The left’s problem with British Indians

Indians are now represented at the top of British politics, and the identitarian left is furious.

Rakib Ehsan

Topics Politics UK

Following last week’s unexpectedly dramatic reshuffle, Boris Johnson’s cabinet now includes four politicians of Indian descent. Priti Patel remained as home secretary and three British Indians were appointed in new roles.

Former chief secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak was promoted to chancellor of the exchequer in spectacular fashion, following Sajid Javid’s resignation. Indian-born Alok Sharma not only replaced Andrea Leadsom as business and energy secretary, but he is also now president of the upcoming UN Climate Conference in November, aka COP26. Suella Braverman replaced Geoffrey Cox as attorney general and is now the government’s top lawyer. These are interesting developments in a supposedly ethno-nationalist administration.

The Conservative Party’s relationship with British Indians – an admittedly diverse group in terms of migratory background and religious affiliation – is one of the more interesting developments of recent times. Traditionally, British Indians provided the Labour Party with high levels of electoral support – in part due to the party’s passage of race-relations legislation and its broader reputation for fighting racism.

But things have changed. Today, British Indians are the second-highest earning ethnic group in Britain, earning more on average per hour than the majority white population. British Indians are renowned for their entrepreneurial spirit and are generally not instinctive supporters of the high-tax, large-spend economic policies associated with Labour in recent times. Like most Brits, many British Indians are far from impressed with Labour’s – particularly Jeremy Corbyn’s – ties with Islamist organisations. And the party’s reluctance to discuss the terror threat posed by Islamist extremism – currently the most prevalent form of terrorism in the UK – is a cause for concern.

Support for Labour among British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi Muslims has remained exceptionally high over the past few General Elections. But among British Indians support for the Conservatives has steadily grown.

The most recent General Election showed a further fraying of the relationship between Labour and British Indians. In Harrow East – a west London seat with a sizeable Indian-origin population – Labour fell some way behind. Meanwhile, Conservative MP Bob Blackman increased his vote share by five percentage points. Leicester has the second-largest Indian-born population in Britain. In the last election, in Leicester West and Leicester East, Labour’s vote share dropped by 11 and 16 percentage points respectively.

The fact that British Indians have been so successful and have integrated into society should be celebrated by the left. Here is a story of migrants, refugees and their descendants making notable contributions to British public life – in business, politics, media, entertainment, sport and more.

However, the identitarian left is much more interested in keeping ethnic minorities locked into a perpetual state of victimhood. The values of personal responsibility, individual initiative and self-sufficiency, which run deep in British Indian communities, challenge the left’s grievance-driven narratives. The fact that British Indians have managed to thrive also calls the widespread notion of ‘white privilege’ into question.

A good number of British Indians hold culturally conservative views, which are fundamentally at odds with left-wing cosmopolitanism, particularly on issues such as immigration and integration. Indians are also the most pro-Brexit of the UK’s non-white ethnic groups.

Politicians of Indian heritage are a growing force in high-level Tory politics, and this has made them a target for the left. This often spills over into racial slurs. British Indian Conservative politicians have effectively been branded Uncle Toms and race traitors. One left-wing writer described them as ‘turncoats of colour’. Home secretary Priti Patel has been accused of having ‘internalised whiteness’. and a ‘Raj complex’. In a pathetic and bizarre hit piece, the Guardian – the bastion of chattering-class intolerance – highlighted Suella Braverman’s membership of a Buddhist sect, which it said could ‘raise questions’ about ‘her judgement as the government’s senior legal expert’. No doubt the left would be quick to call out such slurs and innuendos if they were directed elsewhere.

If the British left refuses to acknowledge the role of individual initiative in personal success, if it continues to appear soft on issues such as immigration and crime, and if it carries on fraternising with Islamists, then it will continue to alienate British Indians.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on Twitter: @rakibehsan.

Picture by: Getty

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Dhanila Chady

21st February 2020 at 11:20 am

Okay, yes ‘the left’ and (overwhelmingly white) liberal commentariat do have a problem with British Indians.Mainly that they don’t conform to the preferred poor victimhood stereotype. The Labour Party definitely has a problem with British Hindus. Before the election they were trying to put it out that some random in India’s BJP was sending whatsapp messages to the Britain’s Indian community on Kashmir. Though it didn’t even specify which one. Even if that were true, we’re probably talking a handful of people rather than the thousands of British Indians who don’t even call India home.

First, I have never known any British Indians to get exercised about a) Kashmir b) Indian politics. That’s probably because second, British Indians are a diverse group and include Sikhs, Christians and Muslims, as well as Indians that hail from ex-colonies from other parts of the world (like me). Third, it was not clear if they were referring to the now growing Indian expat community, who are mainly based in London and work in IT, banking, tec etc. However, fourth, I don’t think they would care much either as they are pretty diverse group. South Indians from tech hubs like Bangalore or Chennai or really unlikely to give a shit about Kashmir. Especially when they are expatriate on a different continent and have their own cultural linguistic and even religious identity.

A perfect example of how Labour is knotting itself up over identity and foreign politics it has no business in. I can only think it’s because it pleases some of it’s most favoured constituents who basque in identity.

Another highly amusing thing is Labour pointing out that Rishi Sunak is the son-in-law of a Billionaire. I mean, really, how dare he marry into wealth? Nevermind that Sunak’s parents were middle-class GP and Pharmacists, in pretty ordinary Southampton. They obviously used to earn enough in the NHS to send their children to private school. Similarly, Suella Braverman is apparently a recipient of the 1980s Tory policy of ‘Assisted Places’ after attending school in Brent, born to a Nurse mother and Housing Officer father.

Oh how terrible social mobility was before St. Tony appeared.


22nd February 2020 at 1:26 am

The problem is that so many who benefit from social mobility then proceed to pull the ladder up behind them.

Remittance Man

21st February 2020 at 6:59 am

“In a pathetic and bizarre hit piece, the Guardian – the bastion of chattering-class intolerance – highlighted Suella Braverman’s membership of a Buddhist sect, which it said could ‘raise questions’ about ‘her judgement as the government’s senior legal expert’.”
One wonders what would be said if Mrs Braverman were actually Mrs Khan and the Grauniad questioned her competence because she was a member of a particularly devout branch of Islam.

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