Why are the main British political parties competing for the Sikh vote?
19 September 2013
19 September 2013
Many believe the next General Election in 2015 will be a close run thing between Labour and the Conservatives. A coalition may emerge with neither of the two main parties having an outright majority in which case the small number of Liberal Democrat MPs will once again have the opportunity to form a coalition and shape future policies.
The Sikh Federation (UK) often referred to as the first and only Sikh political party in the UK, was set up 10 years ago. When it was launched there was considerable media coverage and initially some politicians feared the Federation may put up its own Parliamentary candidates in 40 or 50 constituencies.
However, at the launch the Federation clarified it was a pressure group and its role was to encourage Sikhs to become politically more active at a local level while at the national level it would work closely with each of the main political parties. Dozens of sitting MPs still feared this move knowing if Sikhs were in large numbers to become members of a particular political party at a local level they would be able to impose some of their own candidates.
10 years later the Sikh Federation (UK) is preparing to mark its anniversary with a 3-day convention in the West Midlands that will end with a conference on Sunday in Wolverhampton that is expected to attract around 10,000 Sikhs from across the UK.
The aim 10 years ago was to give Sikhs a stronger political voice. In the last 6 months or so we have seen David Cameron the first sitting British Prime Minister visit the heart of the Sikh faith, the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar and meetings have taken place with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation, said:
‘We are working with all three main political parties at the highest levels and they are genuinely listening to our specific concerns. We have briefed them on the issues that matter to young British Sikhs as well as the wider Sikh community.’
‘Following meetings with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg we have already developed working alliances with Labour and the Liberal Democrats and are expecting a high level meeting with the Conservatives in the next few weeks.’
‘This will result in a series of high profile activities in the run up to the 2015 General Election that will include media interviews, visits to Gurdwaras and prominent events aimed at the Sikh community hosted by the party leaders. There will be much greater exposure to the Sikh community and issues that concern us in the run up to the General Election.’
The majority of the Sikh vote has traditionally gone to Labour, but trends are changing. In Canada Sikhs are now active in all three main parties and the Federation believe it is inevitable Sikhs in the UK will also move in this direction. Younger Sikhs in particular are increasingly more demanding and challenging before deciding which way to vote. Younger Sikhs, many born and brought up in the UK, are also influencing the older generation.
The Sikh Federation (UK) argues the Sikh vote is also more important to each of the parties as the Sikh turnout in local, national and European elections is much higher than many other communities, probably 20-25% higher than the average turnout. All the political parties know this, recognise the positive image Sikhs have and are therefore looking to secure a greater proportion of the vote of the Sikh community by trying to get closer to the community.
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
Around 150 Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations are either affiliated or support the work of the Sikh Federation (UK). It is widely recognised and acknowledged within the Sikh community that the Sikh Federation (UK) is the leading Sikh pressure group that is able to command the support of Sikhs in large numbers on a range of campaigns.
The Sikh Federation (UK) will be marking its 10thanniversary by holding a 3-day convention in at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Sedgley Street, Wolverhampton, WV2 2AJ.