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  • Labour’s implosion in Southall

    by Sunny
    4th July, 2007 at 5:37 pm    

    It is now almost a given that Cllr Virendra Sharma will be the Labour party candidate running for the Ealing Southall seat. This is a huge shame because, as one party member told me earlier this morning, they have traded one old and out-of-touch fogey for another.

    My view is that Sharma will win not because he avoided the factionalism or most likely to get the party votes, but because he managed to woo all the cronies that previously backed Piara Khabra.

    And guess what, Keith bloody Vaz was on the selection panel. The Labour party [head honchos] have stubbornly stayed away despite knowing all the dirty politics and factionalism at local level, and now they have this mess.

    It lost the opportunity to give Sonika Nirwal the chance to become the first Asian woman MP in history and cement its reputation as the natural home for ethnic minorities. It has instead become, in Southall, the natural home for cronyism and dirty politics.

    All this is a shame for Tom Watson, who is running the campaign. The party cannot afford to lose this by-election because it will be a slap in the face for Gordon Brown. As one party activist said, “any other time, we could just pull the outside troops out and leave Sharma to run with whatever he could rustle up from within the CLP. ”

    But the best thing that could happen for the area and the local Labour party is that they get routed in this by-election and come back in the general election when boundary changes make it easier for them to reclaim the seat, with the factionalism and old 80 yr old councillors who can barely speak English flushed out. I’ve met Cllr Sharma, he’s not that bad but there are plenty others who are.

    Either way, a huge missed opportunity for Labour.

    Respect have also announced their candidate - Salvinder Dhillon, another Sikh man. He will no doubt try and mop up the anti-war vote.

    The only one who has brand recognition is Tony Lit.

    More gossip with Chris Paul and Luke Akehurst.

    Update: As I predicted (via ES watch)

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    Filed in: Party politics

    56 Comments below   |  

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    1. Phil Taylor » Blog Archive » Pickled Politics blog reckons Labour imploding in Southall

      [...] Pickled Politics blog covers politics, often with an Asian angle. In a posting today they reckon that Labour will select Cllr Virendra Sharma tonight and that things will not go well [...]

    2. Labour select Virendra Sharma « Ealing Southall Watch

      [...] Pickled Politics blog is also fairly ruthless about the nomination [...]

    3. Liberal Democrat Voice » Ealing Southall: Labour select Virendra Sharma

      [...] all Labour’s Ealing Southall selection problems, it’s Virendra [...]

    4. The Wardman Wire » Announcement: An essay from Mr Singh…

      [...] comment was caught by my spam filters, but is copied from one left on Pickled Politics (scroll down to comment [...]

    1. leon — on 4th July, 2007 at 10:23 pm  

      According to a comment on Labour Home Sharma won by 200 votes: http://www.labourhome.org/story/2007/7/3/1640/70757

    2. Agog — on 5th July, 2007 at 9:30 am  

      What chance Gurcharan Singh (councillor with apparently 3,000 votes behind him) stands now as an independent?

    3. Leon — on 5th July, 2007 at 10:15 am  

      Confirmed by LabourSouthall website:

      Today Labour announces the selection of Virendra Sharma as their Candidate for the Ealing Southall by-election. From an initial field of over 50 candidates, Virendra Sharma was selected after a ballot of local party members.


      I see that Sonika was quoted on there too:

      Labour Group Leader Cllr Sonika Nirwal said: “I am delighted that Virendra Sharma has been selected for Labour in Ealing Southall. I have worked with Virendra for our local communities and I know he is very able to stand up for local people. He is a good listener and will be a strong leader. He will be an excellent MP for Ealing Southall as he understands our communities and concerns.”

    4. sonia — on 5th July, 2007 at 10:59 am  

      well they want to win don’t they - they probably chose this old man because they think all the other old men will vote for him. and they probably used the same logic to choose their old man as the logic the LibDems used when they chose their old fogey.

    5. Leon — on 5th July, 2007 at 11:05 am  

      The contrast against the Tories new candidate in terms of age could work against them though…

    6. Leon — on 5th July, 2007 at 12:21 pm  

      Wiki page of the constituency:


    7. Gurjeet Singh — on 5th July, 2007 at 1:24 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)

    8. Unity — on 5th July, 2007 at 2:29 pm  


      The selection panel, which was made up Vaz, Mike Griffiths and Norma Stephenson as NEC members.

      Tom Watson is handling the campaign.

      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.

      And how old is Gurcharan Singh? I only ask because from his photo on Ealing Council website he doesn’t seem to fit well with the ‘young sikh professional’ line.

    9. Alan — on 5th July, 2007 at 7:26 pm  

      Gurjeet Singh

      ” The absence of a woman or turban wearing Sikh in the short list were two of the main concerns.”

      This is one of the most stupidt things Ive ever read- why do you need to have a “turban wearing Sikh?”- do Muslims need to have a bearded MP or Jews an MP with a hat ?

      I thought MPs are there to represnt theri constituents concerns’ -not because of how they look

    10. Gurjeet Singh — on 5th July, 2007 at 8:21 pm  

      The phrase Young Sikh professionals was not referring to all Sikh candidates. You are right Gurcharan Singh is not young.

    11. Gurjeet Singh — on 5th July, 2007 at 8:24 pm  


      The identity of a Sikh - 5 Ks is a significant feature of the Sikh way of life. Practising and non-practising Sikhs appreciate this as do many non-Sikhs who understand the faith. The turban is an integral part of the Sikh identity. See Mandla v Lee (1983 - House of Lords)

    12. Chris Paul — on 5th July, 2007 at 8:58 pm  

      The question Gurjeet is why in any constituency - even one with 23% Sikh residents or electorate - can expect not only to get a Sikh candidate but one of a particular style and gender.

      While the selection process has not been a pretty sight it is a by-election and the usual rules do not apply.

      The threats to turn on Labour locally and nationally over this - getting seven Sikhs on a long list of eight, and including a number that would not be shortlisted ANYWHERE else - are infuriating, almost as bad as the process. It amounts to extortion.

      For myself I think there were certainly candidates outside the 8 who would have been better than VS, but VS is it and we get on with it.

      We should leave communalism to the BNP and the NF and soundly renounce them for it. In my opinion.

    13. Randeep — on 5th July, 2007 at 9:04 pm  

      This is an absolute disgrace.

      First of all, as a Labour Party member I feel completely cheated and robbed. In Sedgefield, they were given 5 candidates to choose from so why on earth did we only end up with 2 in Southall?

      I like a few of you am sick of the ‘old boys club’ - V Sharma was effectively a Khabra-phile.

      This is a gross injustice.

      Personally, I will be voting Tory as a result and not ashamed to admit it.

    14. VT Dasgupta — on 5th July, 2007 at 9:26 pm  


    15. nick cohen — on 5th July, 2007 at 10:19 pm  

      VT has a point Sunny, that you need to take on. If a potentially good Labour woman candidate has been dumped for a boring old berk, shouldn’t we, er, vote Tory?

      This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

    16. Refresh — on 5th July, 2007 at 10:42 pm  

      My goodness is this what party politics has come to - whereas before I would have expected young professional sikhs, muslims, hindus or whatever to go fight for a place on a shortlist up and down the country - as equals, now it seems they’re having to find places where they would get specific ethnic support.

      As for the shortlist of 2 - that is a disgrace. Membership should have had a full and proper opportunity to select their prospective MP.

      The response being shown here, however, will not progress matters. Quite the reverse.

    17. Refresh — on 5th July, 2007 at 10:55 pm  

      By the way I don’t agree its ‘young professionals’ we need in parliament, its those who know what’s going own in their own communities and are able to communicate and address their concerns.

      Lets not forget we’ve had the decade of young go-getters, time sweep them aside as well.

    18. Refresh — on 5th July, 2007 at 11:07 pm  

      Dhillion tipped to be:

      “Southall’s man in Westminster, not Westminster’s man in Southall”

    19. Sasha — on 6th July, 2007 at 12:10 am  

      I agree with Randeep why did we only have 2 people to choose from.

      This issue is not a women or turban wearing sikh candidate but that of fairness and choice.

      Gurcharan Singh is not “old” but experienced he has been Chairman of Housing; Chairman of Planning; Chairman of Recycling and Wast; The Mayor of Eaing; Govenor of local schools. He is an active politician who is one of the few that works hard to make sure his constituents are heard. He would have been a great asset as MP of Ealing Southall.

      I have always voted Labour but will now vote Tory and encourage others to do so…

    20. Neet — on 6th July, 2007 at 12:35 am  

      It’s a complete disgrace-I thought the Labour Party would elect in a fair manner with elected nominees that really represented the area and party values. Gutted. But I have got to say the Tories were no better Tony Lit was hardly elected on merit, he wasn’t even a party member. Tony Lit might be the “friendly brown face” Cameron wants to portray for the public face of the Tory party, but don’t be fooled they are still the nasty party. Check out this comment on the conservative blog;

      “..it is clear what what kind of profile you need to get fast tracked these days. No wonder white British boys are underperforming.”

      Anyone who thinks voting Tory will be the best result for the people of Southall is deluded.

    21. Katy Newton — on 6th July, 2007 at 1:22 am  

      By the way I don’t agree its ‘young professionals’ we need in parliament, its those who know what’s going own in their own communities and are able to communicate and address their concerns.

      I couldn’t agree more. Let’s have some seasoned, experienced grown-ups in government who’ve done something apart from getting slapped on a shortlist for government at the age of 23.

    22. Amerjit — on 6th July, 2007 at 11:17 am  

      Anyone know how old is Virenda Sharma. He looks 70+ so what is the point of voting in another sleepy old man who lacks the drive to change anything and may result in another by election in a few years time?

      If Virenda had dynamism he would be leading the Labour Ealing Councillors.

    23. Randeep — on 6th July, 2007 at 3:01 pm  

      Thank you Sasha - I think your very on-point here.

      I think allot of us have become disgruntled with the internal politics of the Labour Party. They’ve just gone way too far this time. Sending mixed signals is an understatement. Old or young, female or male, turban or clean shaven… they have simply let us all down.

      The result? I will vote for T Lit even though he’s just a token candidate. I am filled with a burning desire to show the Labour Party that they cannot let their constituents down in this manner. Southall’s days being known as a ‘safe Labour seat’ are numbered (I hope!)…

    24. Randeep — on 6th July, 2007 at 3:06 pm  


      That this debate continue here:


      I commented yesterday and found that my comment had been suspiciously removed by this afternoon.

      Lets let them know what we really think about this.

    25. VT Dasgupta — on 6th July, 2007 at 7:15 pm  



      “As Mr Lit walked down the road, people rushed out to meet him and gave him the thumbs up through shop windows. He has charisma, is well groomed and appears to be expensively tailored.”

    26. VT Dasgupta — on 6th July, 2007 at 7:20 pm  

      oy nich cohen, is that the real nick cohen ? if it is. i don’t like you. i didn’t like you then and i don’t like you now.

      if your implying i wasn’t a tory before, then ur Wrong. ok. you socalist. you neo-zio-coner-comu-ist.

    27. Neet — on 6th July, 2007 at 9:50 pm  

      VT-oh please! What are you some relative of Tony Lit. Glad to see you commented on the oh so needed attributes of an effective MP- i.e. appears to be expensively tailored! Your really scraping the barrell with that one, mind you I can understand why you found it so difficult to compliment him on his actual ability, conviction and hunger to serve people.

    28. Jasvir Kaur — on 6th July, 2007 at 11:51 pm  

      What’s this about 3 or 4 independents standing and then agreeing to combine forces under one name. Do not know if agreed on one name and if so which. Dr Jasdev Singh Rai perhaps?

    29. Anil Sharma — on 7th July, 2007 at 10:11 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.

    30. Unity — on 7th July, 2007 at 11:59 am  

      Oh good.

      That would presumably by the same Dr Jasdev Singh Rai of the Sikh Human Rights Group who shipped up as the apologist-in-chief for the Behtzi riot in Birmingham.


    31. Anil Sharma — on 7th July, 2007 at 1:55 pm  

      Will be doing a write up of Dr Rai to show the sort of person he is. Suny in particular will be interested.

    32. Anil Sharma — on 8th July, 2007 at 9:27 am  

      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.

      More to follow . . .

    33. Bal Singh — on 8th July, 2007 at 1:05 pm  

      Is it too late for me to stand in the by-election?

      I stand for SOUTHALL and ALL her religions !!!!

    34. Neet — on 8th July, 2007 at 1:05 pm  

      What the hell is going on in Southall? Infighting, petty squabbling and ego trips have taken over. What happened to getting involved in politics for the good of the people, it is genuinely sad to see that the majority involved are concerned with personal gains and are power hungry. Yes it would be nice as a Sikh to see more Sikh’s in the House of Commons but not at the cost of talent and conviction. Also are Sikh people’s needs really that different to the rest of the public that we have to segregate ourselves to get a Sikh MP? Look at Parmjit Dhanda MP for Gloucester, he seems to have worked his way up through the system, succeeded on merit and represents all constituents fairly well.

      Anil Sharma your definitely right about Dr Rai he is most certainly an opportunist, I heard that at one point he was going to stand as a Tory councillor but had previously supported Labour. When will we move away from pindhu politics?

    35. Anil Sharma — on 8th July, 2007 at 2:44 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 police local and Special Branch no doubt know him well and will keep an eye on him and his supporters!

    36. Daljit — on 8th July, 2007 at 3:08 pm  


      Are you perchance a relative of Mr Sharma? I know nepotism and cronyism are rife in Southall so it wouldn’t surprise me that your rooting for your relative. As Sunny said, Sharma is an old fogey and hoisted on Southall because the high command is unable or unwilling to clean up the party and just want the ‘asians’ to vote for him so they Gordon doesn’t get embarrassed. As it is Labour seems to be heading for a defeat and Keith Vaz and the other Labour dimwits on the selection committee will have egg on their come 19th July. Reading the Sikh forums and newsgroups Dr Rai seems to be getting the most thumbs up and he get the protest vote.

      As for your allegations, as far as I know Dr Rai heads a well regarded human rights organisations, I am aware that to a supporter of Sharma the very term human rights is anathema given Sharma’s support for the congress party whose workers massacred thousands of Sikhs in 1984. If you think that Sikhs have forgotten that episode you are very mistaken. Sharma, the Labour party and the government may be in for a very nasty surprise come the results.

    37. Anil Sharma — on 8th July, 2007 at 4:36 pm  

      Daljit, I’m not a relative of the Labour candidate, don’t get paranoid. But I am a Labour supporter.

      All candidates, including V Sharma, should be up for scrutiny. But this includes independents like Dr Rai, especially those trying to take Labour votes.

      I predict Dr Rai will either drop out or lose his deposit. When the media ask questions Dr Rai will no doubt get an opportunity to confirm or otherwise if:

      i) he headed up the ISYF in the late 1980s

      ii) the the original name of the human rights group he currently heads up was originally called Sikh Human Rights Group (ISYF) as it was the ISYF’s human rights wing.

      iii) if any ISYF members were arrested and found guilty of breaking the law during his time in the ISYF

    38. Daljit — on 8th July, 2007 at 7:08 pm  

      I have read on another blog that Gurcharan Singh has defected to the Tories! Though not confirmed but if it’s true it is likely to be the final coup de grace to Sharma’s campaign. Although I would have liked Gurcharan Singh to have either stood as an indepedent candidate himself or give his full support to Dr Rai. Anyway if true could the last person to leave the Sharma campaign office ( I think that’ll be our very own Anil Sharma )please switch off the light!

    39. Daljit — on 8th July, 2007 at 7:11 pm  

      I have a feeling that Keith Vaz and the other members of the selection committee should not go for a walk in any wooded areas.

    40. Jasvir Kaur — on 8th July, 2007 at 8:18 pm  

      With Gurcharan Singh switching to the Conservatives, it may be possible that several thousand Labour voters will switch as the Labour Party selection process was a total mess.

      Elsewhere someone wrote Gurcharan Singh holds around 3,000 Labour votes. A switch of 3,000 votes from Labour to Conservatives will mean a 6,000 vote difference.

      Independents like Dr Rai must together be hoping to take several thousand votes. Also many Muslims will not vote Labour and this is a by election.

      It is also rumoured that many loyal Labour voters may simply choose not to vote at all in protest at the selection process - the joke of a short list of two (or should I say one if you undertans the Ealing Southall situation!).

      All of a sudden the 11,000 majority is not looking good and as someone said Labour has itself to blame. With hindsight perhaps an outsider, like Dr Harkirtan Singh, who is a youngish Sikh professional without any ‘Southall’ baggage / skeletons would have been a good bet after all.

    41. Gurcharan Singh, Kulim — on 8th July, 2007 at 8:41 pm  

      I had written something earlier, but looks like an error destroyed it all.

      Sharma’s claims for Congress are just the cosmetic layers,he and his henchies want the Southall public to see.Sharma was in fact a supporter of the RSS- a right wing Hindus facist- similar to the Nazis,and they still have their sign similar to a swastika.

      Let Sharma deny that to the press, and I am sure it can be proved that he is.It is also appalling that someone like Sharam who owes his allegiance to a foreign political party is standing in british elections!! Something to ponder about,eh ?

      I am not keen/follower of Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, but I would on the matter of principal, that labour has denied a proper Sikh voice in and visible representation in Parliament , and treated the Sikh feelings with such insenstivity, almost as ignorance and denial of their existence, would urge the SIKHS to vote for JS RAI, and deny labour the seat.The Punjabi press is buzzing about this this denial to a visible Sikh, like Gurcharan Singh.I just hoped he had the wisdom to stand as an independent, but as he has not, JS RAI has come along- and even if he may not win,but it will be enough to destroy the labour votes-is the only strategy left for the disillusioned Sikh voters of Southall.

      Someone commented the Sikhs have no different needs than the rest; in the same light it can be said women have no different needs than the rest of the population-but why the special ASW for them?The argument is we ‘need to encourage women’.Along the same lines the Sikhs feel and are justified to ask that a VISIBLE TURBANNED Sikh-but one with skills to represent all the electorate equally and fairly- and one who will also identify and sensitive with the Sikh issues that arise associated with their turbansand their unique is a must in parliament- based on the simple rationale used to promote BME and women’s representations.It is as simple as that, if people have still not understood.

      Finally, Southall is seen as the Sikh capital of United Kingdom, and if a turbanned Sikh is ignored and denied from here, where else can a turbanned be elected from elsewhere in the United Kingdom-where racism is rife very subtely- despite what the government or any one else says of implies.

      This is not Asian factionalism, it is from the divide and rule legacy that the British used in the Indian sub- continent-it simply has come home to roost now.So stop getting upset about, one just needs to learn to accomdate it.

      Of course the voters are concerned about the natuional issues,but Sikhs, who from a susbstantial bloc of this vote, are extra and BVERY SENSITIVELY concerned about how they have been IGNORED by all political parties - for a simple request- a turbanned Sikh.

      As I have said, I am no fan of JS RAI, but yes, Sikhs should and would vote for him in large numbers as a protest.

    42. Sunny — on 9th July, 2007 at 2:09 am  

      by all political parties - for a simple request- a turbanned Sikh.

      This is a really silly point. Having a Turbaned MP in itself is no good if the person is rubbish. There’s Kulveer Ranger, who will hopefully get a seat and running not on an Asian/Sikh ticket but as a capable (Tory) candidate,.

      What people in Southall need is a capable and useful MP who will champion their needs, not someone’s stooge or someone there just because he has a turban.

      And the likelihood of Rai becoming an MP is hilarious. Anyone stupid enough to put him as a candidate deserve to be chucked out into the political wilderness.

    43. Jasvir Kaur — on 9th July, 2007 at 6:57 am  

      Sunny, what are your honest views about Dr Harkirtan Singh, who it has been predicted will be the first Sikh with a turban in Parliament.

    44. Daljit — on 9th July, 2007 at 9:06 am  


      I think you miss the point here. No one is saying that just because a candidate wears a turban it means that Sikhs should authomatically vote for him. The point is that ALL the turbanned candidates that are standing are better than Sharma. Dr Rai contrary to your assertions is a very good candidate who has a history of taking part in human rights campaigns which strike a resonnance with the electors in this constituency. Please be wary of the dirty tricks campaign afoot run by Sharma and his cronies. I suppose it was a bit too much to ask for a clean campaign from Sharma given the whole selection process was marred by underhand tactics. As for the other turbanned candidates, Dr Gulbash Singh is a GP who has served the people of southall for the last 20 years or so. He was pencilled in to be the Conservative candidiate until Cameron upset the boat by getting a relative newcomer who had not even been a party member for more than 2 weeks! To the people of Southall this reeks of political opportunism of the basest kind. Cameron hopes to capitalise on Tony Lit’s father’s good showing in 2001 elections little realising that if a week is a long time in politics then 6 years are an eternity. Much has happened since 2001 which will have an impact on the voting patterns of the Southall voter. Having met Dr Gulbash Singh, he came across as an articulate professional astute man. He has been a Conservative party member for many years, becoming a member at a time when an Asian used to be thought of as insane if they admitted voting Tory let alone being a member of the Tory party. The good showing that the Tories have had in Southall in the last few elections were down to the hard work done by people like Dr Singh. Quite rightly he feels let down for all his hard work and feels himself to have been sacrificed on the altar of Cameron’s opportunism. The same is the case with Kuldeep Singh Grewal who is a barrister, he has been a Labour party member for many years. The point is that if either Gurcharan Singh or Sonika Nirwal had been selected, Labour would have romped home. Instead as you state in your article, Labour chose an old fogey who if his tenure as a councillor is anything to go by is likely to be a disaster as a MP. The old fogies at the Labour HQ as well as the selection committee still think that they will get the votes of the Asian elders who they believe will then influence their families to vote the same as them. They have not realised that in the last decade the dynamics of the voting decision has changed within Asian households. It is the younger members who are likely to be well educated as well as professional who decide which way the family will vote. There is nothing more likely to turn off the young professional Asians off Labour than a candidate like Sharma. It used to be said that even if Labour put up a donkey as a candidate in Southall, the donkey would win. With the political shennighans of the Labour HQ and selection committee, with Sharma’s candidatcy we will now be able to test that theory!

    45. Gurcharan Singh, Kulim — on 9th July, 2007 at 10:22 am  

      Sunny, that is a quantam comming from you, to trust preassumptions and assumptions likely to happen in a few years time, ..or more likely not happen at all.

      You obviously have not read all I said, which also included - a “…canddate who would represent equally and fairly, and (obviously effectively) ALL the constituents.”

      No body, in this instance not even Dr Js Rai could have been a greatr stooge than what Piara Khabra has been.I dont live in Southall, but even I noted the pathethic perfomance of Piara Khabra in Parliament, who was always notonly a bore but an out right stooge,with poor command of the langauge.This guy would be a far imnprovement, that I can assure, considering the fact, I am NO fan of RAI.In fact I have had run ins with him on nets in Sikh forums.

      Whether it is hilarious or otherwise,the deceived and let down Sikhs would no longer want any political party that has ignored them to win- it is called strategic voting-however, if Rai ji wins, that would be a bonus-both to him and the voters, and I would welcome that in the hope, he will change to be accountable and do the job effectively.

      Daljit Ji has said the rest of what I could only echo, again.

    46. Sukhi — on 10th July, 2007 at 1:01 pm  

      There is a very innacurate perception that this constituency is a Sikh majority area. Whilst in the town of Southall this might be so, in the constituency as a whole, Sikhs are a minority. Here are the demographics of Southall Ealing:


      2001 Census Demographics
      Total 2001 Population: 89275
      Male: 49.7%
      Female: 50.3%
      Under 18: 24.8%
      Over 60: 14%
      Born outside UK: 43.4%
      White: 37.6%
      Black: 8.9%
      Asian: 47.8%
      Mixed: 2.8%
      Other: 2.9%
      Christian: 35%
      Hindu: 12.4%
      Muslim: 13.3%
      Sikh: 23.2%


      In other words, almost 80% of the constituency is actually non Sikh, and by a small majority, non Asian.

      This throws interesting light on those who say that the MP for this constituency can only come from one community.

    47. Sukhi — on 10th July, 2007 at 2:27 pm  

      We should leave communalism to the BNP and the NF and soundly renounce them for it. In my opinion.

      Chris Paul, you say this to Gurjeet Singh, who has The Sikh Federation as his website. They are a hardcore communalist organisation, religious nationalists and sectarians to the core.

    48. Sukhi — on 10th July, 2007 at 2:46 pm  

      This is one of the most stupidt things Ive ever read- why do you need to have a “turban wearing Sikh?”- do Muslims need to have a bearded MP or Jews an MP with a hat? I thought MPs are there to represnt theri constituents concerns’ -not because of how they look

      This is at the crux of the matter. At the heart of it all, communalist organisations and activists like the Sikh Federation are asking that the religious observance and orthodoxy of a candidate is held as a decisive factor in the selection.

      An equivalent thing would be a Jewish candidate in Golders Green being questioned on their observance and keeping of kosher, and Hassidic Jews being viewed as the only ones able to legitimately represent Golders Green.

      There are already many capable Sikh MPs, politicians and candidates. But we have the principle being forwarded now, under the rubric of BME representation principles, that Sikh candidates should be differentiated on the basis of their religious observance and orthodoxy. It’s bizarre and incredible when looked at in the cold light of the day like this, that communalist organisations are ‘demanding’ this. Despite the fact that there are many Sikh candidates and politicians who do not make an issue of their background and carry out their duties in a spirit of secular principles.

      We can only view this in one way; an attempt by the Sikh Federation and others to leverage themselves against other non orthodox or secular Sikhs using the rhetoric of minority rights to de-legitimise the ‘authenticity’ of liberal and secular Sikhs and practising Sikhs who put general secular principles above sectarian concerns.

      That the Sikh Federation and their kind are religious nationalists concerned with narrow sectarian causes, fomenters of communalism and bigotry, we should always be alert to their agendas and not allow multicultural harmony be compromised at any level in this way. Especially when it is contested that in a constituency as varied in religion and ethnicity as Southall, in which in the overall constituency Sikhs only comprise 23%, that they should have a divine right for the candidate to be only from that background. Had anyone asserted that only white candidates can represent constituencies in which most of the voters are white, we would call that for what it is.

    49. D Singh — on 10th July, 2007 at 10:09 pm  

      The following has been posted in response to a negative write up by Chris Paul of Gurcharan Singh, his involvement in the turban campaign in France and allegations he was pro-Khalistan. It appears the details relating to 1984 are to be posted on prominent Conservative and Liberal Democrat blogs so they can challenge Virendra Sharma.

      I’m not into party politics, but I am a Labour Party member as well as someone who works for the good of the British Sikh community. I find the contents of the article you have written is everything that puts ordinary people off party politics. I am a Labour Party member, but also a person who passionately believes in campaigning for Sikh rights.

      Upset you may be with the Labour Party defections, but if you and others thought so little of prominent local Labour Party members in Southall you should have done something about it when they were in the Party. Also I find some of your comments offensive.

      Why should Sikhs children not be able to practice their faith in French schools? Why should Sikh teachers, lecturers, police officers in London not be able to freely travel and work in France without having to compromise their faith? What is wrong with Gurcharan Singh showing his support for religious freedoms in France for Sikhs that live there and others that may choose to go and work there from the UK (even Ealing Southall). You are in serious danger of resorting to racist behaviour as you are upset. You should be upset with the likes of Keith Vaz who has put Labour in this position.

      You also link Gurcharan Singh with the pro-Khalistan movement and make allegations about him rejoicing after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Anyone in the Sikh community in Southall or elsewhere in the UK will tell you that Gurcharan Singh’s role in promoting the Khalistan movement in the last 23 years is minimal to say the least?

      You however make no mention of the official Labour Party candidate having strong family ties and being the agent and member of a foreign political party – the Indian Congress. How can the Labour Party allow someone to stand as a Member of the UK Parliament who has open allegiances to Congress and will always be at the beck and call of the Indian High Commission in London rather than the constituents of Ealing Southall? This also explains the pivotal role of Keith Vaz, an Indian Government stooge, in ensuring a one horse race in the Labour Party short list.

      Given Labour friends of Virendra Sharma have bought up the Khalistan issue and the events of 1984 I thought it only right to share the following information more widely so the opposition parties can challenge the ‘invisible and silent’ Labour candidate that owes his allegiances to the Indian Government and the Congress. Although recent revelations have also shown that as a prominent Hindu he also has close ties with right wing Hindu groups, such as the VHP and RSS.

      Congress was not only responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent Sikhs at the Golden Temple Complex that ultimately led to two of her Sikh bodyguards taking revenge for the desecration, but also for the anti-Sikh pogroms that took place in over 130 different cities in India that took the lives of over 20,000 innocent Sikhs following a four day orgy of violence.

      India’s whole scale military crackdown in Panjab in June 1984, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Sikh civilians during the Indian Army attack on the Golden Temple complex and the subsequent draconian sweep through Panjab.
      Preceding the attack on the Golden Temple there was a non violent agitation for political, religious and economic rights for Sikhs and all Punjabis. This was due to the non fulfilment of promises made to the Sikhs by Nehru and Gandhi on independence from Britain in 1947.

      This was the biggest non violent agitation for rights since Indian Independence movement and thousands of Sikhs were thrown in jails for simply protesting for their rights. Many Sikhs were also killed in extra judicial murders carried out by the police.

      Under this persecution Sikhs used their historic centre for political and religious rights the Golden Temple and Akal Takht to pursue their agitation. This was nothing new as the Sikh Guru’s had done this in the past when standing up against oppressors, and told Sikhs to do the same if they faced persecution in the future.

      Then from June 1984 India launched a brutal attack on 125 Sikh Gurdwaras including the Golden Temple and Akal Takht. Thousands of innocent civilians died during the initial attack with thousands of others being simply disappeared in an army operation across the entire of Punjab. The worst aspect of the massacre was the killing of women and children by the army.

      http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/bluestar/ (weblink giving full background to the attack)

      Media Quotes on 1984

      On 4 June, a day of pilgrimage for Sikhs when thousands had gathered at the Golden Temple, army tanks moved into the Temple Complex, smashing into the sanctum and shooting everyone in sight…. Those left alive were then prevented from leaving the building, many wounded were left to bleed to death and when they begged for water, Army Jawans told them to drink the mixture of blood and urine on the floor. Some 3000 dead, including many who were only unconscious, were piled high in trucks and removed. Four months later no list of casualties or missing persons had yet been issued. Then can the army occupation of Panjab with frequent humiliations, arrests and killings of Sikhs by soldiers. It caused a feeling voiced by many ordinary people who had never before been separatists that …Sikhs could not be safe there.”

      Amrit Wilson: New Statesman - 16 November 1984


      ‘For five days the Punjab has been cut off from the rest of the world. There is a 24-hour curlew. All telephone and telex lines are cut. No foreigners are permitted entry and on Tuesday, all Indian journalists were expelled. There are no newspapers, no trains, no buses -not even a bullock cart can move.

      Christian Science Monitor - 8 June 1984


      “As long as the army keeps news reporters and other outsiders from traveling in Punjab except on tightly controlled military tours, there is no way of knowing what excesses might be committed”

      New York Times - 8 June 1984


      “The Amritsar deputy police superintendent who helped remove bodies from the temple grounds said at least 13 of the victims were shot with their hands bound. It was a virtual massacre,” said the Jullundar doctor. “A large number of women, children and pilgrims were gunned down.”

      Associated Press - 14 June 1984


      “…medical workers in Amritsar said soldiers had threatened to shoot them if they gave food or water to Sikh pilgrims wounded in the attack and lying in the hospital.”

      Christian Science Monitor - 18 June 1984


      “Mopping up after the death of Jarnail Singh Bhindanwale…the government has now arrested more than 3000 of his….followers. The government has also turned up its propaganda machine

      Newsweek - 25 June 1984


      “As for anti-Sikh feeling, the word ‘Sikh’ and ‘terrorist’ became almost synonymous in the government controlled media and in the speeches of politicians. The storming of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was reported by most national papers and radio and television in a shamelessly biased fashion.”

      Amrit Wilson: New Statesman - 16 November 1984

      During the Golden Temple attack, young boys ages 8 to 13 were taken outside and asked if they supported Khalistan, the independent Sikh country. When they answered with the Sikh religious incantation “Bole So Nihal,” they were shot to death. The Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scriptures, written in the time of the Sikh Gurus, were shot full of bullet holes and burned by the Indian forces.

      Other useful points that could be put to the Labour Party candidate, Virendra Sharma, include:

      India has not allowed Amnesty International or UN Rapporteur for Torture to be allowed to visit and investigate in Panjab for almost 30 years. What is India hiding?

      Three Early Day Motions that were tabled on the 20th anniversary of 1984 are reproduced below and attracted cross-party support from over 150 UK MPs. Would Virendra Sharma sign such EDMs?

      That this House notes with sadness the 20th anniversary of the June 1984 assault by the Indian army on the Golden Temple complex, the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, where sacred buildings and historic artefacts were destroyed or damaged beyond repair; further notes that the unprecedented action using artillery and tanks took place on one of the most important days in the Sikh calendar, when there were huge numbers of pilgrims in attendance, which resulted in thousands of innocent Sikhs being killed in cold blood, many with their hands and feet bound, including women and children; is appalled that scores of other Sikh Gurdwaras were stormed by the Indian army throughout Panjab and that thousands of Sikhs were arrested, tortured, and killed, including children; recognises that these actions by the Indian authorities continue to have an immeasurable impact on Sikhs throughout the world; and extends its sympathy and support to the law-abiding, hard working, and well respected international Sikh community.

      That this House notes and applauds the efforts of human rights activists in India to highlight atrocities, including false imprisonment, torture, deaths in custody, extra-judicial executions and disappearances, perpetrated against Sikhs in the last 20 years; further notes that it is estimated that over 250,000 Sikhs have been murdered and/or disappeared since June 1984; is deeply concerned that 20 years later the Indian Government continues to deny full access to Panjab to international human rights groups and to the UN Rapporteur on Torture; regrets that thousands of families are still waiting to know the fate of relatives who have disappeared; and calls on the Prime Minister, on behalf of the estimated 700,000 Sikhs in the United Kingdom, to lead the international community in demanding full access to Panjab to international human rights groups and the UN.

      That this House notes with sadness the 20th anniversary of the November 1984 pogrom against thousands of innocent Sikhs in a matter of days in cities across India; further notes that Sikhs became the target of organised violence with murderous gangs swarming into Sikh houses, hacking the occupants to pieces, chopping off the heads of children, raping women, tying Sikh men to tyres set aflame with kerosene and pulling Sikh passengers from public transport to be lynched or burned alive; recognises that Amnesty International in a memorandum to the Government of India, complained that far from being spontaneous expressions of popular grief and anger as made out by the authorities, the killings were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commission and omission by important politicians of the Congress and by authorities in the administration; believes that investigation and criminal proceedings are long overdue; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to take the lead in the international community to establish an independent UN inquiry into the failure of successive governments in India to take sufficient actions against those responsible for the events of November 1984.

      1984 to the Present

      In November 1984, thousands of Sikh civilians in New Delhi and other major cities, were systematically hunted down and murdered in their homes and on the streets; with the open complicity of the Indian police.

      • Over the last 25 years, India has imposed a regime of gruesome repression and murder on the Sikh population in Panjab. Tens of thousands of Sikh civilians have been killed in a combination of staged ‘armed encounters’ and ‘disappearances’.

      • Amnesty International(2) and Human Rights Watch (3) have together produced over twenty separate reports, documenting widespread human rights atrocities in Panjab by India’s police and army. Torture, arbitrary incarceration, and custodial deaths, are reported as routine and widespread. India has refused to open up to an international scrutiny of these incidents. It has barred Amnesty International, since 1978; and has refused to permit access to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture and Disappearances.

      • Many human rights activists, such as Jaswant Singh Khalra (4), have been killed in police custody or ‘disappeared’ in sinister circumstances.

      Human rights should be enjoyed by all people at all times. We believe that awareness of these issues will help the struggle to end grave abuses of the fundamental human rights in Panjab and elsewhere in India. We come from all walks of life, with widely different political and religious views, united by our determination to ensure everyone enjoys basic human rights. We want to give hope to the people of Panjab that justice will be done. At the same time, we strongly and unequivocally condemn the killings of other innocents, including Hindus, that took place during the same period. Acts like these were used to further communalise the situation and impose further draconian measures.

      Will Virendra Sharma call upon the British Government and European Union to bear pressure on the Government of India to prosecute those who have committed these crimes against humanity. Will he also call upon the United Nations to establish and supervise in the Panjab a full and independent Commission for Truth & Justice in order to document the atrocities that have been committed over the past 20 years.


      (1) Politics of Genocide (1995) by Inderjit Singh Jaijee of the Movement against State Repression, p 41 quoting three human rights groups and three Advocates Generals who researched the killings for the period 1984-1994.

      (2) Break the Cycle of Impunity and Torture in Punjab (2003), Amnesty International.

      (3)Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab (1994), Physicians for Human Rights.

      (4) A Mockery of Justice – The case concerning the ‘disappearance’ of human rightrs defender Jaswant Singh Khalra severely undermined, Amnesty International (1998

      Continuing Violations
      The Indian government has murdered over 250,000 Sikhs since 1984, more than 300,000 Christians in Nagaland since 1948, over 90,000 Muslims in Kashmir since 1988, and tens of thousands of Tamils, Assamese, Bodos, Manipuris, Dalits, and others. The Indian Supreme Court called the Indian government’s murders of Sikhs “worse than a genocide.”
      The police arrested human-rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra after he exposed their policy of mass cremation of Sikhs, in which over 50,000 Sikhs have been arrested, tortured, and murdered, then their bodies were declared unidentified and secretly cremated. He was murdered in police custody. His body was not given to his family. The police never released the body of former Jathedar of the Akal Takht Gurdev Singh Kaunke after SSP Swaran Singh Ghotna murdered him. Ghotna has never been brought to trial for the Jathedar Kaunke murder. No one has been brought to justice for the kidnapping and murder of Jaswant Singh Khalra.

      Human Rights Reports on Sikhs and Punjab

      Amnesty International

      India: Punjab - Twenty years on impunity continues - Amnesty International
      Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200992004

      India: A vital opportunity to end impunity in Punjab - Amnesty International
      In 1996 in response to two petitions filed in the Supreme Court containing allegations of human rights violations in Punjab, the Court ordered th National Human Rights Commission to examine the al…
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200241999

      India: Will past human rights violations in Punjab remain forgotten? - Amnesty International
      Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200291999

      India: Break the cycle of impunity and torture in Punjab - Amnesty International
      Torture and custodial violence continue to be regularly reported in Punjab, despite the end of the militancy period in the state in the mid-1990s. In this report Amnesty International makes the …

      India: AI membership expresses solidarity to the families of the disappeared in Punjab - Amnesty International
      There is no abstract for this document
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200052003

      India: Fear of torture/Fear for safety - Amnesty International
      Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of at least 100 individuals including social activists, human rights defenders and lawyers in Punjab. Some are being illegally detained in connect…
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200022004

      India : Fear of torture/fear for safety of Rajiv Singh - Amnesty International
      Rajiv Singh, a key witness in the trial of police officers accused of abducting a human rights activist has been arrested by Punjab police. Amnesty International fears this is an attempt to prevent …
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200482000

      India: A Mockery of Justice: The case concerning the “disappearance” of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra severely undermined - Amnesty International
      This brief report documents the means used by accused police officers, including delay of proceedings and intimidation of witnesses, in their search of impunity for the ‘disappearance’ of Jaswant …
      URL: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200071998

      Human Rights Watch

      Letter from Human Rights Watch to the National Human Rights Commission of India

      On the upcoming decision in the Punjab mass secret cremations case
      As the National Human Rights Commission prepares to issue a decision in the Punjab mass secret cremations case, we urge the Commission to order a full accounting of the systematic abuses that occurred in Punjab, determine liability after detailed investigations into the violations, and provide for compensation for surviving family members based on a detailed understanding of the scope of violations suffered by each individual.

      Other Screams of Terror
      By Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch researcher
      Published in The Asian Age
      People who lived through 1984 in Delhi are unlikely to forget the horrors. After years of inquiries, commissions, accusations and denials, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, last month, expressed regret for the horrifying anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi, saying that, “I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what is enshrined in our Constitution.”

      India: Justice Eludes Families of the “Disappeared” in Punjab …
      “Ending state impunity for abuses in Punjab must become a priority. … We hope it will do the same in Punjab.” Smita Narula, senior researcher for South …

    50. Jagdeep — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:53 pm  

      Sukhi’s post number 51 is brilliant — he nails the Sikh Federation like a frog on the dissection table. Brilliant stuff.

    51. Jagdeep — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:53 pm  

      Those figures on the demography of Southall Ealing constituency are very very interesting too.

    52. Sasha — on 12th July, 2007 at 5:07 pm  

      It is not a question of a Sikh candidate or a person wearing a turban. “Was the process fair?” thats the main point. As yet, there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the candidate selection:

      What, if anything at all was the selection success criterion based upon?
      Were all those interviewed asked the same questions (a fair practise in most employment selection procedures)?
      Were the questions weighted allowing candidates to be selected on the merit of their performance and quality of their answers?
      Was past activity, accomplishments and experience a factor in the choice?
      What training (if any) did the panel have in fair selection procedures (as per the Labour Party Rulebook and Labour Party Legal Handbook 2007 - to be posted shortly)?
      The people of Ealing Southall are still waiting…

      It does not appear that the selection was correct hence the backlash that has errupted. I feel that Gurcharan Singh and the other now 5 Cllrs’ as yesterday a prominent Muslim Cllr resigned are right in their actions.

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