February 28, 2020 - 11:47am

A comment piece in the Guardian by Neha Shah, a University of Oxford academic, has hit a new low.

Riddled with historical inaccuracies, it essentially advanced the view that the growth in Conservative Party support among British Indians is driven by anti-black hostility and anti-Muslim sentiment. She writes:

In the 2019 election, as the Conservatives chased a realignment towards white northern voters based on racist scaremongering, support in constituencies with high Indian populations increased substantially again. At every point, this has included members of both groups of Indian migrants…

…Supported by the Indian government and its far-right ruling party, the BJP, the Conservatives have exploited a sharp rise in Hindu nationalism within the British Indian community to play Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Muslim communities off against one another.

- Neha Shah, The Guardian

Shah’s broader argument is that, due to their history of ‘filling the colonial sandwich’ — operating in middle-level roles under British colonisation in places such as East Africa — Indian-origin Brits are naturally comfortable with enabling the supposedly racist endeavours of the modern-day Conservative Party.

While correctly acknowledging that Indian-heritage migratory streams into the UK are diverse, Shah omits the flow of well-educated medical professionals from the western Indian state of Gujarat in the 1950s. Migrants who seamlessly integrated into roles in the National Health Service.

In an extraordinary act of historical revisionism, Shah claims that many East African Asians brought an embarrassment of riches with them to the UK, after fleeing state persecution in the region. Under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada, South Asians had their businesses and properties expropriated and transferred to his cronies and sycophants, as they were expelled from the country.

There are a multitude of drivers behind the growing number of British Indians shifting towards the Conservatives.

British Indians are now the second-highest earning ethnic group in the UK (just below British workers of Chinese origin). Compared to other non-white ethnicities, levels of female economic activity are higher among British Indians, with fertility rates being lower. This means there is a relatively high proportion of two-income households with lower numbers of children — which in turn reduces the need to be dependent on forms of social welfare.

Being well-integrated in both a socio-economic and social sense, British Indians are more likely to identify more strongly with their British identity than their faith, when compared to other non-white groups — such as British people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. It is also worth noting that British Indians were also the most pro-Brexit non-white group. Osterley and Spring Grove in Hounslow — an affluent west London ward with a high Indian-origin presence — delivered a Leave vote of 63 per cent.

While Shah suggests that anti-Muslim prejudice is driving Conservative support among British Hindus, she decides to completely ignore the possibility that Labour’s — specifically Jeremy Corbyn’s — fraternisation with Islamist organisations may have put off a number of British voters of all faiths and ethnicities.

To finish off, Shah then suggests that British Indians should return to their rightful place, joining forces with other non-white groups under the banner of “black resistance”.

Laid bare is the reality that for some, British Indians — traditionally viewed as entrepreneurial, ambitious, and self-sufficient, and now more willing to cut ties with Labour — pose a fundamental threat to their precious white privilege narratives.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher specialising in British ethnic minority socio-political attitudes, with a particular focus on the effects of social integration and intergroup relations.