Tuesday, July 23, 2024

UK goes to poll today; Sunak fights to the end


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London/GENEVA, July 3: Rishi Sunak has covered thousands of miles in the past few weeks, but he hasn’t outrun the expectation that his time as Britain’s prime minister is in its final hours.
United Kingdom voters will cast ballots in a national election Thursday, passing judgment on Sunak’s 20 months in office, and on the four Conservative prime ministers before him. They are widely expected to do something they have not done since 2005: Elect a Labour Party government.
During a hectic final two days of campaigning that saw him visit a food distribution warehouse, a supermarket, a farm and more, Sunak insisted “the outcome of this election is not a foregone conclusion.” “People can see that we have turned a corner,” said the Conservative leader, who has been in office since October 2022. “It has been a difficult few years, but undeniably things are in a better place now than they were.” Labour also is warning against taking the election result for granted, imploring supporters not to grow complacent about polls that have given the party a solid double-digit lead since before the campaign began.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has spent the six-week campaign urging voters to take a chance on his centre-left party and vote for change. Most people, including analysts and politicians, expect they will.
Labour has not set pulses racing with its pledges to get the sluggish economy growing, invest in infrastructure and make Britain a “clean energy superpower.” But nothing has really gone wrong, either. The party has won the support of large chunks of the business community and endorsements from traditionally conservative newspapers including the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times.
Diverse Parl & British Indian MPs
The UK general election on Thursday is expected to deliver the most diverse Parliament in the country’s history, including in the number of parliamentarians of Indian heritage likely to be elected from across the nation.
According to an analysis by the British Future think tank, the Labour Party is set to have by far the largest number of ethnic minority MPs if the party wins an overall majority and even more in a landslide scenario.
With around 14 per cent of MPs coming from an ethnic minority background this time, the analysis finds that the new Parliament will be closer than ever to reflecting the diversity of the British electorate.
“This election will see the biggest rise in ethnic minority representation and the most diverse Parliament ever,” said Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future. “In the space of 40 years, we’ll have gone from zero to one in seven MPs being from an ethnic minority background. Britain is closing the gap between the diversity of Parliament and the electorate much faster than anyone thought possible,” he said.
The last general election in 2019 resulted in 15 MPs of Indian heritage crossing over the line, many of whom are contesting again alongside several first-timers.
Conservative Party MP Alok Sharma and Labour veteran Virendra Sharma are among the most high-profile British Indians not seeking re-election this time, from Reading West and Ealing Southall, respectively. The latter constituency, with a large Punjabi electorate, has two British Sikh candidates contesting as Independents – Sangeet Kaur Bhail and Jaginder Singh.
Some of the key British Indian candidates to watch in Thursday’s polls include Praful Nargund, who is contesting for the Labour Party in Islington North – the seat of the party’s now-suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is contesting as an Independent candidate. Jas Athwal is contesting in another Labour stronghold of Iford South, while Baggy Shanker in Derby South, Satvir Kaur in Southampton Test, and Harpreet Uppal in Huddersfield are contesting more marginal seats for the party.
Rajesh Agrawal, the Indore-born former Deputy Mayor of London for Business, is fighting to become a first-time MP from Leicester East and is up against a fellow British Indian Conservative candidate, Shivani Raja.
This constituency, representing a large Indian heritage electorate, will be keenly watched as its former long-term Goan-origin MP, Keith Vaz, is also in the race as an Independent candidate.
British Sikhs, including solicitor Warinder Juss from Wolverhampton West in central England and Gurinder Singh Josan from Smethwick, will be hoping to make gains for Labour, as will Bihar-born Kanishka Narayan contesting in Vale of Glamorgan – hoping to be elected as the first Indian-origin MP from Wales, and Sonia Kumar hoping to overturn a Tory majority in Dudley.
For the Conservative Party, Chandra Kanneganti in Stoke-on-Trent Central and Ameet Jogia in Hendon are facing a tough fight in a race consistently forecast in favour of the Opposition Labour Party. “A diverse parliament brings different perspectives to its work, which can lead to more effective policy-making. MPs who come from different backgrounds can be role models for their communities, inspiring young people to vote and get involved in politics,” says Jill Rutter, British Future Associate Fellow who led the think tank’s analysis.
With a series of retirements and exits, largely from the incumbent Tories, the new Parliament elected on Friday will see around 158 new MPs in the House of Commons.
‘Mega-year for polls’: UN rights chief warns against hatred, discrimination
The UN human rights chief warned Wednesday about rising hatred and discrimination around the world in a “mega-year for elections,” calling on voters to put rights of others in mind when they cast their ballots.
Volker Turk made the call with major elections looming in places like France and Britain this week, and in the United States and Germany later this year. Immigrants, refugees and other foreigners have been “scapegoats” for some political parties, he said. (AP/PTI)


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