by Rakib Ehsan
Tuesday, 16
August 2022
Behind the news
14:43

Why Rishi Sunak won’t win British Indian votes

The diaspora are interested in economic basics, not identity
by Rakib Ehsan
An identity politician? (Photo by Peter Nicholls – Pool/Getty Images)

Britain and India have an inescapably problematic common history of colonisation, subjugation, mutual migration, and now, unsteady partnership. And with this week marking India’s 75th year as an independent nation, it is worth reflecting on British-Indian diaspora’s relationship with their country of origin.

In 2010, then-prime minister David Cameron hailed UK-India relations as the ‘New Special Relationship’, attempting to establish a firm political-cultural alliance based on this shared past. Cameron attempted to woo Indian prime minister Narendra Modi with 60,000 people — predominantly British citizens of Indian origin — packed into Wembley Stadium for the November 2015 ‘Team UK-Team India’ rally.

The moment underlined just how seriously the UK took India, the most populous parliamentary democracy on earth, as a strategically important partner for the UK.

A Summer 2021 survey of social and political attitudes among British Indians revealed that the they are far from being the monolithic bloc they looked like on the day Modi visited Wembley Stadium. They are not always as interested as British politicians are in UK-Indian diplomatic relations either.

Tory supporters and Hindu voters are the most upbeat over Narendra Modi’s performance as prime minister of India. Older, foreign-born British voters of Gujarati Hindu origin — especially those holding a strong preference for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — are especially interested in UK-India relations.

But this is not the same for all subgroups and only a small number of British Indians rate UK-India relations as a top political priority. Indeed, when compared with UK-India relations, British Indian voters are more likely to say that the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union (EU) is their most important political issue on a personal level.

Along with many not prioritising UK-India relations in their electoral considerations, a plurality of Indian-heritage Brits believe that groups affiliated with Indian political parties — such as the Overseas Friends of the BJP and Indian Overseas Congress — should not get involved in British domestic politics (46%), with under one in five believing they should (19%).

While the rise of Tory Indian-heritage politicians like Rishi Sunak provides the Tories with the appearance of being an inclusive political party, there is no guarantee that such representation will bolster British-Indian support for the Conservatives. A comfortable majority — 56% — say that it is not important for them to have an Indian-origin MP representing their constituency. Identity-based representation is not the order of the day among socially-integrated British Indians at large.

Of course, an integral part of the UK’s post-Brexit foreign-policy identity is cultivating stronger trading, defence and educational ties with India. But increasingly this is a separate goal from appealing to Britain’s Indian diaspora.

If the Conservative Party wants to be a more electorally competitive force in the wider British-Indian population, the best way to do so is by focusing on the bread-and-butter of economic management, improving healthcare provision and lifting educational standards. It would serve the Tories well to keep a safe distance away from subcontinental-style sectarian politics and not to fall into the trap of believing that identity-based representation will automatically bring Indian-heritage voters into the Tory fold.

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Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

Well said.

The lure of a captive vote is the only explanation needed for politicians’ enthusiasm for Multiculturalism .

This is patronising, presumptuous and divisive and I wish they would just stop it.

Carmelina Lester
Carmelina Lester
1 month ago

GOOD

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

Please do not insult Indians and Indian Hindus with this ” multiculturalism” woke nonsense. As I have said so many times previously, Indian Hindus in Britain so massively outperform and exceed the performance and contribution to GB of all others, including indigenous Brits, in every single sphere that they turn their exceptional minds to. Just look at Sunaks CV compared to Truss and all the other lightweights? India should be, along with Israel, our most precious and close allies not least as a defence against the inexorable rise of virulent Islam extremeism, but more importantly, we should have the backbone, guts and courage to stand up and say so!

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 month ago

Thank you.

Glyn R
Glyn R
1 month ago

What do you say about the rise of militant Hinduism that is targeting Christian minorities in India?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

“A comfortable majority ..
say that it is not important for them to have an Indian-origin MP representing their constituency.’
I have a feeling that is not true of British Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. Am I right?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

Hard to say. George Galloway remained enduringly popular for some time.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago

Based on my interaction with the British Indian community, I suspect that the Conservative party can count on the majority of Indian votes – simply because it would seem to represent their view of hard work, reward and strong families.
Ethnicity will not be a significant factor in their support for Sunak, were he to win – and the Conservatives have always been well aware of that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Barton
William Cameron
William Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I agree the Indian Hindu culture seems in line with Tory views.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

except for the woke pandering of the ToyliTories

William Cameron
William Cameron
1 month ago

However the Pakistani/ Muslim vote seems to be largely captured by Labour.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

ooh what a surprise…

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

Given their success in so many fields of British life, identity politics and its believe that representation should always be proportionate to the size of racial groups comes as a threat to British Indians.

Iris C
Iris C
1 month ago

I am sure those of Indian origin – or any other ethnic origin who were born here and have lived and worked with citizens from different backgrounds and cultures – have the know-how to judge the characters and abilities of the two candidates without bringing race into the issue.
In fact, it disturbs me to think that the tiny percentage of unelected Tory members who will be voting, could be closet racists or radical feminist.
Articles like this, do not help.