CONSERVATIVE PEER PAYS HIS PERSONAL TRIBUTE
by LORD DOLAR POPAT
THE referendum decision last week has had pro- found political consequences.
The fallout is, at the time of writing, being felt in the Labour Party and the attempts to oust Jeremy Corbyn. Similarly the first minister of Scotland has started sabrerattling about a second independence referendum.
Yet it is the resignation of David Cameron that is worthy of greatest consideration. As he stood in Downing Street last Friday (24) morning with his wife Samantha by his side, it was the beginning of the end of one of Britain’s great prime ministers.
Cameron has been a friend for many years. I’ve known him and his family well for most of this century, and it was an absolute pleasure to back him for leader of the party in 2005.
Similarly, I have been honoured to serve him both as a minister of the crown and, more recently, his trade envoy to Uganda and Rwanda.
He was so obviously a natural politician. Fiercely intelligent, compassionate and an amazing communicator. He was able to make people who traditionally listen to anything the Conservatives say to stop and reconsider.
But there was another element to him; the element that so clearly attracted the British Indian community. The values that Cameron spoke of and embodied a good education for all children, an entrepreneurial economy, and seeing faith as a strength in society were the same values our community holds most dear.
He welcomed people from less traditional backgrounds into the party, including myself. He promoted Shailesh Vara and Priti Patel to leading roles and encouraged Conservative selection panels to be more representative of 21st century Britain and select more BAME candidates.
But his changes weren’t cosmetic. Rather he set about engaging with the British Indian community in a way no other Tory leader had before. I remember arranging for him to visit Morari Bapu’s Katha at Wembley Arena in 2010; the reception he received from the 10,000 strong crowd was rapturous.
Similar visits occurred to other Temples, includ- ing Neasden. He hosted annual Diwali and Vaisakhi receptions at Number 10, and went out of his way to record messages for both that always went viral.
He launched the Conservative Friends of India, an organisation that I was proud to be the first chairman of, and hit the news around the world when Neela hai Aasma, the first Hindi campaign song in British political history, gathered supporters everywhere.
He had three hugely endearing qualities; he sounded reasonable, he spoke of the values that matter to British Indians, and he was willing to engage and listen to our community.
This hat-trick of qualities meant that support for the Conservatives within the British Indian community went from about 10 per cent in 2005 to over 50 per cent in 2015. He has made the Conservative Party our natural political home.
Whilst the political and economic consequences of the Brexit vote will continue to be played out in the coming weeks and months ahead, we mustn’t lose sight of how much Cameron was our prime minister.
I don’t think I was the only British Indian who watched his resignation statement last Friday morning (24) with a huge degree of sadness. We can only hope his successor is someone who values and engages our community as much as Cameron has for the last eleven years.