UK Elections: Historic Day for New Sikh MPs as Labour Fights Back
Indian-origin voters give a thumbs up to Labour’s welfare policies as Sikh winners make it to the House of Commons. (Photo: Saumya Pankaj/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Indian-origin voters give a thumbs up to Labour’s welfare policies as Sikh winners make it to the House of Commons. (Photo: Saumya Pankaj/ The Quint)

UK Elections: Historic Day for New Sikh MPs as Labour Fights Back

Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi has made history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh to have been elected as a Member of Parliament to the House of Commons in Britain. He won from Slough constituency as a Labour candidate and has successfully retained the seat for the party after defeating his nearest rival Mark Vivis of the Conservatives by 17,000 votes.

Tan, as he is popularly known, was a bookie favourite to win, but the road to success was not all smooth. His nomination earlier on 28 April from this seat had caused a stir in the local branch of the Labour Party who believed that the seat should have gone to a woman, as was previously the case.

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Tan Dhesi, winner from Slough, during his victory speech. (Photo: Kamalpreet Kaur/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Tan Dhesi, winner from Slough, during his victory speech. (Photo: Kamalpreet Kaur/ The Quint)

Tan Dhesi Takes Over in Slough

At 38, Tan is currently the Chair of Gravesham Constituency Labour Party in Kent and has been a former mayor of Gravesham too. He has a long history with the Labour Party, spanning many years and traversing many roles.

A visibly overwhelmed Tan, in his victory speech, expressed gratitude towards the party, local party workers and campaigners. He had received a huge support from Sikh institutions, groups and gurudwaras in the UK.

First Sikh Woman to Make a Foray in UK Parliament

Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”, the Sikh call of victory reverberates at the counting station for Birmingham Edgbaston, where dressed in red top and a black suit, a beaming Preet Gill accepts her victory with an enthusiastic team of Labour supporters and becomes the first Sikh woman to be elected to the British Parliament. Preet Gill prevailed upon her nearest rival Caroline Squire by a margin of 6,917 votes.

“Wow,” is the first word she said after being declared a winner. Thanking her family, friends, all the local Labour party members and leaders for supporting her throughout the campaign, she said:

My father came to this country from India with great aspirations for us all. Tonight, it is a beginning of the journey that he would have been proud of, had he been here.
Virendra Sharma retained his seat from Ealing Southall. (Photo: Kamalpreet Kaur/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Virendra Sharma retained his seat from Ealing Southall. (Photo: Kamalpreet Kaur/ The Quint)

Virendra Sharma Wins in Southall

Meanwhile, it’s Bhangra time in Ealing Southall, with Virendra Sharma retaining his constituency seat for the Labour Party for yet another term with an impressive win against his nearest rival Fabio Conti of the Conservatives. He received 31,720 votes. It’s not even a crack of dawn, but Virendra Sharma is shining like the Sun.

Weeks of toil and years of community work have paid off yet again. Interestingly, his campaign was also embroiled in controversy with his views conflicting with some local Sikh and Muslim community leaders. Known for his inclusive and calm approach, Virendra Sharma prevailed and recorded his win.

One Punjabi vs the Other

Hugs, smiles and handshakes abound for Seema Malhotra as the returning officer for Feltham and Heston announces her victory. She has retained her seat for the Labour Party. The losing Tory candidate is also a Punjabi, Sameer Jassal, who lost by over 15,000 votes.

Unlike Virendra Sharma, whose core supporters surrounding him are his friends of yore, Seema Malhotra is being kept company by young volunteers. Seema is known for her work in the constituency, her approachability and sense of commitment to any good cause. She is also a proponent of Indo-UK relationships in a big way and would like to play a pivotal role in bringing the two countries together for trade and business.

Voters Pose Faith in Labour Party

I’m pleased that finally a visible Sikh has found a place in the Parliament. It’s important to get the representation right if we want fairness in democracy and our policy making. It’s a proud moment for us all. Labour Party not only just thinks about Britain, but has a global vision too.
Sukhwinder Singh, a local Sikh community leader.

Expressing delight at a Labour victory in her constituency, Nirpal Kaur said, “I was supporting Labour because of NHS and other social welfare policies as well as the future of my children. Under the Tories, our hospitals and schools and public services have suffered a lot.”

“I voted for Labour because Tories got us Brexit and a country full of divisions,” said Manpreet Singh who voted to get his sitting MP and shadow chancellor John McDonnell win again.

Amardeep Kaur, a young working mum from India, voted for Labour for “its policy on immigration. The Tory rhetoric has made immigrants sound like a swear word. We contribute to the society, pay our taxes and are in this country legally. Why do we have to explain that?”

Jasmeet Singh from Langley said, “I voted Labour for their immigration policies and against the Tories for their role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar.”

(Kamalpreet Kaur is a freelance journalist based in London, working with TV, radio, print and digital platforms)

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