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  • WTF happened in Southall?

    by Sunny
    4th July, 2007 at 5:30 am    

    The local Labour party has bizarrely shortlisted two completely unexpected names for the upcoming by-election: Cllr Virendra Sharma and Jo Sidhu. Labour activist Luke Akehurst confirms this though there’s nothing on the official website. It looks like the NEC bottled it by neither choosing Sonika Nirwal nor Gurcharan Singh. The former may end being given another sweetener, the latter may end up standing as an independent. Either way I think Ealing Southall deserves better.

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    Filed in: Party politics

    8 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Leon — on 4th July, 2007 at 10:16 am  

      So, a fudge then?

    2. Luke Akehurst — on 4th July, 2007 at 10:58 am  

      The NEC moves in mysterious ways. Presumably there is some sound reason behind the choice of Mr. None and Mr. Ricin.

    3. Jagdeep — on 4th July, 2007 at 12:28 pm  

      I hope Sonika gets a seat eventually.

      Jo Sidhu should get it because he’s not an uncle like the other one. Bring on the new blood, British born men and women.

    4. Steve — on 4th July, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

      Like I said Sunny, Tammany Hall.


      My wife was planning to trudge up the Uxbridge Road in the rain to vote for Sonika Nirwal this afternoon. I’ll phone her and tell her not to bother.

    5. Gurjeet Singh — on 5th July, 2007 at 8:19 pm  


      Thursday 5 July 2007


      Around two weeks ago following the death of Piara Khabra, the MP for Ealing Southall, the race began for who would be the Labour Party candidate in the by election on 19 July. Last night it was confirmed the Labour candidate would be Cllr Virendra Sharma after the Labour Selection Panel, including Keith Vaz MP and Tom Watson MP decided on a remarkably short list, of two men on Tuesday afternoon. It is reported that fellow Labour MPs like Fiona Mactaggart were furious with the outcome and made their views known with the new Party Chair, Harriet Harman.

      The Labour Party had already announced in March that it would adopt an all women’s short list with the front runner being Sonika Nirwal. However, as this was a by election and a candidate for Ealing Southall had yet to be announced to replace Piara Khabra, when he stepped down, his untimely death provided the Labour Party with an opportunity to open up the selection process.

      The Labour Selection Panel reduced the estimated number of applicants for this safe Labour seat from perhaps as many as 100 to eight candidates on Monday evening. Publicly there were two fairly powerful lobbies – one to ensure a woman was selected and the other to get a Sikh into the Commons, preferably a turban wearing Sikh.

      It is understood two of the eight on the long list were women – Sonika Nirwal and Jasbir Anand. Seven of the eight were Sikh, with three turban wearing Sikhs, including Cllr Gurcharan Singh who was widely acknowledged as the person with most support within the local Labour Party membership that would ultimately determine who represented them. Most, but not all, on the long list were local candidates. As there were candidates on the long list that were not local some are asking why excellent candidates, like Dr Harkirtan Singh, who has been short listed before in Denton and Reddish, were excluded on this occasion.

      After interviews on Tuesday the Labour Selection Panel surprisingly only named two on the short list to take part in hustings that evening and who would be put to the local Labour Party membership. The hustings on Tuesday night were only for local Labour Party members and reports suggest they proved quite tense as there were many who were upset at the short list. The absence of a woman or turban wearing Sikh in the short list were two of the main concerns.

      It has been reported that the Selection Panel wanted somebody similar to the Conservative candidate Tony Lit – “an Asian man with a ‘clean cut’ image”. However, it is been unofficially suggested that part of the thinking was that Sonika Nirwal and Gurcharan Singh had some sort of skeletons in the cupboard that the opposition parties might exploit in the by election. Similar allegations could be made against the candidate selected, but only time will tell what tactics and information the opposition parties use. It is interesting that Labour has chosen to keep media coverage of its chosen candidate very quiet.

      As Labour has failed to allow a woman or turbaned Sikh to be in the short list there is a risk that an independent Labour candidate will now stand. Labour has brought this on itself. It has also not been lost on the Sikh community in Ealing Southall and throughout the UK that young Sikh professionals have been overlooked for the one ageing non-Sikh on the long list.

      Gurjeet Singh
      National Press Secretary
      Sikh Federation (UK)

    6. Anil Sharma — on 7th July, 2007 at 10:09 am  

      Heard there was a meeting in Southall last night where several independent Sikh candidates got together to ‘elect’ their ‘official’ candidate, even though all their names will be on the ballot paper.

      Apparently, it was agreed by the majority that a Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, who heads up some local human rights group, would be the candidate with the best chance of winning.

      Dr Rai apparently said ‘if the only reason for standing was to split the Labour vote and cause Sharma to lose then he was not interested because he is in it to win it.’

      Anyone that understands politics and the Ealing Southall situation know at best he will get a few thousand votes that may influence the final outcome.

    7. Anil Sharma — on 7th July, 2007 at 11:59 pm  

      Have made a few enquiries about this Dr Rai. My Sikh friends say he is an opportunist that many do not trust. He will no doubt play the Sikh card. But local Gurdwaras do not like him and no way will Sikhs support him enmasse.

      Even the Sikh Federation (UK) who has been active on these blogs more often than not do not see eye to eye with him. In fact some of my Sikh friends suggest they detest each other.

    8. Anil Sharma — on 8th July, 2007 at 2:46 pm  

      Upon further digging it emerges Dr Jasdev Singh Rai not only heads up a human rights group - Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG), he also headed up a terrorist Khalistani organisation - the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) in the late 1980s. In fact some have confirmed the original name of the human rights group was Sikh Human Rights Group (ISYF) as it was the ISYF’s human rights wing.

      During his time in the ISYF people in Southall and west London will remember a few of its members were imprisoned for a very long time for ‘taking out’ political opponents. Hopefully, he will not resort to these tactics in Ealing Southall, even though it will be dirty!

      If the media and my name sake look into this I can see him pulling out, which must do Labour some good.

      The local police and Special Branch no doubt know him well and will keep an eye on him and his supporters!

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