May 26, 2017 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
by Gurjeet Singh*
London (25 May 2017): With less than two weeks of campaigning remaining before the General Election on 8 June it appears to be a clear two-horse race between the Conservatives and Labour in England. If the trend of a national Labour revival continues alongside effective local campaigns the possibility of four Sikh MPs, three Labour and one Conservative, in two weeks time remains high.
In Wales the first two polls showed clear Conservative leads and indicated they were on course for a historic electoral breakthrough. The first was at the very start of the campaign and gave the Conservatives a ten point lead in Wales. The most recent one following the resurgence of Labour conducted straight after the Conservative manifesto launch had Labour with a ten point lead. A projection of these figures would see Labour winning all its current seats in Wales and gaining Gower from the Conservatives.
The national opinion polls before the Manchester terror attack showed Labour had more or less halved the gap due to the popularity of some of the policies in the Labour manifesto and doubts and criticisms of controversial aspects of the Conservative manifesto. All polls were before Theresa May’s embarrassing social care U-turn on a policy that was deemed by many as politically toxic. If the trend in polls continues over the next two weeks England could follow a similar pattern to that in Wales.
According to Labour candidates their manifesto compared to the Conservatives has given them all a boost. Labour’s education policies – limiting class sizes, extending free childcare and ensuring schools are properly resourced have been universally welcomed. The abolition of tuition fees, the cap on rents and scrapping zero hour contracts have also struck a chord with many students, younger people and parents.
Bhai Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “Given the latest U-turn many simply do not trust the Conservatives, whether this be health, social care, education or immigration. No one yet knows the full damage of Conservative policies on older people with scrapping the triple lock on pensions, removing the winter fuel allowance and forcing those who need social care to pay for it with their homes, despite the apparent U-turn. The state of the NHS, waiting times in A&E and schools facing crippling cuts and class sizes soaring is what has dominated on the doorsteps.”
“Theresa May was under fire for her policies and making the social care U-turn when campaigning ground to a halt with the terror attack. It is too early to know what if any impact there will be with local campaigning resuming today. There is no doubt the Manchester terror attack has cast a dark shadow over the general election campaign.”
Currently Tanamnjeet Singh Dhesi who is defending a 7,306 Labour majority in Slough is set to become the first turban wearing Sikh MP in the Commons. Unfortunately the feedback on the ground is there are concerns about how the race card is being played, but the continued resurgence of Labour should ensure a comfortable victory.
If the Labour resurgence continues Preet Kaur Gill the Labour candidate in Birmingham Edgbaston who is defending a majority of 2,706 (6.5%) and running an excellent local campaign should also be elected. She said:
“There has been a fantastic reaction of voters on the doorstep in Edgbaston who like Labour’s policies on protecting the NHS. Waiting lists, waiting times in A&E and treatment of junior doctors has been raised again and again. Voters also recognise and appreciate our plans for transforming social care and addressing homelessness in Birmingham. I have been able to reassure voters and explain why securing a strong independent local Labour voice from Edgbaston on health and education is crucial.”
“I have confidence in the people of Edgbaston putting faith in someone local with a track record of delivery. It s clear from the hundreds of voters I have personally met since I started the campaign that local issues are extremely important and they have made clear they want someone like me to represent them that they know, can relate to and trust.”
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “We are quietly confident history will be made in two weeks time and we will have our first turban wearing Sikh MP in Tanmanjeet and Preet will become the first Sikh woman MP. They are both hard working and run excellent campaigns. Preet in particular has had tremendous local support. She is a great listener and the feedback we have been getting is despite the national position people in Edgbaston want someone local they can trust.”
In Wolverhampton South West with Rob Marris having stepped down for Labour Paul Uppal for the Conservatives is expected to easily overturn a Labour majority of 801 (2%) and return after a gap of two years.
The result in Telford is expected to be tight where Kuldip Singh Sahota, the former Labour leader of Telford & Wrekin Council is hoping to overturn a Conservative majority of 730. Telford was traditionally a Labour stronghold. From the time it was created in 1997 until the election two years ago, it had always returned Labour MPs. So it was one of the biggest upsets of the 2015 election when Lucy Allan took the seat for the Conservatives with a slim majority.
Despite the Conservative lead in opinion polls Kuldip Singh Sahota could spring a surprise if he can get voters to focus on local issues, such as keeping open the accident and emergency unit at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital. The race card is also at play in Telford, but whoever can motivate undecided voters to turn out and vote is probably the one that will win.
*Gurjeet Singh is National Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation UK.
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