Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple in Hertfordshire, UK, on Tuesday, October 11, 2022. Temple president Her Grace Visakha Dasi can be seen in the background. (Picture: Bhaktivedanta Manor)
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, on Tuesday (11) visited the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple in Hertfordshire to mark the beginning of the Hindu holy month of ‘Kartik’. The visit came a week after the politician took part in ‘Navratri’ festivals in London.
He was given a warm welcome on arrival as part of the traditional ceremony that includes greeting and garlanding, and he met Her Grace (HG) Visakha Dasi, the president of the temple.
The Labour leader spoke to HG Dasi, the first woman president of a major Hindu temple in the UK, and recognised her efforts in keeping the religious centre in times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Starmer then had a tour of the temple and learned about its rich history — particularly how the love and enthusiasm of George Harrison of The Beatles for spiritual philosophy led him to donate the iconic mock-Tudor building and 78 acres almost five decades ago.
Welcoming the opposition leader, HG Vishaka Dasi said, “We were delighted to warmly welcome Sir Keir Starmer to Bhaktivedanta Manor and provide an insight into our extraordinary legacy and plans for the future.
“Next year we celebrate our 50th anniversary, and we warmly invite everyone to join us as we commemorate this wonderful milestone.”
Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple is one of the most popular places of worship in the UK, with a congregation of 10,000, and welcomes more than 250,000 visitors every year. It also hosts the biggest annual ‘Janmashtami’ festival outside India, which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna.
Starmer’s visit to the temple comes after a visit to one of Europe’s largest Navratri festivities in London last week, during which he pledged to combat Hinduphobia.
“Hinduphobia has absolutely no place in our society anywhere and we must all fight this together,” he said during the visit, as he referred to the recent clashes in the wake of an India-Pakistan cricket match in the UAE in August.
“I’m saddened by the division we have seen on the streets of Leicester and Birmingham in recent weeks; violence and hatred spread by extremists exploiting social media. We must all together stand firm against all attempts to spread hate,” he said.
The outreach towards the Indian diaspora is seen as part of the Labour’s preparation for the next general election amid political turmoil and a cost-of-living crisis.
Starmer has reshuffled his top team to move policy and communications under the party’s headquarters, in a clear indication that the party was actively preparing to take on the embattled governing Conservative Party in the next election to capitalise on Labour’s recent bounce in approval ratings among the British people.
“The government’s collapse has given us a huge chance. The instability means they could fall at any time. Because of that we need to get on an election footing straight away,” Labour Party staff are said to have been told by Starmer.