image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Next Prime Minister and the Challenges Ahead

If Liz Truss becomes the next Prime Minister that will be due to party membership made up of disproportionately old, male, white, southern English and rightwing types and not because of the support of majority Tory MPs. As Martin Kettle wrote in The Guardian: Truss will be the third prime minister to be chosen by the Tories in mid-parliament since party members (and not the MPs) got the final say in leadership contests. But she will be the first to win through party members overturning the choice of the MPs. That weakens her position in the Parliament.

Another well-known journalist, Andrew Neil, wrote in the Daily Mail that she will face many challenges: a vicious cost-of-living squeeze caused largely by soaring energy prices. No end in sight to the war in Ukraine, the single most important cause of the spike in fuel bills. Double-digit inflation, with some City forecasters predicting it could hit 18 per cent. Growing industrial unrest&hellip. and so on. The unsolved problem of ever-increasing number of migrants arriving across the Channel remains a sensitive and controversial issue. The threat of Covid continues while, with an ageing population, the National Health Service is under greater strain than ever before.

With a divided and unruly Conservative Party, she has more to fear from her own MPs sitting behind her in the Commons than those sitting on the opposite benches! She cannot depend on their support because, as Neil points out, they have resorted to rebellion and disloyalty so often of late that both instincts are now in the DNA of many Tory MPs. These challenges are the most serious faced by any Prime Minister since World War II.

From a Sikh perspective, hardship and hard work has been the experience since our arrival in any significant numbers from late 1950s. I recall about 10 of us in one house in 1960, trying to make ends meet in cold winters, no carpets and no central heating. However, all did well over the years.

About changes in the government, of Sikh interest is the prediction that Priti Patel is unlikely to continue as Home Secretary. Suella Braverman of Indian origin has been mentioned as the most likely person to take over from her. In that case, British Sikhs should wish Suella her well. while hoping that she would learn some lessons from the mistakes of her predecessor.

For British Sikhs, Priti Patel was not a good example of a minister with an Indian background. She did offend the British Sikhs in many ways and it is important to remember why. For example, on Guru Nanak Parkash Day 19 November 2021, she spoke about banning Hamas and proscribing four extreme right-wing groups. She then went on to specifically mention Sikhs in the same vein that Sikh separatist extremism has also caused considerable tensions in recent years. Many Sikhs felt this was deeply offensive. There were other related actions taken by her department, which have made Sikhs wary of ministers of Indian origin, otherwise a most encouraging sign of changing race relations environment in UK politics.

The challenges are serious but Britain has always been a resourceful nation. This is the time when civil servants would be writing briefs for the next Prime Minister. Perhaps national Sikh organisation should do the same from a British Sikh perspective.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant ret&rsquod.