"I promise to work very hard for the constituents"
The 2010 UK general election has produced historical results for Asian women living in the UK. Despite the outcome being a hung parliament, six Asian women MPs were voted for and elected by their constituents. The election has produced the highest number of Asians to be elected into government.
A record 22 Asian women are ran in the 2010 UK election. Until this election, no Asian woman had ever been elected as an MP in the UK. The first male Asian MP, the Indian Dadabhai Naoroji was elected in 1892 for Finsbury in central London. Sayeeda Warsi became the first Muslim woman to sit on the front bench for the Conservatives in 2007, but as a baroness rather than as an MP.
Equality campaigner Karen Chouhan, who wants to to see much more representation by ethnic minorities in parliament said, “There should be around 35 MPs from the ethnic minority communities and, given that women make up just over half of the UK’s population, this should also be reflected in the make up of Parliament.”
Baroness Haleh Afshar, a lecturer in politics and women’s studies at York University, was the first Iranian woman to sit in the House of Lords, said, “Asian women are right up there demanding to be included and, once the parties get into responsive mode, we will do better.”
The twenty-two Asian women candidates that stood in the 2010 UK election were as follows:
- LABOUR – Bethnal Green and Bow – Rushanara Ali, Ilford North – Sonia Klein, Bolton South East – Yasmin Qureshi, Bury North – Maryam Khan, Wigan – Lisa Nandy, East Worthing and Shoreham – Emily Benn, Birmingham Ladywood – Shabana Mahmood, Walsall South – Valerie Vaz, Scarborough and Whitby – Annajoy David Da-Bora and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich – Bhavna Joshi.
- CONSERVATIVE – Bristol East – Adeela Shafi, Witham – Priti Patel, Stoke on Trent Central – Norsheen Bhatti, Leigh – Shazia Awaan, Makerfield – Itrat Ali, Birmingham Ladywood – Nusrat Ghani and Glasgow East -Hamira Khan.
- LIBERAL DEMOCRATS – Hayes & Harlington – Satnam Khalsa, Feltham & Heston – Munira Wilson, Glasgow South – Shabnam Mustapha, Wimbledon – Shas Sheehan, Leeds North East – Aqila Choudhry and Harrow East – Nahid Boethe.
A former Oxford graduate and barrister, Shabana Mahmood is the daughter of the Birmingham Labour party’s Chairman and stood against another woman Asian candidate for the Conservatives, Nusrat Ghani, and won in Ladywood, Birmingham. She said,
“Parliament is for the people – all of the people and the ethnic minority population should claim it.”
The Asian women elected in the UK 2010 elected were:
- Priti Patel (Conservative) – won the Witham seat with 24,448 votes and is the first Asian Tory woman to be elected.
- Valerie Vaz (Labour) – who is the older sister of Keith Vaz (who also won in Leicester), won Walsall South with 16,211 votes.
- Rushanara Ali (Labour)– who became the first Bangladeshi women MP, won Bethnal Green and Bow with 21,784 votes , the seat previously held by George Galloway.
- Shabana Mahmood (Labour) – Oxford University graduate born and bred in Birmingham, won Ladywood, Birmingham with 19,950 votes. Replacing replace former MP Clare Short.
- Lisa Nandy (Labour) – senior policy adviser at The Children’s Society and previously a caseworker for Hammersmith and Fulham, won Wigan with 21,404 votes.
- Yasmin Quershi (Labour) – A barrister in Manchester, won the Bolton South-East seat with 18,782 votes.
Yasmin Qureshi, 46, is a Pakistani-born criminal barrister, who moved to the UK when she was nine. Yasmin’s reaction was full of enthusiasm and said, “I’m absolutely delighted. Obviously, I am very pleased the voters of Bolton South East chose a Labour candidate and elected a Labour MP. It is a truly humbling experience and I promise to work very hard for the constituents.”
Shabana Mahmood described her Ladywood win as ‘a real breakthrough’ and said, “This is a constituency with significant challenges but it is incredibly diverse and vibrant.” And added, “I pledge to be a hard working MP, working every day to fulfil he faith people have in me.”
This result now provides more role models for Asian women wishing to take part in UK public life and politics. It is about what you can do and how well you can do it, versus who and what you are in this instance.