Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Future Sonika: Ealing Southall is Two Man Shortlist

BLINK has an account of the shortlisting for Ealing Southall. Labour sources had set a hare running that the unity candidate would be an outsider from Birmingham - within campaign organiser Tom Watson MP's orbit. But that always looked like a ruse.

Sonika Nirwal has been working determinedly on this patch and will be very disappointed. She might well have carried the popular vote tomorrow had she been allowed through.

Messrs Sidhu and Sharma (L-R above), have been shooed through to tonight's hustings. The former is a new name as far as I'm concerned. An Oxbridge lawyer. Without knowing the background I'd guess that he will get Sonika's gang and also Gucharan's (below), who will surely not favour his old rival.

There seems to have been a lot of disingenuity from Asian men - including Keith Vaz MP and the representative of the Sikh Federation - in pressing for an Open Shortlist to increase the chances of a BME candidate.

This is old school sexist shenanigans as far as I'm concerned. Ealing Southall would NOT have picked a white woman in an AWS. And the Sikh community and others would have been pleased to vote for a woman in this by-election. Labour has by far and away the best record on Equality. But in by-elections this has been less good as Antonia pointed out recently.

Another veteran Ealing councillor, Gurcharan Singh, didn't make the cut and some think he may run as an independent. Tom Watson MP will fix that in my opinion. I reckon it'll be Comrade Sidhu. But I have been wrong on this selection as recently as this afternoon. There's no telling.


Anonymous said...

As witnessed in the House of Commons at 10pm this evening (Tuesday) Fiona Mactaggart taking Harriet Harman's head off for letting the NEC shortlist comprise men only. Harman appeared shocked.

Rumour has it that Harman - Chair of the Party - was unaware that the NEC had left off all the women applicants. If true it would raise the question of what use to women would she be? - that all her USP in the Deputy Leadership contest was, 'I'm a women vote for me'. The 1st opportunity to help Asian women into Parliament and she blows it.

Chris Paul said...

Why doesn't Harriet call it in then? Who was on the panel anyway? It is only a sub set of the NEC. Not all the NEC women are feminists or equalitarians, ditto the men.

Anonymous said...

I heard that one of the local women might have made it - but didn't actually attach her CV to her email expressing interest ... that wasn't Sonika.

Chris Paul said...

That's extraordinary. I have been talking to various people about this and (a) Sidhu's name has not come up and (b) there has been talk of pushing through muppets to get their way. Sharma is no muppet, so my prediction is looking iffy! Again.

Anonymous said...

So one unknown candidate, one useless candidate, and an obvious stich-up by Tom Watson. Good to see Brown's people showing their true colours so early on.

Anonymous said...

The following was posted yesterday by the Sikh Federation (UK) on www.sikhsangat.com. The Federation appear to be equally shocked on no turban wearing Sikh or women in the short list. This would have been the way forward to let local Labour Party members decide.

The Sikh Federation (UK) was aware that a certain element within the Labour Party and locally may look to exclude turbaned wearing Sikhs. With this in mind the following press statement was put out early this morning.


Two weeks ago following the death of Ealing Southall MP, Piara Khabra the Labour Party was initially all set to adopt an all women’s short list with the likely winner being Sonika Nirwal. However, considering this is a by election that Gordon Brown dare not lose the selection process was opened up last week to avoid a major rift in the local Labour Party.

Last night (Monday 2 July) the Labour Selection Panel is understood to have reduced the number of applicants for this safe Labour seat from around 150 to around ten local candidates. The biggest lobby has come from the Sikh community to try and get the first turbaned Sikh elected to the Commons. It is understood two of the ten are turbaned Sikhs, including Gurcharan Singh who is widely accepted as the person with most support in the local Labour Party.

After carrying out interviews the Labour Selection Panel will today (Tuesday 3 July) name the candidates that will be on the short list to take part in hustings this evening and to be put to local Labour Party members tomorrow (Wednesday 4 July). If Gurcharan Singh’s name is one of those on the short list he has a huge vote bank amongst local Labour Party members and is likely to win hands down. However, if he fails to make the short list where will this leave Labour MPs, including Ministers, who have given a commitment to see a turbaned Sikh in Parliament.

A Sikh Federation (UK) spokesman said: ‘If the Labour Party decide not to put a turbaned Sikh in the short list for Ealing Southall the community will have to think carefully about its support for the Party not just in Southall but throughout the UK.’

The next MP for Ealing Southall will in effect be decided by who Labour selects. It appears that excellent turbaned Sikh candidates, such as Dr Harkirtan Singh and Gurinder Singh, have been excluded from the long list on the basis they are not local. However, it is widely rumoured that soon after Piara Khabra’s death the Labour Party had already decided that it wanted Sonika Nirwal as their candidate and it was easier to justify her selection if the long list was restricted to local candidates. The open selection process appears to have been put in place to simply show a certain amount of fairness and transparency.

If Labour fail to allow a turbaned Sikh to be in the short list they are in real danger of giving up the seat to the Liberal Democrats as they will benefit most from an anti-Labour Muslim vote and Sikhs who will feel deeply offended that a well supported and local Sikh has been excluded simply as he has a turban that does not fit the new Labour image.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

The news earlier today that only two have been short listed - Verendra Sharma and Jo Sidhu has nonetheless come as a shock. Not only have turbaned Sikhs been overlooked, but women have also been excluded, including the favourite Sonika Nirwal. Some are suggesting Verendra Sharma will be an easy winner of the Labour selection process tomorrow - locals may wish to comment.

The BIGGER question is how should Sikhs vote in the by election on 19 July. Will there be an independent standing as the Labour Party has let many down through the selection process.

Anonymous said...

Another post on Sikh Sangat

I hope Gurcharan Singh stands as an independent or if he doesn't then another Turbanned Sikh stands for this seat and Gurcharan Singh can 'unofficially' give his support for the candidate. Labour have badly let down the Sikhs again, how long are we going to let us be betrayed every time. First Khabra is imposed on the Sikhs and we get 15 years of a near comatose MP representing us. Brown has just appointed TWO Muslims as ministers and yet we Sikhs can't even get a Turbanned Sikh into parliament. How many times have we shouted hoarse that Sikhs need to be more visible in the UK and how much we are suffering from being misidentified as Muslims. ONLY a TURBANNED Sikh in parliament can give us a high profile. After the recent terror attacks by Muslims in the UK getting a turbanned Sikh in parliament has become even more important. If Gurcharan Singh stands he can rely on the votes of at least 10 electors who are members of my extended family and I would definately work to get as many people as possible to vote for him.

Anonymous said...

I really don't see the first of these Sikh Federation posts as being remotely feminist or Equalitarian. It is all about getting a visible Sikh in the HoP. Fair enough but pretending it is FOR women candidates is nonsense. How can women be "visible" or turbanned Sikhs?

And what is all this doing for the 77% of the population that are not Sikhs turbanned or otherwise? What is this doing?

This is quite a cock up in my opinion. But by not following through with the AWS and not providing women in the final shortlist.

Having said all that the seditious talk of standing as an independent and weighing in the votes against Labour is completely unacceptable.

Most of us who are Labour people have felt our share of thankless tasks, have forgiven and forgotten betrayals and intransigence, have put up with idiocies local, regional or national.

Tom Watson has spoken. But the Tories (Blue and Yellow) are the real enemy. Tom is simply a carve up maniac who has, in this case, gone quite mad!

Chris Paul said...

Anonymous 01.52: You are Susan Press and I claim my £5.

Anonymous said...

at what time will the selection vote start today? Tonight?

Chris Paul said...

The election vote is all day today. There are literally thousands of members. But I can envisage a pretty low turn out and/or a lot of ballot spoiling given the rage that must be reverberating in the Communities. Communalism, muppetism, sexism, turbanism, Watsonism. It's got the lot.

Anonymous said...


"Communalism, muppetism, sexism, turbanism, Watsonism. It's got the lot"....not exactly good in a byelection! (not that it's good in a GE....but in a byelection factionalism leads to defeats more often than in a GE)

Anonymous said...

This is a shameful decision that has failed every Asian woman in this country. Harriet Harman should overturn this disgraceful decision immediately.

Chris Paul said...

I agree with that. But the clock is ticking. Should Harriet and the NEC now impose Sonika and add another faction to the blazing row?

Anonymous said...

Went to the Hustings yesterday. Lots of disgruntled people. Keith Vaz and Parmjit Danda in attendance. Heard that the NEC wanted a candidate in Tony Lit's image. From AWS to no women shortlist does not look good...

Anonymous said...

"But the clock is ticking. Should Harriet and the NEC now impose Sonika and add another faction to the blazing row? "

They can't come back at this stage IMO

Anonymous said...

The Sikh Federation has never said it wants a Sikh MAN in the short list and given the possibility of being elected. Have a look at all the various posts.

It has constantly spoken of a VISIBLE/PRACTISING/TURBANED SIKH. Sikh WOMEN as well as MEN can and do wear the TURBAN. The facial hair is wear Sikh men are more visible than Sikh women, but that was what God intended.

In practice clearly more Sikh men than women wear turbans. However, many Sikh women that do not wear turbans cover there heads and this makes them VISIBLE SIKHS.

Please be more careful when reading posts by respected organisations such as the Sikh Federation.

Chris Paul said...

Anonymous! Give over!! Pretending that that your lobbying has been for anything other than getting an open list and then a turbaned male Sikh under that open list is utterly disingenuous.

This is not the way to assert your respectability!

The clear threat to call on Sikh's to vote against Labour nationally and locally is one that I find pretty appalling. I don't know what others think?

Whatever the outcome of the selection.

These threats are not the words of a respectable organisation now really are they?

Sikh's form 23% of the local population and Sikh's have seen seven of eight on this longlist and half the shortlist with the other a ?Punjabi Hindu.

This is very strong positive action by anyone's reckoning. I don't know how many Sikh men in ES are "visible". But I do know that the term is automatically biased against women as you admit.

You're welcome to post your press releases and comments here. But YOU be careful.

And anonymity is not an attractive trait in those wishing to take a full part in such discussions.

Opinions of the anonymous are immediately devalued by that anonymity.

Anonymous said...


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)

Anonymous said...

I am extremely disappointed with the conduct of Councillor Sonika Nirwal in this entire matter and how she is playing the sympathy card. As we all know she did not get short listed by the labour party. There were numerous reasons for this but the the main one was her dishonesty. On her website, and the council website she states that she lives in 42 Milford Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB1 3QH. When asked by the selection panel she also stated this was the case. The real truth was this is nothing but a blatant attempt to deceive the labour party, its members and the people of southall Ealing. She in fact lives in Harrow. The question we have to ask of ourselves is that if she can choose to deceive others over a matter of her current address can she be trusted to be truthful and ethical about other matters more important, I for one don’t think so, and I feel that was a view taken by the labour selection panel as well. So please can we lay to rest the talk of how she was robbed of the chance to be the labour candidate, she took care of that herself by lying.

Anonymous said...

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.

Posted by: Anil Sharma

Chris Paul said...

Are you saying that a whole group of Sikh men are all going to lose their deposits in this election? But favour one of their number?

If the Sikh vote is communalistic and all 'votes Sikh' rather than for the best potential MP then the votes of this 23% of the local electorate are going to be spread to the four winds and the votes of the other 77% of the electorate are going to become more important. A paradox.

I'd like to think that Sikh electors will NOT be communalistic, still less fall for this 'visible Sikh' narrative, and will simply vote for the party, which is Labour, which best represents their interests locally and in the HoP.