David Cameron: the great friend of the British Indian Community - Lord Popat
With Britain still coming to terms with the decision to leave the European Union on Friday morning, David Cameron stood outside Number 10 Downing Street and announced his decision to step down as Prime Minister.
On a personal level, I was saddened by his resignation. David has been a friend for many years and he has proved himself to be a brilliant leader, both for the Party I support but also for the country that I love.
But it is also worth keeping in mind how much of a friend to the British Indian community David Cameron has been. During his time as leader, support for the Conservatives from within the community has gone from levels around 10% in 2005 to, by all accounts, over 50% in last year’s General Election.
When he became leader of the opposition in 2005, David Cameron knew that the Conservatives had to reach out beyond their core support. He wanted to build a party that reflected Britain in the 21st Century, and British Indians were to be an essential part of that.
He has engaged with our community in a way no other leading Conservative has. As both the leader of the opposition and as Prime Minister, he’s regularly visited temples and community centres across the country. He introduced annual Diwali and Vaisakhi receptions in Downing Street, and in 2010 he attended Morari Bapu’s Ram Katha at Wembley Arena, in front of 10,000 people.
In 2012 he made the decision that the Conservative Party still wasn’t doing enough to engage with British Indians, and asked for the Conservative Friends of India to be formed. I was honoured to be asked to be the founding Chairman of that organisation; and will never forget the launch, with the Prime Minister talking to 1,200 British Indians about our shared future.
Through her right-to-buy policy, economic reforms and by virtue of holding the Finchley constituency, Margaret Thatcher was well-liked by many British Indians. But she never reached the levels of support David Cameron has; the receptions he received were bordering on ‘rock-star’ status.
He made many British Indians look at the Conservatives in a new light. Here was a man who seemed to want what we wanted; sound economic policies, good schools, a confident nation and a more liberal approach to social issues.
It was a potent combination; and when added to his natural leadership and his fantastic communication skills, made him the greatest politician of his generation.
The Conservative Party is now home to dozens of politicians from BME backgrounds, including many British Indians. It is the Party that brought in same-sex marriage; that ensured 0.7% of our GNI is spent on foreign aid to help those less fortunate than ourselves; the Party that took us from the instability of the banking crisis to a booming economy.
David Cameron has been a terrific force for good for the Conservative Party and for Great Britain. He has reshaped our politics and will go down in the history books as one of our greatest leaders. We must now hope that whoever takes the Party and the country forward will continue to embrace his legacy.
By Lord Dolar Popat