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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sadiq Khan, John McDonnell and Seema Malhotra back MP Tan Dhesi after difficult week for Labour

Tan Dhesi emphasised his support for Slough’s communities and his calls for a ceasefire in Gaza as he launched his campaign to be re-elected MP.

His launch on Saturday, 8 June, came days after seven Slough councillors quit the Labour Party, criticising him and the party over Gaza.

Speaking at the event, Mr Dhesi said Labour was in favour of a ceasefire and backed a Palestinian state. He told the LDRS: “The Labour Party is the party of human rights which since last year has been calling for a ceasefire, calling for an end to the violence in Gaza.

“Since last year it has been calling for an end to the violence and a ceasefire in Gaza. In fact the only motion that has passed in the UK parliament is the Labour motion in February 2024 which called for an immediate ceasefire.”

Wajid Khan, Tan Dhesi, Sadiq Khan, Seema Malhotra. Image: LDRS

Some big-name Labour Party figures – including London mayor Sadiq Khan, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow education minister Seema Malhotra – spoke at the event.

Their presence on a Saturday afternoon – an important day of campaigning – further suggested that Labour considers Slough a ‘battleground area’ despite Mr Dhesi’s large majority.

However Mr McDonnell told the LDRS they were all there because of their ‘personal connection’ with Mr Dhesi. He said that he had encouraged Mr Dhesi to first stand as MP in 2017.

The speeches also put a lot of emphasis on Mr Dhesi’s call for a ceasefire, as well as his record as a local MP and his support for Slough’s diverse communities.

(Left to right) John McDonnell, Sadiq Khan, Tan Dhesi and Lord Wajid Khan at Mr Dhesi’s general election campaign launch in Slough on 8 JUne 2024 (Image: LDRS)

Mr Dhesi faced criticism when he abstained on a vote in parliament calling for a ceasefire in November last year.

But Ms Malhotra said she and Mr Dhesi had ‘worked together on the cause of a ceasefire in Gaza.’ She said they’d both been meeting with charity Medical Aid for Palestine on the day the election was called.

Mr McDonnell said he believed that Labour had ‘made mistakes’ on its position on the war in Gaza. But he said its position had ‘dramatically changed’ so that it now backs a ceasefire. He said that was ‘the result of campaigning of MPs like Tan’.

Mr Khan said people of Hindu, Christian and Muslim backgrounds had come to the event support Mr Dhesi, who is a Sikh. He appealed to supporters ‘not to be deflected to those who try to divide our communities.’

His comments echoed Mr Dhesi’s criticism of independent candidate Azhar Chohan, who he accused last month of trying to encourage Muslims to ‘vote in a block’ against him.

Mr Chohan has made support for Palestine a large part of his campaign – and has denied that his campaign is dividing Slough’s communities.

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Fiza Matloob said he wanted to ‘maintain that association’ with the Labour Party – after seven of his fellow councillors announced they had quit the party on Monday, 3 June.

Mr Dhesi told the LDRS he was ‘confident’ that people in Slough want a change from the Conservative government. But he added that he would ‘never take anything for granted’.

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