• Monday, June 27, 2022

Column

Peer’s exit ‘should worry Labour’

Sir Keir Starmer (REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo).

By: 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.

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