The Labour Party has been warned not to be “seen to take the support of the Indian community for granted”, amid criticism of its failure to select more than one Indian-heritage parliamentary candidate for safe and target seats.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Labour Friends of India expressed disappointment that Navendu Mishra is the only Indian-heritage Labour candidate selected for one of the party’s 39 safe seats and 100 target seats.
Due to the retirement of Labour veteran Keith Vaz, this means that there will likely be no overall increase of Indian representation among Labour MPs next month – even if Mishra is elected in Stockport as expected.
Labour Friends of India said: “Despite NEC panels shortlisting or even selecting candidates in areas with a large Indian community such as Leicester, Ealing, Ilford, West Bromwich and Derby, no Indian-heritage candidates were selected. Despite making representations on this matter, our calls have been ignored.”
Claudia Webbe was picked on Tuesday to replace Vaz in Leicester East. Although the Islington councillor was born and bred in Leicester, some activists criticised Labour’s decision not to select a candidate reflective of the local Asian population.
Sundip Meghani, a former Labour councillor and parliamentary candidate who ran for selection in Leicester East, tweeted describing the result as a “slap in the face for the Indian community”.
Referring to events at Labour conference in September, LFIN warned in its statement that “relations between the Indian community and the Labour Party are already strained” due to the “anti-Indian rhetoric contained in the emergency motion on Kashmir”.
Labour delegates passed a policy motion criticising the actions of India in the Kashmiri conflict, and said that the people of Kashmir should have self-determination rights. The motion also called for international monitors to be admitted to the region.
Ian Lavery, chair of the Labour Party, subsequently issued a letter clarifying the party’s position. He described Kashmir as a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve, and confirmed that Labour is opposed to external interference.
Labour Friends of India concluded: “There is a risk this failure to increase representation of Indians in parliament could hit Labour further… The Labour Party must ensure that it is never seen to take the support of the Indian community for granted.”
Indians are a large ethnic minority group in the UK and make up a significant section of the population. There are over 1.5m Indians living in the country, accounting for 2.3% of the total population.
Labour has traditionally enjoyed substantial support among the Indian community, with over 50% of Indians living in the UK voting Labour in 2017.
LFIN said that they would not be commenting on the matter further until after the election, and gave their assurance that they would be campaigning for Labour candidates across the country.