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Is Labour’s ‘Dogwhistle Racism’ on India to Blame for Leicester By-Election Defeat?
15:19 GMT 23.07.2021 (Updated: 15:56 GMT 23.07.2021)
A now-infamous Labour Party leaflet distributed days before the 1 July by-election in a West Yorkshire seat showed Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson shaking hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, claiming the PM was silent on “human rights abuses” in Kashmir.
The UK Labour Party's recent West Yorkshire campaign attacks on India's prime minister have been blamed for a shock local election loss in Leicester.
Twitter users linked a Labour campaign leaflet distributed ahead of the Batley and Spen
parliamentary by-election to the Conservatives' win in the Humberstone and Hamilton council ward election in Leicester, a northern Labour stronghold with a large Indian population.
The Tories increased their share of the vote by more than 18 percent to almost 45 percent on Thursday, ousting Labour by a margin of 11.5 points.
Users commented that the huge swing was no coincidence following the vicious campaign in Batley.
But left-wingers blamed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for the shock loss.
The leaflet, distributed days before the 1 July election in the West Yorkshire seat, showed Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson shaking hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, claiming the PM was "silent on human rights abuses in Kashmir".
Indian troops have for years been battling Pakistani-based guerrillas
in its union territory of Jammu and Kashmir — part of the broader Kashmir region split between the two former British colonies and China — while cracking down on protests in favour of annexation by Pakistan. Batley and Spen has a large Pakistani-origin Muslim community.
The leaflet was denounced by Jon Lansman, founder of the left-wing Labour faction Momentum, as "dogwhistle racism" that would set ethnic minority communities against each other.
The population of Humberstone and Hamilton at the 2011 census was 39 percent Asian
, with 22 percent Hindu and seven percent Sikh. But a 2013 study
by the University of Manchester's Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity and the Economic and Social Research Council found that the Indian population in the ward — and the east of Leicester generally — was rising above the city-wide average of 28 percent.
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe
has had the Labour whip suspended as she awaits a criminal trial for her alleged two-year campaign of harassment
against another woman. Her Labour predecessor in the seat, Keith Vaz, stepped down
ahead of the 2019 election three years after the Daily Mirror revealed he had had unprotected sex with rent boys and offered to buy cocaine for their use.
Labour's share of the vote in Leicester East fell from 67 percent in 2017 to just under 51 percent in 2019, with the Tories standing candidates of Indian descent.
Johnson has frequently boasted that he has the most diverse Cabinet in British history, with ministers of Asian, West Indian, African, and other immigrant descent. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Attorney-General Suella Braverman are all the children of African-born Indians — like a large proportion of Leicester's Asian community.