Published on 20 Feb 2013

Talking in Amritsar, addressing Wolverhampton?

David Cameron has now left Amritsar after a visit, the first by a serving British Prime Minister, to the scene of the 1919 massacre. He also visited the Golden Temple, the spiritual home of the Sikh religion.

He stopped short of apologising for the massacre. But in a statement he said:

“This  was a deeply shameful event in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at the time as ‘monstrous’.

“We must never forget what happened here. In remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right to peaceful protest anywhere in the world.

David Cameron, Feb 2013.

A great grandson of one of those killed at the massacre, Sunil Kapoor, told me that wasn’t good enough and David Cameron should have delivered a full-scale apology. But as I write, careering through the Punjabi traffic to a chorus of bike and car horns, my guess is India has other things on its mind. Those that want to think well of a British PM showing his respects will do so. Opinion won’t shift much here.

But then it’s opinion elsewhere David Cameron maybe has on his mind. The polling suggests he cannot win the 2015 general election without winning support amongst ethnic minority voters. They are a key wedge of support in some marginals and, as I said yesterday, Sikhs have been identified by Team Cameron as particularly susceptible to the idea that the PM is different from crustier Tories of the past.

Seats where sikh voters could make a difference include Wolverhampton South West, Enoch Powell’s old seat now represented by Tory Paul Uppal with a wafer thin majority. Mr Uppal has been accompanying David Cameron on this trip along with Tory MPs Shailesh Varah and ethnic minority vote-winning Tsar MP Alok Sharma. They all have some very good snaps for their election literature and David Cameron has useful pictures too.

Polling suggests some ethnic minority voters want to see individuals from their own communities before they’ll truly believe the Tory Party has changed. This trip has allowed David Cameron to get some images of that in the most dramatic and evocative settings.

David Cameron said in Amritsar: “We should also celebrate the immense contribution that people from the Punjab play in Britain, the role they play, what they give to our country. What they contribute to our country is outstanding.”

“It is important to understand that, to pay respect to that and to seek a greater understanding of the Sikh religion…” – his strategists couldn’t have put it better.

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8 reader comments

  1. Robert Taggart says:

    Indeed, Gibbo, but, does this pandering to the ethnic minorities back home not leave the white natives feeling irrelevant – ostracised even ?
    Where do they go for their political representation ? Liebore ?? LieDun ??? – methinks not – they took the natives ‘for granted’ decades ago !
    Cameo should not be soft with India – they have far too many shortcomings of their own – and these should be brought to the fore.

  2. Plashing Vole says:

    Beautifully put. I think it’s a racist strategy which the voters will reject. It assumes that ethnic minority citizens have no politics other than ethnicity: that they’ll overlook the economic and social policies of this government because they have a candidate who looks like them.

    It didn’t work in 2010. Paul Uppal got a majority of 690 or so, running against a Labour candidate representing one of the most reviled governments in a long time. Wolverhampton’s Sikh community didn’t vote en masse for Paul Uppal then: why should they do so next time.

    I’ve explored this topic in more depth here:

  3. Philip Edwards says:


    The tories will NEVER change.

    Nye Bevan was right about them. They have opposed every single piece of fair and socially-worthwhile legislation (including formation of the NHS) this country has ever produced. Deep down they are the same reactionary, racists they have always been.

    The appalling Thatcher years were a natural product of theirs, as is the kind of society we now have; but then you may recall Thatcher used loony old Ayn Rand’s dictum (without attribution of course) that, “There is no such thing as society.”

    No leading tories demurred and none of them will now denounce the neocon corruption those years re-introduced. Instead, they have done what they always do – blame the victim in the shape of so-called “public debt.” Except this time there is much more general awareness of the organised lying, cheating, thieving banking system that is necessary for the continuance of capitalism. Too many individuals have suffered the consequences and can express it through social media.

    In these circumstances any ethnic group that thinks the tories can ever be their allies is living in cloud cuckoo land. And the same applies to New Labour and the LibDems.

  4. Philip says:

    So as usual Cameron’s first thoughts are for his political future rather than the good of the country – No change there, then.

  5. Harri Singh says:

    I was there this morning in Amristar and asked if I could speak to Mr Cameron but was told no and I come from wolverhampton south west.
    They got the photos for the next campaign to try and get the sikh vote and I know that Mr Uppal will not be getting any extra.

  6. Saj Malik says:

    In modern multi-cultural Britain most ethnic minorities who vote, whilst sympathetic to the ‘motherland’ are more concerned with domestic issues when deciding where to cast their ballot. This is even more prevalent for younger generations who regard themselves as British. If Cameron is genuinely contrite about actions of the Raj fair enough but if he is pandering for votes I feel he has missed this point. Far better to address relevant issues facing the entire population, ‘it’s the economy stupid’.

  7. Dharam Sahdev says:

    David Cameron visit to India is a Historic visit and there fore must be discussed in a very constructive and positive manners by the British Press and TV media. Channel 4 must think before they invite any member of the any community that the person is not a fanatic but a realistic.People of Indian origins are matured enough to understand the manners with which some people try to encourage unwanted and divisive people to bring in news media. I would suggest Jon Snow to make sure before you bring any one on the TV. From Dharam Sahdev

  8. Joe Dhillon says:

    Dharam Sahdev, Britain is a civilised democracy. You may not like the Sikh Briton’s point of view but unlike in India yoiu cannot silence him with threats of arrest, torture and death for speaking his mind. Whether it’s tens of thousands of Sikhs being massacred and gang-raped in 1984 or thousands of Muslims being massacred in 2002 or thousands of Christians being massacred in 2008 in Orissa Channel 4 will not be scared into keeping mum about it. If you wish to continue being an apologist for murder perhaps you may want to consider moving back to India.

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