Priti Patel – A rising Star of British Politicsby Opinion Express January 24, 2018 0 comments
A fascinating story of her rise in British politcs
The international media have gone to town over the story line of Priti Patel, the British Member of Parliament who is of Indian origin. Having met Priti many times and getting to know of her politics as well as her community heritage, I felt that may be the time has come for the world to learn a little bit more about Priti. I will also throw in the mix how I see developments taking place over the coming months and years in British politics.
Priti is the daughter of Sushil and Anjana Patel, a Gujarati couple who fled the then increasingly dysfunctional Uganda of the tyrant Idi Amin to take refuge in the UK. She was a bright spark who observed, listened and learnt from her surroundings. The family settled in Hertfordshire and whilst it has now become a cliché, her parents engaged in setting up a series of Newsagents (or as some might say, the typical British corner shop) which has now become so synonymous with Asians in the UK. Whilst her parents worked hard, Priti settled into her new environment and focused on education. It wasn’t long before family and friends noticed her natural instincts in learning new things and applying what she had learnt. Her mathematical ability allowed her to grapple easily with numbers, but then she was the daughter of a shopkeeper after all. Her parents and grandparents were people of faith. Every time they visited the Mandir little Priti would be alongside them, as usual, learning of the values imbibed in her by her heritage faith. Most people don’t know this, but as a child Priti was in fact present when the foundation stone for the now world famous Neasden BAPS Mandir was laid.
The rising star knew of no boundaries to halt her aspirations. She attended Watford Grammar School for Girls and then went on to studying Economics at Keele University. However, her interest in politics meant she also went onto to do a postgraduate in British Government and Politics at the University of Essex. Her education marked the road ahead and though she spent many years working in the private sector, her ambition to become a politician was over powering. It was only a matter of time before she would make the transition to becoming a full time politician. Her big break came during the tenure of PM Cameron. He saw the huge talent that resided in Priti and encouraged her to take that final step. At the 2010 general election, Priti stood for the Conservative seat of Witham, a new constituency in central Essex, and won with a majority of 15,196. She has gone on to win the seat again and in 2016 increased the majority to 18,646. In the time she has been an MP, she has worked in various positions including, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Minister of State for Employment and more recently, Secretary of State for International Development. She is therefore now known with the ministerial title of the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP.
You might be forgiven in thinking that this was all plain sailing for Priti. So let’s put her achievements into some sort of perspective. She was the first Gujarati to sit on the front benches. First Indian woman to have achieved this distinction in the UK. The first British Hindu woman to secure such a high position in any British Government. Priti had to break not one, but several glass ceilings in getting to where she is now. She speaks her mind, sometimes a little more forcefully than a politician should, but knowing that she speaks with integrity and an honest perspective is reassuring in the world of politics that is mired by sleaze and deals. She rises above all of this and does what is good for her country, Great Britain. However, she has not forgotten her roots either. She has become a champion for Indians not only in the UK but also in India itself. I remember the 2014 Indian elections that had turned toxic. The media on the subcontinent had become political and it was clear to the bystander that it had become anti-Modi. The western media took this lead and without even checking facts started to undermine and discredit the then CM Modi. It was Priti Patel who stood alone as a British MP and denounced the biased media. She even wrote to the world-famous BBC, the so-called custodians of news integrity, that their coverage of the Indian election was biased and very anti- Modi. Where politicians fear to tread, Priti seems to step forward and get on with it. It is not just that she is fearless, she is self-reassured in knowing that her dharmic values imbibed since childhood, will hold her in good standing. More recently on a family holiday to Israel she took time out to meet the Israeli PM and a number of high profile individuals. Her motivation, to ensure that the bond between the UK and Israel remains strong. The media did not see it that way and it became clear that the knives were out. For the first time in British history a front bench minister resigned for actually doing a damn good job of protecting the interest of her nation. History will judge her as a hero, I am sure of that.
So what is really going on in British politics today. The Conservative Party are of course in power, but not with a majority so are always watching their backs lest their policies get derailed. This also means that the Prime Minister is not seen by her Party, Parliament and the nation to be in a strong position. All self-evident of course. And with Brexit on the horizons the pressure cooker is well and truly boiling away, almost out of control some might say. In these circumstances a strong, self-confident, articulate, intelligent Member of Parliament begins to be seen as a threat to the establishment. Priti Patel fits the bill and had secured the support of significant numbers of back benchers in Parliament, as well as having a unique connection at the grassroots. Such a person had to be taken back a peg or two and we saw how that was done. Of course, this also means we have firm evidence that the rising star of the Conservative Party still remains a force to be reckoned with, and someone who even whilst sitting on the back benches commands attention of not only her Party, but that of the opposition.
Consider this, Priti Patel went on a holiday to Israel. Whilst there she had some 12 meetings with people of significance in Israel including the PM of Israel. Now let us all just think about this logically. Do you honestly think that a high-profile Minister like Priti Patel could have gone to a high profile sensitive destination such as Israel, and have some 12 meetings with senior figures including the PM of Israel and there are people actually claiming they had no idea? As far as my common sense tells me, those who should have known, must have known. They just waited and waited until the time was right and guess what? Mysteriously there was a leak to the leading News agencies and the whole thing was blown up. The weak in Parliament conspired to undermine Priti Patel because they saw her as a threat to their cosy cabal. The Israeli’s must be wondering what madness possessed the Brits in hounding out a politician who was doing a lot of good for the nation.
In my view this has actually strengthened Priti Patel’s position and I have no doubt, Priti remains the person to look out for over the coming years. Her day will come, probably sooner than some might think.
So what do we make of the British- Indian relationship now? After all it was Priti Patel (with support from PM Cameron) who galvanised a mediocre relationship between the two countries into something that is now seen as very powerful. Britain still has a lot to do before India will fully commit. Quite obvious when you think about it. After all India represents the biggest global phenomenon under PM Modi leading the largest democracy to super power status over the coming decades. Any country with an ounce of intelligence will realise that being on good terms with India is the prerequisite to their own economy doing well. Annoy India, and you can kiss the future growth of your country away. Whilst one Indian leads the largest democracy in the world, we have another person of Indian origin who can and will become the very powerhouse of this bi-lateral relationship in the UK. Only then can we assure of a good future for Britain post Brexit.
So what do we make of the Britain of today, and possibly of it over the coming years? Brexit will take place March 2019, with or without trade agreements with the EU. Britain is much better placed to ride this storm out than most countries of Europe. So don’t believe the rhetoric coming out of the EU of their own bravado and how they will teach the UK a lesson. They all know that in trying to undermine the UK, they risk destroying their own economies. We have already seen the rise of the far right across Europe. Let us be very clear, the proportion of voters in various countries of Europe that vote for far-right parties is significantly higher than anything similar in the UK. For example, in France Le Pen secured some 25% of the popular vote only recently. Germany today is falling apart because of Angela Merkel’s reckless immigration open door policy and the far right AFD is on the march. She still has not managed to form a Government and there is now every risk that the country will go back to the polls again. If they do, the far right will increase their share of the vote yet again. We see the same pattern across many prominent European countries. The lesson is simple, if a nation stops listening to it’s people then it will drive some of them to the extremes. The underlying tones of Europe have always been based on race and white supremacy. If modern Europe under the hand of Merkel allows this ugly head to rise again, trust me, it will be central Europe that will pay the heaviest price. As far as Britain is concern, we have our own minor issues (nothing compares to what you find in Europe) and whilst the Alt-left have tried everything to stoke up trouble, the people of Britain are wise and the vast majority are not taking the bait. Unfortunately, we do see large numbers of these extremists taking hold of various parts of the Labour Party. The Labour Party as we have it today comes across to most Indians as anti-India, anti-Modi, pro-Pakistan, supporter of Kashmiri separatists and very much dependent in many seats on the bulk votes from the Pakistani community.
For us in the UK, if the Conservative Party wins the next general election then I see great progress between our two nations. However, if by some misfortune of fate we end up with a Labour Government, then I fear their rhetoric may well turn into disastrous policies. And with that we can kiss the positive relationship of our nations away. You now know which side the bread is buttered, choose your friends wisely, or forever regret your choices.
I end my exploratory observations on the state of play in Europe by answering the question that was set at the top of this piece. Priti Patel – A Rising Star of British Politics? And the answer is a resounding Yes. As they say, watch this space and if you really want unadulterated non-PC commentary and observations.
By Kapil Dudakia: UK Bureau Chief Opinion Express. twitter @kdudakia