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Record Number of Pakistani Britons May Become MPs

Changing the face of politics?

Murtaza Ali Shah of Daily Jang writes exclusively for the Blog about the historical and political firsts that the election results will deliver and how this will set a new benchmark for Muslim and Pakistani communities here in the UK.

A record number of British Pakistanis are likely to be elected to the 650 seats strong House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, in the three-way election race today in what has been described as the most important election in a generation.

Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been wooing the Black and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME) with equal vigour as there are nearly 113 seats where the ethnic vote is highly counted upon because of the fact that more ethnic minority members tend to cast votes.

The current ethnic tally of Labour stands at 12, two for Conservatives and none for the Liberal Democrats and small parties. The three parties are confident of adding to this tally

and it looks increasingly likely that there will be more ethnic Pakistani parliament than of any other ethnicity.

In a first of it’s kind, at least five Muslim women, four of them of Pakistani origin, are standing for seats with a good chance of victory. They include Respect Party’s Salma Yaqoob from Birmingham Hodge Hill, the prominent and respected Muslim female politician in Britain, Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi from Bolton East, Shabana Mahmood from Birmingham Ladywood, Maryam Khan from Bury North, and Bangladeshi origin Rushnara Ali from Bethnal Green and Bow in east London.

Former Labour MPs Sadiq Khan, Khalid Mehmood, Shahid Malik are seeking re-election while Anas Sarwar, son of retiring Labour MP Muhammad Sarwar, who made history by becoming Britain’s first Muslim MP in 1997, is attempting to get elected from his father’s Glasgow Central seat.

Among Conservatives, Zahid Iqbal from Bradford West, Sajid Javid from Bromsgrove, and Rehman Chishti from Gillingham & Rainham are in top target seats and their chances look good. Liberal Democrats’ Qurban Hussain in Luton South and Tariq Khan in Birmingham Hodge Hill are trying to carry these traditional Labour seats for Nick Clegg’s party.

Labour party has fielded more Asian/Pakistani origin candidates from the winnable seats or in traditional Labour heartlands, followed far behind by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who have the largest number of Muslim candidates but little chance of winning. In total, there are a record number of more than 80 Muslim PPCs selected in 63 seats but only about 8-10 have a realistic chance of winning.

This election will be known for many firsts; the first African Tory MP, quite possibly the first Pakistani origin Tory MP, the first Muslim MP, and the first Bangladeshi origin MP. This election is being described as the most unpredictable and game-changing in the living memory. The unpredictability of this election, the centrality of issues such as economy, immigration and crimes make the black and minority ethnic vote more crucial than ever before.

Labour has traditionally won the votes of South Asian and African/Caribbean immigrant communities and sent the first ethnic minority parliamentarians to Westminster but without any doubt the disillusion with Labour has steadfastly grown over the last decade after the Labour government aped the US administration into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting into loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Labour’s crackdown on civil liberties including the stop and search of Muslims, racial profiling of ethnic minority members, harsh and biased treatment of Muslims, race relations, foreign policy, attack on immigration and the economic chaos leading to job losses, affecting the ethnic minorities the most, have dealt a severe blow to the chances of Labour carrying the ethnic minority vote en bloc.

Labour still remains the most favoured party of ethnic minorities but both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives will respectively gain a decent percentage of ethnic minority votes. All polls indicate a hung parliament with a three-party system firmly in place, studies show that Black and Asian vote will split this time.

The key issues in this election facing ethnic minorities are the economy, education, health, unemployment, housing, foreign policy, the rising level of racism across the country and the rise of far-right parties such as the British National Party and English Defence League, Islamophobia, counter terror legislations, stop and search, police powers and the broken relations between the police and ethnic minorities, and erosion of civil liberties.

Estimates suggest that the number of Muslim MPs will be doubled to between 8-10. Around five MPs of Indian origin, most of them from Labour, are also likely to retain their seats, followed by around MPs from Afro-Caribbean communities. Also, there are more Asian candidates standing for the main parties than ever before – 89 compared to 68 in 2005, a rise of 26 per cent.

According to a research carried out by the Operation Black Vote (OBV), there are 113 seats where the Black and Asian vote is of crucial importance. OBV estimates that fifty-four of these seats would be considered as very marginal seats. OBV’s pre-election research into the power of the black vote shows there are 113 seats in which the black and Asian voting-age population is bigger than the 2005 election notional majority.

The eagerness of the three parties to bring forward Muslim MPs, majority of whom trace their roots to Pakistan, is a sign of the growing influence of Muslims in the UK. An increased number of Muslim, Asian and Black MPs will have a crucial role in influencing the shape of the next government, the parliament and, most importantly, in the areas of legislation and foreign policy decision making.

Ashok Viswanathan, Deputy Director of Operation Black Vote, speaking to The News, agreed that today’s election is a game-changing one. “Black and Asian communities have the key to who gets into 10 Downing Street on Friday.”

The challenge is to ensure high turn out, he said, quoting, worryingly, a recent BBC Asian Network survey which suggested that only 40 percent of Asians were certain to cast their votes. But he insisted that mainstream parties and leaders also needed to make case before the ethnic audience that they will adequately address their issues once in power and will not take their votes for guaranteed.

OBV believes that this election must bring to the House of Commons 25-40 ethnic minority MPs altogether which will be a major threshold but will still be far short of the actual and true representation of the ethnic make-up of Britain. “The make-up of the House of Commons still remains overwhelmingly white, middle-aged, middle class and it must change to represent the true make-up of our society.

OBV research clearly shows that Pakistani communities’ vote bank is of decisive factor in at least 24 constituencies and the widespread nature of the Diaspora’s demographics mean the community can be hugely effective in the local and national politics and the 6th May election must demonstrate what British Pakistanis and their fellow immigrant communities have achieved, overcoming insurmountable odds.

By Murtaza Ali Shah

Originally published here. Used with kind permission.

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One Response

  1. i feel proud of it.WE should work for Great Britain Together. I am proud of great Britain

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