A big blow to Conservatives. One of the most prominent British-Asian politicians is leaving the government fold. Mr Kishan Devani FRSA, former Deputy Chairman of the London Conservative Party (2014 to 2016), quits the party to join Liberal Democrats under Vince Cable. Mr Devani, a 2015 Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservatives and a 2016 London Assembly Candidate, explains the reasons to leave a ruling party to join an opposition party….Special for Asian Lite News
Many of you must be asking why would you leave a party of government? Wouldn’t this affect your own personal political aspirations? I say no – conscience comes before one’s own ambitions and equality, tolerance & justice are far more important that one’s own career path. The future of our great United Kingdom and our future generations is far more important than anything else in my view and worth fighting for every step of the way.
Politics surely should be about policies and not personal attacks – what a shame it hasn’t remained that way? What I did not realise is that this was just the beginning of a long and rocky ride over the coming months where I saw a real lurch to the right, in the words of the former Tory MP Stephen Phillips QC the party has started to mould itself into ‘UKIp-Lite’. This lurch to the right began to be visible to me during the EU Referendum campaign. Having been instrumental in setting up ‘British Indians for In’ with the now Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP, I travelled up and down the country talking to the British Indian Community about the benefits of remaining in the EU. Currently the only political leader and party outlining the inconcistences in the Brexit argument are the Liberal Democrats & Sir Vince Cable – everyone else seems to have vanished & with them their ‘remain’ arguments too.
That for me is still not the issue (even though some would say it remarkable how ‘remain’ politicians are now silent) – the issues are the by products of the referendum vote for example a rise in hate crime in London and across the country. Ethnic minority communities in particular the youth in these communities have been subjected to abuse which has divided our strong and united country. This has in my view been brought about by this constant lurch to the right by the Government.
Grass root level engagement with BAME communities is what is truly needed to understand the issues they are facing. Flamboyant dinners, receptions at lavish venues such as Number 10, discussions at the House of Commons or visiting temples for photo opportunities at Diwali play a part in engagement with the communities, however cannot be the sole basis of the relationship between a political party and BAME communities.
This surely cannot be correct? Would we like our children or family members being treated differently just because they have a different accent? It is unfortunately where we currently are in our country. Whilst over 17 million people voted to leave the EU, over 16 million voted to stay. The real challenge is finding a suitable way to represent all people and be an inclusive country for all regardless of background, ethnicity or religion. There is evidently still time to acquire an exit from brexit as it is apparent there is growing support for a vote on the final deal.
Having made many life-long friends in the Conservative Party who do genuinely want to see a brighter future for all, it seems truly a shame that some have shifted the entire political discourse and agenda. We are looking to develop our trade with nations like India but do not seem to be bothered how Indians in the UK feel about their role in the UK and their place within British society.
Stopping Indian students from studying here, stopping Indian restaurants from bringing specialist chefs over for their restaurants, making it harder for families to be reunited due to stringent visa rules on Indian nationals. How possibly can you on one hand look to want to develop trade between nations such as India but not welcome Indians to the UK. Already trade between India and the UK has been affected since the Brexit vote – the General Secretary of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), Alwyn Didar Singh told The Guardian “The EU is India’s largest trading partner […] but exports from the UK to India have been declining.” He added: “Now, exports from India to the UK will also decline because you’ve lost 18 per cent of your pound’s value. So if I’m sending something to the UK and getting a lower return on it, I’m going to have a think about that. It’s a double hit.” He also stressed what I feel is so ambiguous about the entire approach of the Government – their lack of clarity on international trade deals, which Mr Singh appears to feel too “In uncertainty, nobody takes an investment decision”.
Lord Billimoria and the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield University Sir Keith Burnett have been incredibly critical of the recent trade delegation to India which they also went on. Sir Keith writes that he felt ‘truly ashamed’ by the entire trip, where he said in a blog in the Times Higher Education ‘Indians who studied in the UK say we don’t act as if we are good friends any more. They say we want their money and business but are not willing to teach their children, even if they pay full whack’. He points to the figures that there has been a 50% drop in the number of Indians studying in the UK since 2010. So all in all there is no clear plan in particularly in relation to building trade deals with countries such as India. Trade delegations or trips mean nothing when the signals you are giving to the members of those communities living in the UK are the opposite. It really is hypocritical – maybe we should wake up and smell the coffee?
All of this shows a clear unwillingness to engage with ethnic communities at grass root levels and understand what it is they want to see in a post brexit UK. Whether it is the announcement of cutting our aid budget or the reluctance of accepting child refugees it is not the type of Britain I would like to see and bring my children up in.
As a British Indian who has been involved in community issues for many years and as the son of refugees who came to the UK in the 1970’s due to the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin, I cannot see how such heartless actions can be carried out. It could have been my family 40 odd years ago! For many the Mayoral Campaign itself would have been enough to be put off by this type of nasty politics – yet I soldiered on thinking it may change. I am now left to believe unfortunately I may just have been dreaming.
Grass root level engagement with BAME communities is what is truly needed to understand the issues they are facing. Flamboyant dinners, receptions at lavish venues such as Number 10, discussions at the House of Commons or visiting temples for photo opportunities at Diwali play a part in engagement with the communities, however cannot be the sole basis of the relationship between a political party and BAME communities. A more meaningful relationship has to be sought between all stakeholders, by visiting communities at grass root levels in their own domain – by visiting community centres, meeting various stakeholders within the communities, speaking and listening to people entrenched in the communities and listening to their concerns (not just views of self proclaimed ‘leaders of the community’).
Although there is still much to be done for all members of the BAME community to feel they belong in the democratic process of our wonderful and great country, in a post Brexit UK we must look to unite communities and promote the idea of unity in diversity. Unfortunately the current trajectory is one of being divisive, segregating communities and isolating people. This is why it would be morally wrong of myself as the son of refugees to stand by and watch silently.
After much deliberation I came to the conclusion social justice, equality and positive race relations are at the heart of my rationale and currently there is only one party that is looking to try and promote such an agenda and that is the Liberal Democrat Party.