Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What a tangled web Uppal weaves

Sometimes I almost feel sorry for my awful MP, Paul Uppal. He's a Tory MP with a majority of 619 in a working-class city, whose majority exists because the Labour vote slumped. He relies on the votes of the elderly, white, middle-class people on the western edge of the city, and he thinks they're going to vote UKIP.

What's the magic Tory solution? Well, the city has a large Sikh community which has traditionally voted Labour. The (slightly racist in my opinion) Tory thinking appears to be that Sikhs will set aside their political beliefs in favour of identity politics and vote en bloc for a fellow Sikh. Bingo: Tory majority, hence Paul's recent focus on Sikh affairs.

Distasteful and patronising, but it's a strategy. Sadly though, the worst thing in politics that can possible happen is, as Harold MacMillan never actually said, 'events, dear boy, events'. Operation Sikh Vote was going rather nicely last year, when Paul managed to cling on to David Cameron's coat-tails and get himself on the trip to Amritsar, the spiritual home of Sikhism.

Here's Mr Cameron at the Golden Temple:

So far, so good. Great photos, support no doubt rising. And then! Calamity! It turns out that Paul's political hero, one Margaret Thatcher, supported the Indian government's full-scale attack on the separatists occupying the temple, leading to 3000 deaths. Not only did she offer political support, she sent an SAS officer over to help plan it. All very unfortunate: Paul was pressing the government for 'the truth' about Amritsar for political advantage, and it turns out to be very unhelpful indeed.

So poor Paul's in a bit of a bind. As an ultra-loyalist, does he break with his party's view that this is all a fuss about nothing and pursue the truth and re-election, or does he shut his mouth and continue to enjoy the torrent of dodgy money pouring in from various funds to help marginal constituencies? I imagine that if anything will encourage Sikh voters to work together, it's throwing out the party which connived in the deaths of 3000 of their young men.

Paul's solution? Hush it up. It turns out that he organised a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary this week, and decided that concerned MPs from other parties didn't need to be there. He wanted a quiet little chat so they could organise a cosy little deal that would save his political bacon and would have got away with it too if he hadn't let it slip during a TV appearance.

"I want to take the politics out of this. I want to go and see Sir Jeremy Heywood. He is going to have some other representatives of the Sikh community there. If he wants to have a meeting with Tom Watson I am sure he will be happy to do that.”

Uppal, who eventually met the cabinet secretary with the former Labour business minister Pat McFadden, said: “As the only Sikh MP it was only reasonable and sensible that I should go and see the cabinet secretary,” he told the Guardian. “I got an invite. I had been pushing for it. I made it clear I wanted to see the cabinet secretary.”

Let's hope poor Paul's manoeuvrings don't rebound against him on election day as he stands for the party that gave a big thumbs up to murdering his own people. And in case you think I'm being cold and cynical, the Sikh 24 Channel knows exactly where the Tory Party's interest lies:
Cameron, who is said to be deeply concerned about the impact of the revelations from 1984 among Sikh voters, recorded a message for the Sikh Channel in which he spoke of the “dreadful incident” at the Golden Temple which “remains a source of deep pain to Sikhs everywhere”.

Update: the fix is in. 
William Hague made a risible statement yesterday, with a report attached which carefully doesn't include the key document, a letter from Margaret Thatcher to Indira Ghandi, and there will be internal reviews. The Guardian is not impressed:

Yes, it is the case that an exhaustive review of paperwork took place. That is Sir Jeremy's way; he is our top civil servant. But it wasn't quite everything, because in 2009 the Ministry of Defence came across one of the relevant files and destroyed it. That was regrettable, said Hague, but not catastrophic. Sufficient was unearthed for Sir Jeremy to conclude everyone had behaved properly. 
There will be a review, said Hague, led by Sir Alex Allan – the PM's adviser on ministerial standards – to ensure no more files are destroyed in circumstances that later become difficult to explain. Thus there will be an internal review by Sir Alex, prompted by the internal review by Sir Jeremy. But no, there will be no apology or public inquiry, for there is nothing new under this sun. Unsurprisingly, Labour members were disinclined to accept Hague's assurances at face value.
But Paul is:
British involvement was not in any shape or form malicious
Really? Sending military advisers to help storm the home of Sikhism, leading to 3000 deaths?

But then Paul gets clever:
If documents cannot be released to the general public, will my right hon. Friend take the unusual step of making sure that they are released to the widest possible audience, but within a proper environment?
One of the reviews going on is into how the documents got released at all: apparently they were meant to be suppressed, which would have been very convenient all round. The magic words here are 'within a proper environment'. Without them, it sounds like Brave Paul is calling for openness and facing up to the truth. But hey presto! 'A proper environment' means 'never' or 'selectively' or 'amidst a massive spin-doctoring operation' to ensure that political discomfort is avoided. That's certainly how the Foreign Secretary sees it:

questions arise over when documents should be withheld and how the 30-year rule, which is to become the 20-year rule, is implemented. Those are fair questions that can be looked at in Sir Alex Allan’s review.
What Paul really means is 'bollocks: I've a 619 majority in a constituency with a significant Sikh population and now I'm in trouble you bastards'.

No comments: