WITHIN minutes of speaking to an angry local about his back garden being used as a toilet by people living in nearby ‘beds in sheds’, Uma Kumaran has managed to placate him.
The Labour parliamentary candidate who pounds the streets of Harrow three times a day trying to convince residents to vote for her, has an enthusiastic team of fresh-faced volunteers behind her.
Kumaran is standing against Tory Bob Blackman, who she has described as a “mock Hindu” in the marginal seat of Harrow East in London. On the doorstep, the man insists he has been in touch with her office about the situation.
“That’s not my kind of office, we get back to everyone. What was the issue?” she asks. “I will get one of your councillors to get in touch with you today about this,” the 28-year-old tells him.
The issue has been going on for over a year he explains. By the end of the conversation, he appologises, “don’t think I’m rude but I’m really really upset”.
She then speaks to him in Tamil, hoping to seal the deal. Her parents were Sri Lankan refugees who settled in Harrow after arriving in the UK.
“If you sort out the problem, I will definitely vote for you,” the angered resident insists. Kumaran has a way of charming locals. She recently had about 120 volunteers out canvassing and delivering literature for Team Kumaran in one day.
Almost all the names on the electoral roll are Asian, and her volunteers – armed with clipboards – have even started to recognise Tamil sounding surnames during their door-to-door canvassing sessions.
“This is your parliamentary candidate,” a member of Kumaran’s team points out to a woman who has stopped by a Labour stall on the high street.
“This pretty girl?” she exclaims. Earlier in the day, Labour candidate for Leicester East, Keith Vaz, emerged from the BAME Labour bus to lend his support to her campaign.
During a visit to Asian grocery store VB and Sons, Vaz stops shoppers to tell them about Kumaran. “She will work very hard for you, day and night,” he promises.
“I hope I can rely on your support?” Kumaran asks, dropping Tamil into the conversation when the opportunity presents itself.
The ethnic minority electorate is substantial in her seat, with the number of minority voters more than the majority who voted for the Conservatives last time round.
In one of the key marginal seats in the capital, the Labour party has been fronting her bid. “I’m a big fan,” Vaz, who has held his Leicester seat for almost three decades, told Eastern Eye.
“She will bring a dynamism and an enthusiasm to her job and she will be the envy of the country. The thing about Uma is that she is not here to represent one section of the community. Half of Harrow is not from the ethnic minority community, and she will represent them all equally, whoever they are.”
“I’ll vote for her,” a young man says enthusiastically with a big smile on his face. If elected, Kumaran will be one of a handful of Asian women MPs, and she is among the youngest candidates standing in the election.
Later that afternoon, comedian Eddie Izzard arrives in the north London suburb dressed in a black skirt suit, stilettos and red lipstick with manicured nails adorned with the Union Jack.
The bustling shopping centre is soon abuzz with residents posing for selfies with the celebrity. Handing out red leaflets and chatting with locals, Izzard is gearing up to either stand for parliament in five years or run for London mayor.
He is out in full force supporting Kumaran and long-standing Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas. The trio pose for photographs with local councillors, excited shoppers and activists.
“Right now I’m here supporting Uma and supporting Gareth, Harrow East and Harrow West and all around the country,” Izzard says.
“I volunteered to do this, I’ve not been whee led out. I’m self-propelled, working with the activists because we are very good at the ground forces. Our people get out.
“As I’m a bit of a celebrity, I say judge me by what I have done in my life, judge other people by what they have done in their life. If you think my life adds up to anything, then maybe you can give it a listen,” he tells EE.
Tony McNulty, who was the last Labour MP to represent this constituency, was embroiled in an expenses scandal where he was claiming cash for a house where his parents lived, just eight miles away from his main home.
Blackman was elected with a majority of 3,403 in 2010. “I think I’ve got a good chance of winning,” Kumaran says, but for the time being, she’s not taking anything for granted.