Zac Goldsmith accused of 'racial profiling' over letters to 'British Indian' voters in Mayor of London campaign

One recipient told The Independent: "It was a botched and lazy attempt to treat all South Asians as one homogenous block."

Siobhan Fenton
Monday 21 March 2016 14:26 GMT
Zac Goldsmith is the Conservatives' mayoral candidate for the London elections
Zac Goldsmith is the Conservatives' mayoral candidate for the London elections (Getty Images)

Zac Goldsmith has been accused of “racially profiling” voters in campaign material reportedly distributed to Londoners this weekend. A number of residents have reported that they have received letters claiming to be from David Cameron, sent through the Conservative London mayoral candidate’s campaign team.

The letters are addressed to members of “the British Indian community” and list ways in which the Conservative party has supported India. The letters, which are signed with the Prime Minister’s signature, state: “The British Indian community makes London great. The British Indian community makes an extraordinary contribution to London and to Britain.

“Closer ties between the UK and India have been a priority for me as Prime Minister. I was pleased to join Zac Goldsmith and thousands of others in welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the UK last year, at Wembley Stadium. I am backing India’s claim for a permanent seat at the UN Security council.”

One recipient posted a photo of the letter online with the caption: “Dear Tories, please stop sending me this patronising crap just because you’ve seen my surname on the electoral role.” She added that the Conservatives appeared to have consulted a “Bumper Book of Asian Surnames”, while a follower expressed her relief that she had not received a letter as she had “not been racially profiled yet.”

Another user posted: “Just received the weirdest letter from ‘David Cameron’ asking for my ‘British Indian’ self to vote for Zac Goldsmith. So odd.”

Kavya Kaushik, a former parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Ealing South, said that her household had also received a letter. She told The Independent: “Not only was it offensive to treat us as one homogenous block, the content of the letter suggested that we’re all pro [Indian Prime Minister] Modi, and previous letters suggest we’re all obsessed with our family jewellery. It suggests that there are no mainstream political issues which I would care about as a British Indian.”

She added: “I think the letter was well intentioned. As someone with a great interest in Asian community engagement, it’s not a bad thing to try and engage with a political community. Except it was a botched and lazy attempt to treat all South Asians as one homogenous block.”

Last week, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign team was critcised for distributing campaign leaflets titled ‘Standing up for the British Indian community’, which claimed that the Conservative Mayoral hopeful would protect the “family jewellery” of Indian voters. Some recipients said that they found the leaflet perpetuated stereotypes about Indian voters and was reductive and patronising.

The Independent has approached Zac Goldsmith for comment.

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