London (PTI): Britain on Friday got its first female Sikh MP and first turban-wearing MP as the UK general election results threw up a small increase in the number of Indian-origin MPs in the House of Commons.
The latest tally indicates the Labour party has improved its record from five to seven MPs, with the Tories retaining their five Indian-origin MPs taking the total up from 10 in the 2015 general election to 12.
Labour’s Preet Kaur Gill won her Birmingham Edgbaston seat by polling 24,124 votes, defeating her Conservative party rival by 6,917 votes.
“I am delighted I have been given the opportunity to become the next MP for Edgbaston where I was born and raised.
I want to engage with the people of Edgbaston and with hard work, passion and determination I think we can achieve great things together,” she said.
“We’ve had a really strong campaign, a really good team of people here in Edgbaston and it’s just been phenomenal. I’m really excited to learn more and really connect with communities,” Gill added.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, known as Tan, won his Slough seat decisively polling 34,170 votes, to become Labour’s first turban-wearing MP. He defeated his Conservative party rival by a whopping 16,998 votes.
He said he was “humbled” and wanted to serve the town where he was born and raised.
“The size of the majority shows that the people have chosen hope over fear and progress over stagnation. On the doorstep we found that people don’t want any more cuts, they need a Labour government,” he said in his victory speech.
“Nationally nobody was predicting the results we’ve had in so far a month ago, we ran a good campaign and I will be seeking to serve the many not the few,” he noted.
British Sikh groups which had been campaigning for the candidates celebrated their success.
“Credit to the Labour Party leadership for taking the bold step of giving Sikhs the opportunity to fight for winnable seats. Labour now needs to turn its attention to having visible Sikh representation in the House of Lords at the first opportunity so Sikhs are better represented and can bring fresh thinking and ideas,” Sikh Federation UK said in a statement.
A second turban-wearing Sikh, Labour’s Kuldip Sahota, lost out narrowly to his Conservative party rival by just 720 votes.
Among some of the other Indian-origin contestant results, Conservative party’s Priti Patel has held on to her stronghold of Witham in Essex with a solid majority of 18,646.
She is likely to remain a leading figure in the new Theresa May-led Cabinet, having served as the international development minister in the previous government.
Alok Sharma, the minister in charge of India in the Foreign Office in May’s previous Cabinet, has held on to Reading West by 2,876 votes and Shailesh Vara has won in Cambridgeshire North West by 18,008 votes.
The 2015 general election first-timers for the Tories, Rishi Sunak and Suella Fernandes, have also held on to their seats decisively with a margin of 23,108 and 21,555 votes respectively.
For the Labour party, the longest serving Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz held on to his Leicester East seat attracting 35,116 votes, despite a scandal-hit 2016, and his sister Valerie Vaz also won solid 25,286 votes to hold on to her Walsall South seat.
Lisa Nandy won in Wigan for Labour with 29,575 votes, Seema Malhotra held on to Feltham & Heston with 32,462 votes and Virendra Sharma polled 31,720 in his safe seat of Ealing Southall.
The election marked an overall record for the number of black and minority (BME) MPs in the new House of Commons with 51 BME MPs elected compared to 41 in the last Parliament.
Sunder Katwala, director of independent think-tank British Future, said: “The 2017 Parliament will be the most diverse ever, with 10 new ethnic minority MPs taking the total of non-white parliamentarians to 51. Thirty years on, that tells a positive story about integration since the breakthrough election of 1987.
“Most of the new minority MPs will sit on the Labour benches. The Conservatives had hoped to build on progress made under David Cameron and even to edge ahead of Labour on minority representation. But instead they are once again left behind, after a disappointing night for Theresa May and a failure to select enough BME candidates.”
The election also marked a success in terms of the number of women elected to Parliament, at 207 up from 197 in the 2015 general election.
Overall 32 per cent of MPs are women but there are significant variations between parties.
For Labour the figure is 45 per cent, and 21 per cent for the Conservatives.
“After the success of Women2Win in addressing gender balance, there are now calls from within the Tory party for similar structures to ensure a strong supply of minority candidates in the future,” Katwala noted.
Among some of the prominent Indian-origin losses, Labour’s Dr Neeraj Patil the former mayor of the London Borough of Lambeth lost to Justine Greening, the UK s education minister. He lost by a margin of 1,554 votes to Greening, who was defending her Conservative party stronghold.
Paul Uppal, who was expected to regain Wolverhampton South West for the Tories, also lost out to his Labour rival.
Other Tory Indian-origin hopefuls – Rahoul Bhansali, Samir Jassal, Ameet Jogia, Resham Kotecha, Reena Ranger, Meera Sonecha and Minesh Talati – all lost out to Labour, as was predicted.
Among the remaining Labour party hopefuls – Rohit Dasgupta, Hitesh Tailor, Navin Shah, Navendu Mishra and Manjinder Kang – were also unable to make a dent and in most cases lost out to popular sitting MPs.
The Labour Party had selected 14 and Conservative 13 Indian-origin politicians as their parliamentary candidates.
The Tories had come under attack for failing to put many in so-called winnable seats or in even in target seats, where the sitting MP had a small majority.
As the overall result of a hung Parliament in the UK polls becomes clear, the May led Conservative party looks set to end with 318 MPs as opposed to Jeremy Corbyn led Labour’s 262.