Monday, November 23, 2020
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For British Hindus, Labour is a letdown

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IN the UK, instead of referring to non-white people as ‘people of colour’, we are regarded as BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic).

The problem with this identity politics-style of categorising ethnic minorities is that it groups together many different peoples who would otherwise have nothing in common other than being BAME.

Nevertheless, Labour has historically been the party that most BAME people vote for. But British Hindus have been defying this stereotype and feel that the Left in Britain has let them down.

An analysis by the Runnymede Trust showed that 30 per cent of British Hindus voted Conservative in 2010, rising to 40 per cent in 2017, a number that is expected to have grown in the 2019 election. 

British Hindu MPs are also leading Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor, Priti Patel as Home Secretary, and Alok Sharma as Business Secretary. This begs the question: Why are British Hindus abandoning Labour and turning to the Conservative Party?

Jeremy Corbyn certainly did nothing to help Labour win Hindu votes. Before the general election in December 2019, the then party leader’s stance on Kashmir led many Hindus in the UK to believe that Labour was pandering to the Pakistani community in Britain, as he declared that India’s revocation of Kashmir’s special status was a ‘humanitarian crisis’. 

Hindu Council UK (HCUK) condemned Corbyn, accusing him of ‘polarising Hindu and Muslim relations’, and messages circulated on WhatsApp urging British Hindus not to vote Labour in the election, claiming Labour to be ‘anti-Hindu’.

When Keir Starmer became Labour leader, he tried to improve relations between the party and the Hindu community by declaring that the ‘constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament’. But it seems the damage may have already been done. 

Moreover, Starmer’s job was not helped by the Hindu community being excluded from a round-table talk with leaders of BAME groups on the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, at which HCUK expressed its disappointment. Starmer later met with HCUK and issued an apology. 

In the Commons earlier this month, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, Labour MP Florence Eshalomi accused Priti Patel and the Government of not taking any action to combat racism and structural inequalities faced by ethnic minorities. 

The Home Secretary responded by stating that she ‘will not take lectures from Labour on racism’, after being depicted by the Guardian as a ‘fat cow with a ring through its nose’. 

Cows are a sacred symbol of life in Hinduism, and Patel expressed disgust at the racist caricature. Nonetheless,  the depiction was not condemned by the Labour MPs who claim to champion the rights of ethnic minorities.

And, as if to rub salt into her wound, 32 BAME Labour MPs subsequently wrote a letter to Patel declaring that ‘being a person of colour does not automatically make (her) an authority on all forms of racism’, and that Patel was using her ‘heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK’, insinuating that the Home Secretary’s suffering was not ‘very real’.

While there have been no outright declarations of Hinduphobia in the Labour Party, there is clearly a rocky relationship between the Hindu community and Labour in Britain. Though Starmer is doing his best to improve relations, his Labour colleagues must be on board with this too.

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Mark Corea
Mark is about to graduate from Queen Mary University of London with a degree in History.

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