Sir Keir Starmer (REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo).
Radhakrishna N S
By Amit Roy
THE Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is becoming fond of using the phrase. “If I were prime minister…,” no doubt to get people used to the idea.
He used it last week in relation to Priti Patel: “If I were prime minister, the home secretary would have been removed from her job.”
Actually, no. Maybe I am being pedantic but if Sir Keir were to be elected prime minister, Priti, the Tory MP for Witham, wouldn’t be in his cabinet.
What Sir Keir should be dealing with is much more serious – Lord Meghnad Desai’s departure from the Labour party after 49 years as a member.
Labour MPs have called for another investigation into Priti, but really they should be trying to find out why Meghnad has left after so many years.
As it is, Labour’s appeal among Indians is declining for a variety of reasons. According to Meghnad, Labour doesn’t like immigrants with ideas above their station. They want Indians and Pakistanis to embrace a permanent state of victimhood from which they can be rescued only by Labour and not the Tories.
What enrages them about Priti is that not only is she a “traitor” to the cause, but she has positioned herself on the right wing of the Conservative party.
Of course, the real situation might not be so black and white, but Meghnad’s resignation is a devastating blow to Labour. If someone as hitherto loyal as Meghnad won’t support Labour after five decades as a member, it will certainly put off a great many other Indian voters as well.
Meghnad, who helped raise the funds for the Mahatma Gandhi statue erected in Parliament Square in March 2015, is also well known and respected in India. He is a frequent contributor to Indian newspapers. In other words, his is an influential voice.
People in India will soon come to realise that the Labour party of leaders like Michael Foot, to which Indians owed their allegiance, is not the Labour party of today.
Jeremy Corbyn is an honourable man at a personal level, but during his five years as Labour leader, he could not be bothered to visit India even once. His stance on Kashmir contributed to Labour’s defeat at the last election.
I know Meghnad to be a very generous man, who has something good to say about almost everyone. That is apparent from Meghnad’s just published autobiography, Rebellious Lord, which apart from anything else is an entertaining read.
He explains why he did not always do well in exams in India: “One of my problems was that I could not give the standard answer which was what got you the marks. I deviated from the straight and narrow and showed off my reading or tried some jokes. None of this helps you in an Indian examination, where you have to display memory and rote learning.”
And on the life peerage he had been promised (and received) in 1991, the first Asian to be so honoured, he writes: “For the next few weeks, I felt as I imagine a woman feels who is pregnant but hopes no one finds out nor can she talk about it.”
The autobiography makes it clear that Meghnad has given a lifetime of devoted service to Labour. Sir Keir should get over his Priti obsession and learn something by reading Rebellious Lord.