On 7 May we will see one of the most fascinating outcomes of a General Election in recent British history. With a week to go the only thing that appears certain is there will be no clear winner and the SNP will be the third largest party with huge influence.
The SNP will be the clear winners and dominate in Scotland. However, the size of their victory will also have massive implications in determining the way we are governed in Westminster and some of the policies that will be implemented.
Almost half a million voters registered in the final hours before the voter registration deadline last week, but millions still remain disillusioned, do not trust politicians and may simply decide not to vote.
The revelations in January 2014 that the Thatcher led government in 1984 had provided military assistance to attack the Sikhs’ holiest shrine in Amritsar that resulted in the Genocide of thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims sent shockwaves through the community. There was a genuine risk many British Sikhs sickened with the actions of the UK Government 30 years ago would join those disengaged with British politics and the main political parties.
However, the Sikh Federation (UK) often described as the one and only Sikh political party stepped up to the mark and built a cross party alliance of over 200 politicians from across the political spectrum calling for an independent public inquiry. But further revelations on how India had successfully influenced the UK Government to curb democratic British Sikh activities following the 1984 Sikh Genocide suggested the need for a permanent paradigm shift in British government thinking and policy towards the Sikhs.
Any future UK Government needed to recognise and appreciate the immense past and present Sikh contribution, the community being a role model in terms of integration whilst maintaining a distinct separate identity and address undisputable and specific Sikh concerns. The outcome was the formation of the Sikh Network tasked with developing the Sikh Manifesto.
The Sikh Network is a collective of over 1,100 Sikh activists from existing Sikh organisations, youth groups, human rights and political activists, lawyers, academics, researchers, journalists, public sector professionals, management consultants, marketing/PR professionals, charity workers and students. The Sikh Manifesto has identified real community issues that resonate and Sikhs have been encouraged to raise and openly discuss them with candidates. Some of the issues are also larger UK society wide issues of broader interest to politicians. The manifesto was produced and launched in January 2015 to empower the Sikh community, engage with all the political parties and convince candidates the Sikh vote of around half a million matters more than ever.
Around 300 candidates from all the main political parties have actively engaged with the Sikh Manifesto and many have provided positive feedback and indicated their support for a number of the issues. Interestingly Nicola Sturgeon, the SP leader, was the first political leader to meet the Sikh Federation (UK) and give her backing to the key issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto.
The Sikhs are predicted to have one of the highest voter turnouts on 7 May at around 80% and have been identified by both the main parties as a target community. However unlike previous years, the Sikh community are better prepared. With a week to go Ed Miliband is under immense pressure to try and secure the Sikh vote which can no longer be taken for granted as David Cameron and the Conservatives have tried to put the 1984 issue behind them and appeal to Sikh voters. If Ed Miliband is bold and clarifies what the Labour Party will do with respect to the Sikh Manifesto he will be doing many Labour hopefuls a favour as 85% of them have confirmed with the Sikh Federation (UK) that they support nine or more of the issues. Over 50% have gone as far as to support the most debatable item of applicability of self determination to the Sikhs.
There are around 15-20 seats that Labour hope to gain where the Sikh vote really matters. The Labour leadership need to decide if they believe they can gamble that Sikhs will vote for them as their candidates have been very supportive or if they need to make specific promises with respect to the Sikh Manifesto.
The 10 key areas (not in any priority order) in the Sikh Manifesto are:
1. More effective representation in Parliament
2. Separate ethnic monitoring of Sikhs
3. Statutory code of practice on the 5ks and Sikh turban
4. Action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversions
5. Network of state funded Sikh ethos schools
6. Monument in London to highlight Sikh sacrifices in the First World War
7. Independent public inquiry into UK Government actions in the lead up to and after the 1984 Sikh Genocide
8. Pressure on France to stop discrimination against turban wearing Sikhs
9. UN-led inquiry into the 1984 Sikh Genocide
10. Application of self determination to the Sikhs
Thousands of copies of the Sikh Manifesto have been distributed over the Vaisakhi celebrations across the UK and both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have been personally handed copies. Several political hustings focused on the Sikh Manifesto have taken place. The Sikh community have been very clear to politicians, that only action on key Sikh issues will secure votes.
The Sikh Network with the help of the Sikh Federation (UK) is developing a regional infrastructure across the UK that will have the capacity to reach over 300 MPs through active Sikh constituents after the 8 May. The network will be responsible for the strategic direction and measuring progress over the next five years against the issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto with existing organisations best placed taking forward specific items.
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)