted to disprove the saying ‘oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’ by out organising our opponents.

Reviving the Labour Party

Following the result and resignation of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party is now at a start of a long journey of learning and soul-searching. We are open to having the public play a much larger role in electing our leaders, setting our direction and shaping our policies than ever before in the history of the party.

Sikhs residing in the United Kingdom should sign-up and grasp this great opportunity to influence the direction of the Labour Party by democratically electing its London Mayoral candidate, National Leader and National Deputy Leader through a one-member one-vote system. This means that supporters registered between now and 12th August 2015 will have the same voting rights as fully paid up members and parliamentarians for only £3. To date, 21,000 registered supporters have joined since nominations for the leadership closed, and a further 20,000 full members have also come on board. The only prerequisite to becoming a registered supporter is that you must share Labour’s aims and value, and must not have stood in an election against the party or nominated somebody who has.

I asked some Sikh figures within the Labour Party who they will be supporting in the leadership race. Here is what they said:

Name: Parmjit Dhanda
Position: Formerly the MP for Gloucester
Backing: Andy Burnham MP
Reason: “I’m backing @andyburnhammp – a good friend and the best of a good bunch of former colleagues”

Name: Neena Gill
Position: Currently MEP for the West Midlands and Chair of Sikhs For Labour
Backing: “I am supporting @YvetteForLabour for Leader and @Tom4Deputy”

Name: Preet Kaur Gill
Position: Currently Councillor, Sandwell Council
Backing: Yvette Cooper MP
Reason: “[Yvette] demonstrates leadership, has clarity and focus on what matters. Is the most experienced and has come across strong in hustings”

Name: Chaz Singh
Position: Currently a Councillor and former Parliamentary Candidate for South West Devon.
Backing: Jeremy Corbyn MP
Reason: “@UKLabour had a heart attack at #GE2015 but @Corbyn4Leader resuscitated it”

Personally, I will be backing the Labour Party’s unyielding ‘iron lady’ Liz Kendall for Leader, the scrutiny-extraordinaire Tom Watson for Deputy Leader, and rising star Sadiq Khan to be Labour’s London Mayoral candidate.

I hope that Sikh readers will join us at this exciting time and be part of the process of rebuilding our party and our country. You can become a registered or affiliated supporter for only £3 by following this link.


About the author: Varinder Singh Bola is a moderate British Labour Party politician who has served as a Councillor in the London Borough of Redbridge since 2014. He is a senior aide to a Labour Member of Parliament and a parliamentary officer for a transatlantic nuclear weapons policy think-tank based in Whitehall, London. Varinder is related through his maternal family to the famous Indian freedom fighter and Ghadarite, Munsha Singh Dukhi of Jandiala (1890-1971).



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