May 2, 2017 | By Gurjeet Singh
by: Gurjeet Singh*
London: In terms of Sikh representation in the House of Commons Labour have so far been the frontrunners in terms of winnable seats. Labour has thrown down the gauntlet to the Conservatives with the selection of Preet Kaur Gill from Birmingham Edgbaston who could become the first Sikh woman MP and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi from Slough who could become the first turban wearing Sikh MP. They are defending majorities of 2,706 and 7,336 respectively.
In comparison the Conservatives are under pressure as they have yet to find a winnable seat for a Sikh women or turban wearing Sikh. There is however time and opportunities before the 11 May deadline for the Conservatives to try and put this right. Unsurprisingly the Conservatives have selected Paul Uppal from Wolverhampton South West who is looking to overturn a majority of just 801 and is the clear favourite to return to Westminster after a 2-year gap. Labour has selected Eleanor Smith, a long-standing Labour activist who works at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust following Rob Marris’s surprise decision to step out of politics and who was widely recognised as a champion on Sikh issues. She will have her work cut out given the current Conservative lead in opinion polls.
The Conservatives have also selected Samir Jassal from Feltham and Heston, but this in not really a winnable seat with Labour’s Seema Malhotra having a majority of 11,463 (23.2%). London is currently a stronghold for Labour and the swing in London to the Conservatives based on current opinion polls would only half the majority and be insufficient for a Conservative victory. The Labour leadership is however worried that an increasing number of Sikh voters are turning to the Conservatives and are expected to make further commitments on other Sikh demands set out in the Sikh Manifesto.
With less than 6 weeks to go before the 8 June poll Labour appears to be narrowing the large Conservative lead. Three opinion polls over the weekend show a rise in support for Labour, although the Conservatives maintain a commanding lead. The polls show the Conservatives remain between 11 and 17 points ahead of Labour. However, the polls showed the gap has closed from leads of up to 25 points reported last weekend.
One poll by YouGov showed the Conservative lead over Labour had fallen to 13 points, compared to the 23 points that the same polling firm found last week. An earlier poll by Opinium showed support for the Conservatives had actually risen two points, but the gap between the biggest parties narrowed nevertheless as Labour boosted their support by four points. The smallest gap between the two main parties was 11 points in a poll by ORB for the Sunday Telegraph. It showed support for the Conservatives at 42 percent, while support for Labour was 31 percent. It was ORB’s first poll of the election. These polls also came before Theresa May’s interview with Andrew Marr yesterday that many commentators have concluded was a bit of a disaster and in part may explain her reluctance to live TV debates.
*Gurjeet Singh is National Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation UK.
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