Zac Goldsmith has been accused of racial profiling voters after sending campaign material targeted at Gujarati Hindu and Punjabi Sikh voters in the London mayoral election race.
The letters are ostensibly from David Cameron and have been delivered to homes in London as part of the Conservative candidate’s campaign. They call on voters to back Mr Goldsmith’s campaign, saying: “The Gujarati community makes London great. Closer ties between the UK and India have been a priority for me as prime minister. I was pleased to join Zac and thousands of British Gujaratis in welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the UK last year.”
They follow similar letters revealed by The Independent last week in which Mr Cameron wrote to British Indian voters highlighting how much Mr Goldsmith respects India. The letters said: “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.”
Recipients took to social media to express their distaste at receiving the letter. One wrote: “Dear Tories, please stop sending me this patronising crap just because you’ve seen my surname on the electoral role” and asked if the Conservatives had consulted a “bumper book of Asian surnames” in order to decide which voters to send the particular letters to.
Kavya Kaushik, told The Independent that members of her household had been a sent a copy of the letter, saying: “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.”
Leaflets sent the previous week to voters titled ‘Standing up for the British Indian community’ claimed that Mr Goldsmith 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.
In response, a Conservative party spokesperson dismissed allegations that the campaign was racially profiling voters, telling The Guardian: “Zac Goldsmith has made clear he will reach out to every single part of London, and that means reaching out to every part of the community with London.”
Mr Goldsmith has also denied that he was attempting to tap into racial stereotypes about rival Sadiq Khan when he described the Labour candidate, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, as a “radical” candidate. Mr Goldsmith defended the comment, saying: “It’s not a race element at all. I talk to different communities about their concerns. He is radical and divisive because of his approach to politics.”
However, a senior member of Mr Khan’s campaign team told The Guardian: “It is desperately disappointing that David Cameron is indulging in this sort of divisive racial profiling. Zac Goldsmith clearly cannot stand up to the No 10 machine and is pitifully trailing along in its wake with this sort of dog whistle tactic.”
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