• Thursday, July 18, 2024


Tory candidate Marco Longhi under fire for ‘divisive’ letter to voters

Labour candidate Sonia Kumar said that she is “disappointed and shocked” by the “divisive” letter sent by Longhi

Marco Longhi (UK Parliament)

By: Pramod Thomas

A TORY candidate has been criticised for allegedly sending letters to British Pakistani voters, implying they should support him over his Labour opponent because of her Indian surname.

Marco Longhi, seeking re-election in Dudley North against Sonia Kumar, has faced accusations of employing dog-whistle politics and aiming to “marginalise British Hindus.”

In a letter addressed to “voters of the British Pakistani/Kashmiri community in Dudley,” Longhi posed the question of whether the Labour candidate would advocate for Kashmir in parliament, with Kumar’s name highlighted in bold, capitalised, and underlined.

Calls have been made for prime minister Rishi Sunak to withdraw his backing of Longhi and denounce the letter.

Kumar, who is Sikh, told the BBC she is “disappointed and shocked” by the “divisive” letter sent by Longhi.

She expressed her objection to insinuating that she might not advocate for all her constituents based on her religious background and heritage.

“I work in our NHS as a physiotherapist, helping all the people of Dudley no matter what their background is,” she was quoted as saying.

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Sonia Kumar (Photo: LDRS)

Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party, condemned the tactic, labeling it as “inappropriate, divisive, dog-whistle politics.” She called on Rishi Sunak to take immediate action, asserting that failure to do so would expose his promises of professionalism and accountability as hollow, the Guardian reported.

Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think tank, posted the letter on X and commented that historically, various parties have targeted voters based on ethnicity or faith, which he deemed unacceptable.

According to Katwala, any major political party should take disciplinary action against a candidate engaging in such tactics, describing them as inappropriate appeals to sectarian divisions.

He further criticised this specific instance for consciously employing prejudice against a rival candidate.

Lord Austin, who was the Labour MP for Dudley North from 2005 to 2019, said he had worked hard to fight racism and sectarian politics and to bring local people together.

Rajesh Agrawal, Labour’s candidate for Leicester East, echoed Dodds’ sentiments, describing the letter as a “shameful attempt” to divide the area Longhi claims to represent and offensive to both Muslim and Hindu communities.

Krish Raval, chair of Labour’s group for Indians, also condemned the letter as “racist, dangerous, and wholly divisive.” He criticised the prime minister for not addressing the divisive politics within his party.

Longhi defended his letter, said to GB News, “This is politics, isn’t it? Do you want someone who has consistently supported Kashmiris in the face of human rights abuses or someone named Sonia Kumar who no one has ever heard of?”

He also stressed community concerns over Kashmir and denied any intent to polarise by emphasising Kumar’s surname without knowledge of her ethnicity or religious background.

Kumar, whose surname has Hindu origins, is a common Indian surname with the majority of holders residing in India as of 2014. It is commonly associated with the Hindu community but also used by some Sikhs.

According to reports, there is no record in Hansard of Longhi raising Kashmir in parliament since becoming MP in 2019.

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