INTERVIEW

Virendra Sharma, Member of Parliament

An Indian origin Labour Party politician, Virendra Sharma is the Member of Parliament (MP) from Ealing South all in the House of Commons, the United Kingdom. In an interview with CSR Times Editor Harish Chandra, Sharma talks about his political journey and his contribution towards strengthening social, cultural and economic ties between India and the UK.

CSR Times: You have a very long political career in the United Kingdom both as the Member of Parliament and as Mayor. How do you reflect back on your political life?

 Virendra Sharma (Sharma): My political career has been both long and wideranging. Throughout my career, whether as a Councillor or Mayor, and now as a Member of Parliament, my emphasis has always been on social justice. When I reflect upon my career the manifestations of my work in combatting discrimination and fighting for equality resonates. The society has changed for migrant families which once faced discrimination and dismay. Now the third or fourth generation of those families live as integrated members of one society and are doing well in all walks of life. These concrete, visible changes of a “more equal society” continue to motivate my political campaigning.

 

CSR Times: You joined the London School of Economics, a reputed institute of learning internationally. Afterthat you worked as a bus conductor. How did this happen? What do you have to say on this?

Sharma: I worked as a bus conductor in Britain prior to attending the London School of Economics which I joined on a trade union scholarship. After graduation, I worked with the Transport and General Workers Union and later became a community relations officer. I succeeded working as a community relations officer and served as the National Officer for the Labour Party. Thus I began my work towards promoting a more equal society committed to social justice.

 

CSR Times: You have been serving on many bodies as chairman of Indo-British APPG, Member of International Development Commission, Member of Joint Committee on Human Rights, etc. What has been your seminal contribution to fostering relations with India, your home country?

Sharma: Serving as the Chair of the Indo-British APPG and as a member of the International Development Committee has allowed me to create an environment which encourages harmonious, win-win relations between both the countries. As a leader and member of these positions, I have focused on encouraging exchanges to develop social, cultural and economic relationships between both sides to wedge the gap. These relationships have created a bridge between India and Britain, and Britain and the world at large, which have helped the diasporas bring growth and prosperity to the world.

 

CSR Times: What has been your experiencein dealing with Indian businesses and other delegations? What are the positives and the negatives while dealing with experts from your native country, India?

Sharma: I greatly enjoy meeting the delegations from India as well as in leading delegations to India. These moments allow for opportunities to develop economic and social links between both sides resulting in a synergetic relationship. Working on understanding the differences and accommodations between business in India and Britain has allowed for significant investments to create jobs and bring prosperity.

 

CSR Times: At one point, you were voted out of your position as you were not able to give enough time in a political post. Are such things common in the United Kingdom? How did it happen?

Sharma: I have never been voted out of any position. I resigned as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to a Minister in 2009 over a matter of conscience where I could not support the government.

 

CSR Times: Can you speak about your early life in India and your family background?

Sharma: I was born in a small village called Mandhali in Punjab. There, I went to the local primary school and later obtained my bachelor’s degree from Punjab University. My father was a freedom fighter and later a prominent, leading political activist in the state of Punjab. My father, like me, focused on building a harmonious society which made him well respected and widely recognized in the state.

 

CSR Times: What made you join a political party in the United Kingdom? Did you face any hardship or discrimination in the political life because of your immigrant background?

Sharma: As I mentioned earlier, my father was a well-respected politician in Punjab, India. Growing up I had a strong political background which placed an emphasis on equality and social justice. Therefore, when I came here to the UK, I was imbued with these ideas. When I came to the UK, the society was structured and functioned in such a manner that racism and an anti-immigrant sentiment was largely prominent. So I decided to join politics. I worked and continue to work to fight against discrimination and to promote equality in order to ensure that

the people of today and the generations of tomorrow do not have to face the pain and inequality which I, like many other marginalized groups, had faced and unfortunately continue to face.

 

CSR Times: Most immigrants, especially of Indian origin, choose the Labour Party for their politics. Why immigrants like you prefer the Labour Party?

 Sharma: Most Indian immigrants choose the Labour Party because of the party’s ideology and policies. The Labour Party works to promote equality, secularism, social justice and peace. It is these principles which guide a majority of individuals of Indian origin to support the Labour Party as they know the hardships and suffering due to inequality. The Labour Party works to extinguish discrimination and to promote social justice and equality.