May 6, 2017 | By Gurjeet Singh
by Gurjeet Singh*
London (4 May 2017): The Labour Party has declared virtually all its candidates. Kuldip Singh Sahota, the former Telford and Wrekin Council leader, became the third Sikh to be selected by Labour for a winnable seat in Telford. He becomes the second turban wearing Sikh to be selected for a winnable seat and indicates the Labour Party better recognise the significance of the visible Sikh identity emphasised in the Sikh Manifesto.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Kaur Gill are defending majorities in Slough of 7,336 (15.2%) and Birmingham Edgbaston of 2,706 (6.5%) respectively while Kuldip Singh Sahota is looking to overturn a small Conservative majority of 730 (1.8%). Before 2015 Telford was traditionally a safe Labour seat with a relatively large majority. Given Kuldip Singh’s strong local track record he is expected to make a strong showing in five weeks time.
Preet Kaur Gill could become the first Sikh woman MP elected and now there is a possibly of two turban wearing Sikh MPs. Three other Sikhs have been selected as Parliamentary Prospective Candidates by the Labour Party, but in seats with large Conservative majorities. Rocky Gill, who has been a Barking and Dagenham councilor since 2010 has been selected for Hornchurch and Upminster where the Conservatives have a majority of 13,074 (23.7%). Solicitor Manjinder Singh Kang has been selected for Tewksbury where the Conservatives have a majority of 21, 972 (39.7%) and councilor Bally Singh for Kenilworth and Southam where the Conservatives have a majority of 21,002 (43%).
In terms of Sikh representation the Conservatives have been left behind with only Paul Uppal selected for Wolverhampton South West who is clear favourite to regain the seat from Labour and Samir Jassal selected in the safe Labour seat of Feltham and Heston. Whilst the Conservative selection process is still ongoing it is nearing completion and nearly half a dozen turban wearing Sikhs on the approved list of candidates have disappointingly fallen at the first hurdle and not yet been selected centrally by the Conservative Party in shortlists for consideration by local members. At least two Sikh women have made the shortlists, but none have yet been selected by local members. So whilst Labour has proactively used its central selection process to get better Sikh representation, the Conservatives appear to have given this low priority and relatively speaking gone backwards especially with regards to turban wearing Sikhs and Sikh women as MPs.
*Gurjeet Singh is National Press Secretary of Sikh Federation (UK).
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