victory! This word was not often needed by the Conservatives in London when last week’s election results came in.
But in the London Borough of Harrow it was required, because here the Conservatives wrested control of the council from Labour, and the party won 31 of the 55 seats.
How was this victory obtained? Why did Harrow prove to be more favorable territory than Wandsworth or Westminster?
A large part of the answer lies in the increasing propensity of British Indians, who make up around a third of Harrow’s population, to vote Conservative.
This is not a phenomenon that can be conveyed in purely statistical terms, however impressive the statistics may be (and for this phenomenon they are still mostly lacking).
Yesterday at lunchtime I took a Metropolitan Line train from Finchley Road to Northwick Park, the stop before Harrow-on-the-Hill, a journey that still breathes the last charms of John Betjeman.
But one does not engage in this line only, or even primarily, with the past. One also sees something of the future.
A short walk from the station between well-kept 1930s shingle houses, often with expensive cars parked outside, brought me to Kenton Road, one of the main thoroughfares in the district, lined mainly with Indian businesses.
For no particular reason other than hunger, I walked into Ram’s pure vegetarian restaurant and ate a delicious lunch before striking up a conversation with one of the owners, Prashant Upadhyay.
He is 41, came to London from Gujarat in 2004 on a student visa, worked for five years without a holiday, became a British citizen and took over Ram’s, which he had noted was a popular establishment.
In 2015 he was one of 60,000 British Indians who gathered at Wembley Stadium to cheer on Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India and previously Chief Minister of Gujarat, who was visiting the UK.
Upadhyay did not intend all British Indians to admire Modi. He put the division at 60 percent for and 40 percent against.
He said that Modi was a bit like Boris Johnson: people could immediately tell whether they liked him or not.
David Cameron, then British Prime Minister, performed in 2015 as Modi’s warm-up act at Wembley Stadium. I confess that at the time, this event passed me by.
Having now seen a recording of Cameron’s speech, I can attest that the whole occasion is extraordinary. With what exuberant enthusiasm, the Prime Minister is hailed over and over again by the echo as he declares that British Indians are “putting the best in Britain”, and that many of them are from Gujarat, information that elicits a particularly rapturous applause. .
Johnson recently became the first British prime minister to visit Gujarat. “The timing was perfect,” a British Indian councilor in Harrow told ConHome in reference to local elections.
Noting in his Wembley speech that there are more MPs of Indian origin than ever before, named Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma, Suella Fernandes, Shailesh Vara and Priti Patel, he declared: “It won’t be long until there is a female Indian prime minister in Downing Street”. Tremendous greetings.
When I left Ram’s, Upadhyay was on his way next door, where he has a real estate agency and logistics business. She has moved to Watford, so her children can go to Parmiter’s School, which happens to be the alma mater of Oliver Dowden, chairman of the Conservative Party, who was recently found campaigning in Harrow, where one of his clerks commented that the local conservatives knew everything. the right doors to knock on.
Across Kenton Road, I walked into Sazz Jewelery & Beyond, which was founded and is run by Shumyla Khan, a Kashmiri Muslim.
The pro-Muslim and pro-Pakistani Labor line in Kashmir has in recent years helped drive many British Indians towards the Conservatives.
Khan said, “Because it’s so beautiful, one of the most beautiful places on earth, everyone wants it.”
She goes there every year to visit her parents, who used to work in Reading but have retired to Kashmir. She and her family voted Conservative in recent elections and she refused to take a sectarian view of her local community: “We are Londoners. We are people of Harrow. They all live together. That’s the most important thing at Harrow, respecting the views, faith and beliefs of others.”
She lives in Harrow, but her children take a taxi every day with other children to Royal Grammar School and Wycombe High School in High Wycombe.
On my way back to the station, as I passed Churchill Parade, erected in 1929 AD. C., I wandered into a small, neat and tidy convenience store where 18-year-old Paras Masand was at the cash register, reading an A-level economics textbook.
He was born and lives in Brent, attends Park High School in Stanwell, and thought Labor had done poorly in local elections because they hadn’t been good at plugging potholes and cleaning up rubbish.
I asked who owned the store. He said that he and his sister, who is 22, opened it in November 2020, because a convenience store was then, due to the pandemic, practically the only type of store they could open.
They’re doing pretty well, selling drinks and snacks to schoolchildren. She is reading straight, but she has been able to follow many of her lectures online while she attends to the workshop. She intends to study accounting and finance.
It never occurred to me, when I was Masand’s age, to start a business, but here in Harrow a new generation of entrepreneurs is starting up, natural Thatcherians. They are helped by the still relatively modest level of rents, which in Westminster or Wandsworth could be prohibitive.
I called an opinion pollster. He did not want to be quoted by name, but said of the British Indians’ turn in recent years towards Conservatives, Jains and Sikhs, as well as Hindus: “Everyone is afraid of this issue. It’s emotional and difficult and complex. It has basically been ignored.”
There is a danger of stirring up anti-Muslim sentiments to appeal to British Hindus.
As an example of the complexity of what is really going on, the pollster said that while in Leicester there is clear evidence that British Indians are turning, like in Harrow, to the Conservatives, in Sparkbrook, in Birmingham, it is another story, and Labor doing well.
Local factors matter, as does long-term commitment. In 2015 Paul Goodman wrote an article on this site called The Conservatives’ Indian Spring?
He alluded to research by Michael Ashcroft and Andrew Cooper which showed that British Indians were more receptive to the prospect of voting Conservative.
Last week’s result at Harrow has helped prove the truth of this claim. It is no longer necessary to use a question mark in the title.
But this phenomenon has to some extent been masked by the increasing tendency of well-educated white Britons to vote Labour. When, as often happens, they live in the same area as British Indians, they obscure the latter’s tendency, however well educated (and they take education very seriously), to vote Conservative in numbers every time. greater.
Rishi Sunak was often mentioned with pride by Hindus in Harrow. But as far as I know, my plea when I reviewed the life of Sunak from Ashcroft has not yet been answered.
Therefore, I reiterate the hope that as Max Weber wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalismso some scholars are even now hard at work on Hindu ethics and the spirit of conservatism.