I was at the Gurudwara yesterday morning in Park Avenue, Southall, and Cllr Gurcharan Singh, who recently defected to the Tories, randomly turned up. It wasn’t the time for him to solicit votes so he left not long after. Earlier in the day the Tory candidate Tony Lit had also been there to get the Gurudwara’s backing. Today the Times reports that two more councillors (from surrounding areas) have defected to the Tories. Does this mean Lit is close to victory?
Ermm, probably not.
1) The two new councillors count for little since defections always take place during election season. The Conservatives had never really seen Ealing Southall as a target seat in the past so it’s unsurprising that a few crumbs from David Cameron enticed a few opportunists to jump ship. It does however create media momentum and a buzz about the election, which works in their favour. It’s very debatable whether this will translate to extra votes.
The Sikh vote is seen as crucial to this by-election, leading some election-watchers to make bad assumptions. The two major Gurudwaras in Southall (Havelock road & Park Avenue) have come out in favour of the Labour candidate Virendra Sharma for various reasons, despite his Hindu background. When he was Ealing mayor earlier, he had then formed a close relationship with the Gurudwara committee and helped them on occasion (I’m told). So they like him.
2) I said earlier that the Conservatives had made a mistake by getting Gurcharan Singh to defect to them because he brought his divisive factionalism and Khalistani politics with him. It was actually better for Labour that he left.
Ministry of Truth has just posted a letter issued by the Gurudwara committee earlier this year when a demonstration, organised in light of the riots in Punjab, in which Gurcharan Singh had a hand, disrupted normal proceedings.
One of the apparent organisers of the demonstration, a Mr Gurcharan Singh, had come and met a representative of the executive committee on the 18th of May and advised us that the demonstration would be a peaceful one.
However, subsequent events, which I will now detail, showed that this was a pre-planned politically motivated attempt at character assassination as well as an attempt to destabilise the Sabha.
Uh oh. In other words Gurcharan Singh’s crew tried to character-assassinate the head of the Gurudwara committee in Southall. Does Tony Lit know that one of his newest councillors is hated by the very committee that overlooks the two main Gurudwaras in Southall? Someone should get on the phone, quick.
3) Yesterday afternoon, while listening to the ardaas (like an address to the congregation), the announcer seems to have endorsed Virendra Sharma (my ears perked up too late unfortunately). I doubt it will have much effect on local voting but if the Tories think that their candidate’s religion is going to play better against Sharma, then they’re in for a rude shock.
Just because a few hardcore activists on Sikh websites and elsewhere are claiming they won’t vote for Sharma because he is a Hindu (which, of course, should be the last criteria), doesn’t mean much. Most voters won’t see everything through their narrow political/religious prism.
In many ways this election is a win-win for Labour. If they lose now, they get rid of Sharma and inject some new blood into the area and reclaim the seat at the General Election (when boundary changes make it much easier for them). If they win, then they win I guess.
It is more a double-edged sword for the Tories. They’ve woken up to the ethnic minority vote and got their hands dirty (building experience for next time). And they have a dynamic new candidate on their hands who may be good for another seat even if he loses here.
But whether Tony Lit will want to do the hard slog and run to be selected as the Conservative candidate in seats around the country is another matter.
They can’t just parachute him in to another seat come the General Elections. And if they win then sooner or later their local Conservative association will be dogged by fierce factionalism and in-fighting given their recent recruits.
My feeling is that the Liberal Democrats will come out further than expected. They’ve firstly been leafleting and campaigning like mad. Secondly, their candidate, if not an old fogey or a young candidate, is a veteran and came second place last time with 11,000 votes. As long as Respect don’t bite too much into their anti-war vote, they should fare well.
I’m fairly certain Sharma will win, but it will be a close by-election.
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