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Labour’s New Generation

(Left to right): Chuka Umunna, Yasmin Qureshi, Maryam Khan, Chi Onwurah, Naz Sarkar, Anas Sarwar and Shabana Mahmood

There’s still a few months to go before the general election – and possibly some last-minute retiring MPs yet to declare. Yet taking stock of Labour’s BME candidates at the end of 2009 it is clear the party are on course to welcome as many as nine new MPs of colour.

By Lester Holloway

So far, Labour has selected a total of 30 candidates from African, Asian and other visible minority ethnic backgrounds. If Gordon Brown has a good election – denying David Cameron an overall majority – Labour could end up with as many as 21 BME MPs.

That would represent a significant jump from the slower rate of progress at previous elections, following the historic breakthrough in 1987 when Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Keith Vaz and the late Bernie Grant were elected to Westminster.

Labour saw 13 BME members of parliament reach the House in 2005. One of that number – Mohammed Sarwar in Glasgow Central – is due to stand down next year. Even if Labour suffer an absolute disaster at the polls next year, they are almost guaranteed to see Anas Sarwar replace his father, and Dr Chinyelu Susan ‘Chi’ Onwurah make it through in Newcastle Upon Tyne Central.

Bassam Mahfouz

If Labour perform in line with current polling they are also likely to see Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East), Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood), and Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) reach the green benches.

Naz Sarkar, defending the Labour-held seat of Reading West, and Maryum Khan (Bury North) also stand a very good chance getting elected.

Should Labour further erode the Conservative’s lead – and much depends on Brown’s performances in the televised leader debates – then Bassam Mahfouz, who contesting a newly-created seat of Ealing Central and Acton with a notional paper-thin Tory majority, would get elected.

The seats contested by these new candidates have different local circumstances, with some aspiring politicians benefiting from active campaigns and personal popularity. Others will have to navigate their way around contentious issues and unique local dynamics.

Rushanara Ali

But it’s not unreasonable to expect to see nine newly-elected Labour BME MPs, or at least six or seven new ones. Further late retirements of sitting Labour MPs may offer further opportunities, and several BME wannabes are eyeing up the vacant Labour-held seat of Leyton and Wanstead, which selects early next year.

Of the 12 sitting Labour MPs who are standing again, Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington), David Lammy (Tottenham) and Keith Vaz (Leicester East) should coast home. Mark Hendrick (Preston) should also make it.

Virendra Sharma (Southall) should be safe in theory, however it will be interesting to see how his long-time rival – the veteran Labour activist turned Tory candidate Gurcharan Singh does against him.

The local popularity and reasonable (5,190, notional) majority should be enough to see Sadiq Khan (Tooting) elected, although he will take nothing for granted. The same is true of Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester). Shahid Malik (Dewsbury), defending a slightly smaller majority, can also expect to survive.

Dawn Butler (Brent Central) is locked in a fascinating battle with fellow MP Sarah Teather (Lib Dem) after the Boundary Commission merged their seats. On paper Butler starts out in front, with a notional 6,600 majority, but it’s a contest that may well go to the wire.

Meanwhile Marsha Singh (Bradford West) is in a slightly more precarious position, facing a strong challenge from Conservative Zahid Iqbal.

Labour will hope to retain all 12 of the defending BME MPs, but if the party perform badly they could lose one or two of them. Even the worst-case scenario would see at least seven sitting BME MPs returned.

It is impossible to see the party emerge out of the next election with anything less than 13 BME MPs – the present number – and it is almost certain to increase the overall number. Should Labour reach 21 BME MPs they will have cause to celebrate the biggest step forward in Black political representation since 1987.

LABOUR’S NEW CANDIDATES… SO FAR

Anas Sarwar

Seat: Glasgow Central   Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Dr Chinyelu Susan ‘Chi’ Onwurah

Seat: Newcastle Upon Tyne Central   Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Chuka Umunna

Seat: Streatham   Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Yasmin Qureshi

Seat: Bolton South East  Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Shabana Mahmood

Seat: Birmingham Ladywood  Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Maryam Khan

Seat: Bury North  Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Extremely High (Defending 1st Place)

Naz Sarkar

Seat: Reading West  Held by: Labour

Chances of being elected: Very High (Defending 1st Place)

Rushanara Ali

Seat: Bethnal Green and Bow  Held by: Respect

Chances of being elected: Very High (Currently 2nd Place)

Bassam Mahfouz

Seat: Ealing Central and Acton  Held by: Notional Conservative-hold

Chances of being elected: Very High (Notional 2nd Place)

Bambos Charalambous

Seat: Enfield Southgate Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Close but unlikely / outside bet (Currently 2nd Place)

Funda Pepperell

Seat: Basingstoke Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Close but unlikely / outside bet (Currently 2nd Place)

Sonia Klein

Seat: Ilford North  Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Close but unlikely / outside bet (Currently 2nd Place)

Hardyal Dhindsa

Seat: Mid Derbyshire   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Sidharath Garg

Seat: Uxbridge and South Ruislip   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Ashiq Hussain

Seat: Aldridge Brownhills    Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Swatantra Nandanwar

Seat: Maldon   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Ash Rehal

Seat: Faversham and Mid Kent   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Abul Monur Ohid Ahmed

Seat: West Suffolk   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Manish Sood

Seat: North West Norfolk   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Ayfer Orhan

Seat: Hemel Hempstead   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Prem Pal Sharma

Seat: Bedfordshire South West   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: Very slim (Currently 2nd Place)

Bhavna Josh

Seat: Central Suffolk and North Ipswich   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: None / Battle to hold 2nd Place (Currently 2nd Place)

Rav Seeruthun

Seat: Maidstone & The Weald   Held by: Conservatives (Helen Grant defending)

Chances of being elected: None / Battle for 2nd Place (Currently 3rd Place)

Aktar Beg

Seat: Romsey and Southampton North   Held by: Liberal Democrats

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Jermaine Atiya-Alla

Seat: Newton Abbott   Held by: Liberal Democrats

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Shafiqul Khan

Seat: Carshalton and Wallington   Held by: Liberal Democrats

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Hratche Koundarjian

Seat: Lewes   Held by: Liberal Democrat

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Dr Neeraj Patil

Seat: Surrey Heath   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Tariq Sadiq

Seat: South Cambridgeshire   Held by: Conservatives

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

Harkirtan Singh-Raud

Seat: Cheadle  Held by: Liberal Democrats

Chances of being elected: None (Currently 3rd Place)

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6 Responses

  1. Please answer your telephone / listen to the voicemails!!

  2. Sorry, I’ve been snowed under today. Will listen to voicemails shortly!

  3. Go Labour !!

  4. Can’t find a message from you Jaswant, can you drop me an email: lesterholloway [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk

    Thanks,

    Lester

  5. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Lester, though as we have the Lib Dems, Tories, Greens and the BNP campaigning hard against us here in Newcastle, success feels by no means docertain. But one thing I must correct, I do not have a doctorate, my father was a medical doctor but I can only lay claim to a B Eng and an MBA.
    all the best
    Chi

  6. There are so many MP’s stating that they are standing down at the next General Election. Yet, if you ask rank and file Labour Party Members, there is precious little communication from the Labour Party Leadership, National Executive Committee etc giving more BME members any encouragement to consider putting themselves forward as candidates. It’s a crying shame that no public statement about aspirations for BME MP’s after the General Election is coming from Gordon Brown or Harriet Harman in the clear an unambiguous way that David Cameron has. I hope the BME members in the Labour Party are not discouraged by this and they keep pushing forward to represent their constituents in Parliament.

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