By: BARNIE CHOUDHURY, SHAILESH SOLANKI and SARWAR ALAM
SENIOR TORIES have urged the new prime minister, Liz Truss, to continue “engaging, consulting, and listening to” south Asian communities.
They have told Eastern Eye that they are concerned the new PM will undo the progress made by her predecessors.
“The problem with Liz is that she doesn’t listen,” said one senior south Asian Tory.
“She’s stubborn, and she thinks her way is the right way, and she’s gonna have to listen, consult and embrace Asians otherwise, she’s just going to fail.
“Liz must understand that for the south Asian community, particularly the Indian community, they will see this as a slap.
“Emotionally, that’s what it amounts to.”
Under Boris Johnson, they said, south Asians repeatedly held three of the four highest offices of state.
“No matter what you say about Boris, he would listen.
“Boris understood the importance of diversity, and he showed that time and time again.
“He replaced one Asian chancellor with another, one Asian home secretary with another, appointed an Asian business secretary who then went onto head the biggest challenge facing the planet, climate change.
“And he appointed an Asian attorney-general who could be our next home secretary.
“The media portrayed Boris as someone who bluffed his way through his career.
“But what they didn’t know was that he asked for ideas, and took up the best ones, including embracing south Asian talent.”
Another senior south Asian parliamentarian, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were concerned that the party was going backwards.
“I’m worried about the lack of Indian representation in the cabinet,” they said.
“The British Indian community are more likely to vote Conservative, but the lack of representation at the top will alienate the community.
“It’s all very well Liz Truss wearing a sari and going to the Neasden Mandir during the election, but we need our voices at the cabinet table.”
In her leadership acceptance speech on Monday (5), the new PM made clear her priorities.
“I will deliver a plan to cut taxes and grow the economy,” she said in her leadership acceptance speech.
“I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.
“I will deliver on the National Health Service.”
When it comes to south Asian communities, to deliver on the NHS, the PM must understand the racial disparities which exist, said the former chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Chaand Nagpaul.
“I’m deeply worried that the government has, up to now, used words like disparity, and it hasn’t used words like structural racism, diluting the reality that’s being faced by those working the health service and reality facing the population is large,” said the current chair of the BMA forum for racial and ethnic equality.
“The cost-of-living crisis itself is likely to affect ethnic minorities to a greater degree in the same way as we saw with Covid.
“It manifests itself in an unequal manner, and you will get people who are in insecure employment being affected more.
“The same issues we saw with the pandemic, those who are there is an unequal distribution of poor low incomes, and people who are in deprived areas, we’re likely to see a disparate unequal impact of the cost of in crisis affecting certain ethnic minorities to a greater degree.”
We now know that the Conservative Party had 170,000 eligible voters.
That is about 0.3 per cent of the UK electorate.
Of these, about 84 per cent voted, and after six weeks of campaigning Truss beat Rishi Sunak by 21,000 votes.
This suggests that under half (47 per cent) of the party wanted her as leader.
Lord Rami Ranger said that did not matter because she won.
The new prime minister must embrace diversity, he said.
“I’ve I congratulated her [Liz Truss] already, and I think she ran a very good campaign,” said the peer.
“There will be no bitterness for each other, and they were just talking policies, rather than personalities.
“At the same time, I salute Rishi for inspiring billions of people all over the world, in what can be achieved with your ability, with your tenacity, commitment and imagination.
“I would like to Rishi as a deputy prime minister and given a portfolio of his choice to take advantage of what he has to offer.”
That is unlikely to happen because sources have told Eastern Eye that the former chancellor intends to return to the back benches.
However, they are concerned that because the Tories have rejected a south Asian the party could suffer.
“I don’t think that we’ll see a sudden sinking of the Tory ship by Asian donors, because we’re more loyal than that.
“But I do think it’s an open door for, say, the Labour Party, particularly for Indian voters, to say consider us again.
“I’m in no doubt there will be a lot of overtures made.”
One Westminster Tory insider close to the former prime minister said the result was a huge blow to south Asians.
“Rishi won the campaign but lost the contest.
“That’s already proved to be the case in the sense that Liz has pivoted towards Rishi’s policies of addressing the cost of living as a priority.
“When she previously said that she wouldn’t be giving out handouts, it looks like she will.
“As time goes on, I suspect that a lot of what Rishi was saying, will be adopted into the Liz approach to government.
“It’s not in any way shameful to be picking the best of your opponents’ ideas, whether they’re direct or indirect, if they’re good ideas.”
The new PM’s in-tray is already full.
She will have to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, energy bills, and double-digit inflation.
Lord Ranger supports a windfall tax of the energy companies.
“We have to subsidise energy, because we are not growing as fast as some other countries.
“Industry, especially hospitality industry, depends on energy and it’d be good idea to freeze the prices.
“I’m always concerned about south Asian businesses.
“We are not that fortunate that we can rely on our family members, and they will face more challenges, because south Asians have new businesses, they have high mortgages, they’ve taken loans or whatever.
“So, my request is that we return to some sort of furlough scheme because it was a very good idea which saved a lot of talent.
“Once you lose talent is very hard to find it again.”
Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder and chair of Cobra Beer and former president of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that businesses would go under unless they got help.
“Our input costs have gone up by well over 25 per cent, and our energy costs have gone up hugely,” he explained.
“So, we are in a situation where we just cannot pass on our costs to our customers, who in turn cannot pass them on to the consumers.
“We’ve got a situation where consumers themselves are squeezed and are really suffering, and businesses similarly are as well.
“At this stage, you need government’s help, as the government helped during the pandemic.”
He wants the new prime minister to cut taxes.
“If you cut taxes, and that includes incentivising tax that incentivises inward investment, that in turn generates the growth which generates the jobs.
“That growth, the taxes, pays down the debt.
“At the moment, consumers are cutting back, there’s no question about that, and if you reduce taxes, you help consumers.
“If you help consumers spend, you’re helping businesses.
“This is the time when government has a role to play to do that.”
The managing director of the UK’s largest independent wholesaler, Bestway, Dawood Pervez, said it was important the new administration listened to small and medium sized businesses.
“She has to address the whole business rate system, and how that affects small businesses, especially retail businesses,” he said.
“The rate system takes a very long time to catch up with actual market practice.
“With five yearly reviews, it takes too long.
“In general, there’s been a consistent drip of fairly important large regulation impacting businesses.
“How policy is formed is not necessarily taking into account the views of smaller business, because they don’t really engage with government as well as big business does.”
Executive director of one of the UK’s largest independent pharmacy chains, Sam Patel, is more optimistic.
He does not believe rejecting Sunak will lose support from south Asian communities.
Instead, he wants the new prime minister to concentrate on helping business.
“Support is going to be a real challenge.
“We are looking at real labour shortages among many Asian business owners.
“This is an opportunity to potentially have the points-based immigration system, support further immigration of skilled Indian workers in health care, doctors, nurses.
“India has fantastic nurses, and other areas where we could potentially benefit from skills of people arriving from Indian subcontinent.”
During the contest, political commentators described the race-off as “fractious” with “personal attacks” on both candidates.
They are also speculating that Liz Truss will appoint those most loyal to her.
Former president of the Leicestershire Asian Business Association and businessman, Jaffer Kapasi, is that the Conservatives must now unite behind their new leader.
“The whole question is how she’s going to unite the party,” he said.
“That’s one of the fundamental factors because we got some key MPs sitting on the back benches.”
But he also wants the new PM to concentrate on other challenging issues.
“There are always things like where many new communities are affected.
“If you look at the police, there’s still a lot of harassment at the grassroot level, especially people from minority communities.
“If you look at education, there’s such a disparity in the educational system of the inner city and of others.
“That’s a lot for any new prime minister to deal with.”
Another big, yet unanswered, question is what will now happen to Rishi Sunak?
He has said he will support the new prime minister from the back benches.
Those who know him well think he will remain in public service.
“He doesn’t need to work,” one unnamed source said. “But it is his character to help his country and citizens.
“He could take his time, and in the future, there might be something that comes up, which he wants to do.
“It could be the president of the World Bank, or it might be some other form of public service that attracts him in the fullness of time.”
But some parliamentarians have criticised the manner in which Truss failed to shake his hands when she went on stage to accept her victory.
“It will be noticed and rankle, especially among many Indians, and it was graceless.
“Liz had a chance to be more vocal and gracious in acknowledging Rishi.
“To simply dismiss him as just another candidate was a big political mistake and an error of judgement.
“You’ve just won, and it would have shown class if she had been more effusive in his achievements.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, current chair of the BMA forum for racial and ethnic equality
“Save the NHS”
We have got, as we all know, a backlog of care of unimaginable proportions. It’s not just the 6.7 million waiting for operations, but we’ve got hidden millions who are waiting for chronic disease care, diabetic, mental health care, they don’t figure in the 6.7 million. Each week, we’ve got an ambulance service and emergency services in gridlock. Each of those need to have solutions. She will need to stem the attrition in the workforce. We have a health service with 105,000 vacancies, and we cannot afford to lose a single healthcare worker at the moment. Neither can we afford to see what we are seeing, which is doctors in reducing their hours.
I’ve been deeply disappointed throughout the campaign, why wait until you win this contest? We have heard no tangible solutions or ideas during the election, no specifics of how she’s going to tackle what is a once in generation scale of backlog and unmet health needs that we’ve ever experienced. It does make one wonder whether she’s totally committed to addressing the health agenda. We have a situation where 1000 more people are dying every week, compared to previous years, you would have thought that those plans would have been off the shelves ready to implement upon her becoming elected. And yet we have no details. So no, I don’t feel confident.
Kamal Pankhania, CEO of development company Westcombe Group
“Cut stamp duty”
My message to the new prime minister is simple – give the housing sector the support it needs, and it will, in return, deliver a stimulus to our economy. First and foremost, the bureaucratic mess that is the UK’s planning system needs to be fundamentally transformed. Housebuilders and property developers are stifled by an ineffective system which is under resourced and poorly managed at a local level. Once this issue has been addressed, the full potential of the UK’s housing market will be unlocked, benefiting individuals, industry and the economy as a whole.
A more short-term intervention could be an extension to the fantastic help-to-buy scheme. Getting more people onto the property ladder will not only reinforce the Conservative value of personal responsibility, but also give the construction industry the confidence to increase its output, delivering a much-needed boost to the economy. If Ms Truss wants to show her Thatcherite credentials whilst simultaneously delivering for the economy and housing market, then Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) reform must be a priority. The tax disproportionately effects the average buyer, as it is an unnecessary added cost needed to complete a property purchase. By offering an exemption from SDLT for first-time buyers or raising the threshold in line with the average household price, the Truss government would break down barriers to access in the UK’s housing market and reduce the tax burden on already cash-strapped Britons.
Lord Bilimoria, founder and chair Cobra Beer
“Now is the time to follow through”
I believe we need to go down the route suggested by some of our CBI major energy companies, including Scottish Power and Aeon, which would be freezing the energy cap.
It needs to be whatever it is right now, less than £2000, not increasing it to over £3000, which consumers will not be able to afford. There is a mechanism where you can do that and spread it out over a period of time to help with finance. Business needs urgent help right now in a number of ways. That can be done now, including with energy, including helping with business rates, including with reducing VAT, for example, for the hospitality industry, where it was reduced to 12.5 per cent during the pandemic. We still needed.
The main message that we were going through a major global crisis during the pandemic for two years, that crisis has not finished. In fact, that crisis is continuing. We cannot see it as, well the government helped during the pandemic, but now, we can’t afford to help anymore. We need help even more than ever right now. This is an urgent situation, which we need to address right now. And it’s my old tennis stroke analogy. This is the follow through that’s required. If it means £100 billion more that’s required to help saving businesses and consumers, then so be it. Otherwise, we’re going to have real problems. You’re hearing stories of pubs and restaurants that are closing because they cannot afford to stay open, because the cost of businesses has gone up by up to 500 per cent. That is completely unaffordable.