With just 198 days to go for the next general election, the Labour Party hosted its annual Diwali reception in style inviting the best from amongst the British Indian community for Labour leader Ed Miliband to parley with.
The annual event took place London’s plush Conrad Hotel, not far from 10 Downing Street where David Cameron was hosting an equally packed Diwali reception.
The Labour do brimmed with a host of prominent British Indians – who have been historically associated with the more immigrant-friendly opposition and there was no shortage of vitriol against Prime Minister Cameron.
Seema Malhotra, MP for Feltham and Heston, got things off the ground, stressing on the significance of Diwali in bringing communities together. Ms Malhotra spoke at length about how her party has always championed diversity in Britain and “always will”: a timely missive given that immigration and diversity is sure to dominate debate in the run-up to next year’s poll.
A procession of Labour leaders including such community champions as Stephen Pound, Stephen Timms, Virendra Sharma and Valerie Vaz – whose brother and fellow Labour MP brother Keith Vaz was, intriguingly, attending Mr Cameron’s reception just down the road – promised to “right the wrongs of the present government”.
Gloria De Piero, the glamorous former TV presenter-turned-MP for Ashford, added to the diversity rhetoric by making an emphatic plea for ethnic minority representation in Westminster.
Ms Piero slammed the Prime Minister for not doing enough to promote diversity and promised that the Labour party would do more than any other to redress the imbalance in ethnic minority representation, beginning with her party.
Deputy Labour Leader Sadiq Khan continued the theme, saying that a “free and prosperous Britain” will be a reality under Labour with the “right policies and a few leaders of the Hindu faith” firmly in place.
Everything about the event spoke to the party’s determination to garner the British Indian vote – an imperative given that a rising number of British Asians are leaning towards the (just) right-of-centre policies of the Tories.
Even the traditional lighting of the oil lamp wasn’t conducted by Mr Milliband but a group of suitably adorable group of school children who also delighted the guests with some verses from the Bhagvad Gita.
Despite his recent travails – particularly in the PR fray – Mr Miliband has been tirelessly canvassing the Indian vote: he’s been on a near-World Tour, attending no more than three Navratri events prior to the Diwali celebration. (Appropriately enough Ms Malhotra described her dear leader as the ‘Rockstar’).
Ever concerned about David stealing the thunder, Mr Miliband quipped: “This is the best Diwali reception going on in London tonight”, with a nod towards Downing Street with a glint which suggested that he’s confident of hosting his next Diwali celebration from London’s second-most famous address.
Alas, as with a lot of speeches Mr Miliband seems to deliver these days, his latest – whilst promising the usual jobs for youth and promises about the NHS – was once again bereft of anything uplifting or particularly engaging towards the communities.
Little mention was made about how a Labour administration would engage with Narendra Modi’s ‘New India’ whilst Ms Malhotra too merely reiterated Mr Cameron’s line of pursuing a “fair policy” with regards to visas.
And of course, there was the evergreen ‘it’s an issue that needs further discussion’.