By Mohan Sen
In the Labour Party parliamentary selection in Camberwell & Peckham, South London, the left-wing candidate, black community activist, anti-racist campaigner and councillor Maurice Mcleod, was ruled out from standing – despite having support from trade unions as well as numerous party activists – on grounds including the fact he once liked a tweet by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.
This is obviously outrageous in itself. It is part of a much wider problem, with left candidates excluded all over, often on the thinnest pretexts. In Kensington the former MP and leader of the Labour group on the council, Emma Dent Coad, was blocked from standing!
But in Camberwell and Peckham the party machine has added insult to injury – or rather severe injury to injury – by who it has included on the “long list” of accepted candidates.
The list includes right-winger Neeraj Patil, who was mayor of Lambeth (also South London) in 2010-11.
When we say Patil is right-wing, we do not mean he is on the more conservative wing of the Labour Party. We mean that since at least 2014 he has been an out-and-out right-winger, of an appalling kind.
In 2014, Patil travelled to India and joined the far-right (Hindu nationalist, Muslim-hating, ultra-neoliberal, worker-bashing) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was then about to come to power. The press conference at which the BJP announced this acquisition is pictured above (Patil is in the black blazer); the party tweeted about it here. It was also reported in the Indian media, eg here. Patil was photographed with BJP leader and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in 2015 (see below). In 2017 he publicly campaigned for the BJP, telling the Indian media “I admire Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. More recently he has specialised in attacking any Labour support for the people of Kashmir.
Workers and oppressed minorities in India are under vicious assault by Modi’s BJP government and the far-right movement of which it is part – and meanwhile the Tories are fostering close links with the BJP and with the Hindu right in the UK, and pursuing a trade deal with India regardless of workers’ and human rights. That context should underscore why it is so outrageous that a BJP member could be allowed to stand to be a Labour MP.
Whatever wing of the Labour Party you are on, this should be utterly unacceptable. It is totally incompatible with the principles of equality, diversity and workers’ rights that Labour is supposed to stand for. It is an insult to all of us, and particularly to our Indian and Muslim-background Labour comrades – as well as our comrades in India.
Patil has been allowed to stand in Labour Party candidate selections before – and in fact in the snap election of 2017 he was, bizarrely, imposed as the Labour candidate in Putney (leading to a mass boycott by local party activists). It is high time we did something about this. Those who have licensed Patil to promote himself in the Labour Party, using his positions to support the far right in India, need to be called to account.
More widely it needs to be made clear that supporters of the BJP and Modi’s regime are not welcome in the UK labour movement. The Labour leadership must insist that anyone in the party with links to the BJP breaks them. We should be making solidarity with our sisters and brothers fighting for the rights of workers and oppressed groups in India, not those oppressing them.
• To do something positive about issues in India – solidarity with the Indian labour movement, left and oppressed people – see the India Labour Solidarity campaign, and put its model motion in your CLP or union branch.