Sikhs of the United Kingdom have banned together and presented the Sikh Manifesto just before the UK’s elections to make sure that their voices are heard.
With the general election just days away, the 500,000 voting-eligible Sikhs in Great Britain have garnered attention from all major parties. Gurdwaras, Sikh organizations, and individuals have used their 10-point Sikh Manifesto as a starter of discussion and as a method to pressure politicians to declare their support.
And so far, it has worked.
The Scottish National Party, soon to be the third largest political party in Great Britain has given full support to the Manifesto. An astounding 81% of all candidates support 9 or 10 of the Sikh Manifesto’s sections, which includes 85% of Labour candidates and 64% of Conservatives. When stretched to full support of all 10 points of the Manifesto, backing by Labour candidates is reduced to 58% compared to 36% of Conservatives.
Among other important issues, the Sikh Manifesto calls for “more effective representation in Parliament,” “a statutory code of practice on the 5Ks and Sikh turbans,” “a network of state funded Sikh Ethos Schools,” and the “application of self-determination to the Sikhs.”
Both major parties have recognized the emergence of Sikh influence in Parliament and British politics by addressing some of the points of the Manifesto. However, the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, does not like to make campaign promises, and reports that he has felt pressure to commit a prominent site in London for a monument to honor Sikh sacrifices during the First World War.
The Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, has not directly endorsed the Sikh Manifesto but has publicly made positive comments about Sikhs and their contributions to society. Cameron even attended a Sikh temple as a guest during the recent Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. Sikhs point out that the party has helped encourage a policy of respectful checking of turbans and airports and also supported the rights of Sikhs to wear Kirpan at Olympic Venues. With 35% of Sikh voters in Britain still undecided, and several elected posts still hanging in the balance, the growth of the power and influence of the Sikhs and the Sikh Manifesto in British politics will become clear in the days to come.