… from the Hounslow Independent Alliance.
Yes, that’s right - despite the Times billing Cameron’s planned meeting with Parmod Kad and Sarbjit Singh Gill, two former Hounslow Borough Labour councillors, as another defection from Labour to the Tories:
Two more local Labour politicians will defect to the Conservatives today in Ealing Southall, adding to Labour’s woes as a by-election campaign in the West London seat enters its final week.
David Cameron, making his third visit to the constituency, will meet two former Labour councillors from a neighbouring borough who are switching to join his party.
One is Parmod Kad, general secretary of the Indian Overseas Welfare Association UK, who was appointed MBE two years ago for services to community relations in Southall.
He lives in Southall although he was a Labour councillor in neighbouring Hounslow, as was Sarbjit Singh Gill, who will defect with him to the Conservatives. Their decision will be hailed by Mr Cameron as another sign of broadening support for his party.
…neither of Cameron’s new acquisitions are actually current Labour politicians or, it appears, even members of the Labour Party, as this table of election results from last year’s local elections (Cranwell Ward, Hounslow) clearly demonstrates:
|AUSTIN, JACK HERBERT||CONSERVATIVE||491||N|
|CHAUDHARY, MOHAMMED HUSSAIN||LABOUR||1275||Y|
|DARLEY, ANDREW SIMON||LIB DEM||417||N|
|GILL, SARBJIT SINGH||INDEP ALLIANCE||971||N|
|HAMEED, SAIMA||LIB DEM||431||N|
|KAD, PARMOD KUMAR||INDEP ALLIANCE||922||N|
|MARAS, SUKHDEV SINGH||INDEP ALLIANCE||815||N|
|PRACHAR, WARWICK WILLIAM||IND||61||N|
|SANGHA, SOHAN SINGH||LABOUR||1254||Y|
And for the avoidance of any further doubt, here’s the Hounslow Alliance Party’s annual return to the Electoral Commission. (pdf)
I’ve left a comment on the Times article, by Greg Hurst, pointing out the very obvious, and frankly bizarre error, given that a simple Google search for ‘Parmod Kad Hounslow’ brings up the election result give above as the third item on the list - one slot above Hurst’s article.
Whether that gets past the Times’ moderators is anyone guess at the moment, but to some extent that’s a secondary consideration.
Of considerably more interest, given some of the events that have taken place over the last week, is precisely where Hurst got this incorrect information from.
Did it come directly from Tory Central Office? From their election co-ordinator, Grant Shapps? From Ealing Southall Conservative Association? Or is someone down in Ealing Southall doing a bit of ‘freelancing’ on their campaign?
Over the last week we’ve seen:
- several instances of apparent astroturfing of Lib Dem blogs, which is alleged to have come from Tory supporters, including one badly executed effort that used Grant Shapps own YouTube account (which has already been dubbed 1234Gate) and another in which the name of a Lib Dem councillor in Manchester was used, without his knowledge, to post a suggestion that the Lib Dems should withdraw from the by-election, leaving a straight Labour/Tory fight.
- a Tory canvasser admit to stealing election leaflets put out by other party’s from local residents’ letterboxes.
- The ‘did she, didn’t she’ non-defection of a Labour councillor, Zahida Abbas Noori, which concluded with an allegation that a letter of resignation from the Labour Party had been inserted on a blank sheet of paper that she’d signed in the belief that it would be used to submit a complaint about Labour’s selection process.
One expects a few shenanigans, a bit of political knockabout and point scoring and a fair bit of spin during a hotly contested by-election, but the antics attributed to the Tory Party on this occasion seem to be going beyond spin and well towards downright dishonesty and a contempt for both the electors of Ealing Southall and the democratic process, particularly as Cllr Noori’s account of the defection that wasn’t raises, if it is true - and the Tories appear not to have attempted to rebut her allegation as yet - serious questions about the honesty and integrity of a serving local councillor.
When all’s done and dusted and the results are in, its seems likely that serious questions may need to be asked about some of the campaign ‘tactics’ deployed by the Conservative Party and its supporters during this campaign.
That said, what is rather more worrying, in terms of the events of the last week, is the apparent lack of awareness in Tory ranks of the complexities of campaigning and building support in areas that have a diverse - and electorally significant - group of ethnic minority communities, particular ones with roots in the Indian Subcontinent, with all the communalist political frictions and tensions that go with such a background.
To go blundering around in such communities looking for cheap electoral gains, without a clear understanding of the extent to which local politics can be shaped as much by events taking place in the Amritsar, Islamabad and New Delhi and the political and religious divisions of the region, is to invite the potential for trouble of a kind that the Conservative Party (and the Liberal Democrats for that matter) have little or no experience of dealing with or managing.
Whether one likes it or not, in campaigning in such areas one has to be careful not to fall unwittingly into making alliances with or supporting sectarian interests in much the same way that one would do well to avoid running a campaign in Glasgow on openly Protestant or Catholic lines. To campaign in such a way as to invite local communities, even inadvertently, to view an election not as a contest between legitimate political parties but as one between defined sectarian, religious and/or ethnic interests is a dangerous road to go down and one that is, ultimately, more likely to damage community relations rather than promote community cohesion and integration.
While I’ve no reason, at present, to doubt Cameron’s sincerity in seeking to reach out to minority communities and his efforts to reshape the Tory Party into on that is genuinely inclusive of all communities, on the strength of their campaign in Ealing Southall I have serious doubts about the extent to which Cameron, and others amongst the current Tory ‘top brass’ understand and appreciate quite how complicated an arena they are entering or how important it is to build real and genuine relationships with all communities in such areas and not fall into the trap to short-cut their way to a few extra votes on the back of cutting deals with sectarian factions and playing at communalist politics.