A headline in the 'Telegraph' today was entitled :
Exclusive : Tory donor made a peer under false pretences, say Sikhs
Downing Street deliberately created a misleading impression about a major Conservative Party donor who was awarded a peerage by David Cameron last week.
While in the 'Daily Mail' the story was :
‘King of Bling’ who gave the Tories £300k is made a Lord: ‘Cash for peerages’ row flares again
They centred around 79 year old Ranbir Singh Suri,, a jewellery magnate who is one of Britain’s richest Asians and has donated more than £300,000 to the Conservative Party since 2004 and was elevated to the House of Lords at the request of the Prime Minister. This means that, along with the other, mostly, old and all, undemocratic and unelected lords and ladies, he has his right to have a say in the formulation of laws passed to it from the elected First Chamber, the House of Commons.
In its official citation for the new peerages, the Government described the new Lord Suri as a 'businessman' and 'former General Secretary of the Board of British Sikhs'. This ensured that Mr Suri, as a justification for his elevation, was seen as a representative of an ethnic minority. The only problem is that the Board has not existed for more than 20 years and only involved four or five people when it did exist.
According to records held by Companies House, the 'Board of British Sikhs' was incorporated in 1990 and dissolved two years later. One person familiar with the group said it “fizzled out” after a couple of meetings and did not feature in any Sikh activities. “It didn’t get off the ground,” they added. The Board’s last registered offices were 38 Berwick Street in London’s Soho – the previous address of Mr Suri’s jewellery company, Oceanic Jewellers Ltd.
The Sikh Federation UK said :
'He is no leading figure in Britain’s Sikh community and he is not associated with any of the leading Sikh organisations. Many in the Sikh community simply see Lord Suri as a businessman who has donated large sums of money to the Tories.'
'The Federation has been campaigning for over a decade to see more visible Sikhs in Parliament. On the one hand this move is welcome, but we would prefer each of the main political parties to have Sikhs in the House of Lords who are younger, there on merit and based on what they have to offer rather than those who are seen as ‘cronies’'.
The Sikh Council UK, the largest Sikh representative body in the country, said it had never worked with Lord Suri and its Secretary General, Gurmel Singh said :
'We have not come across this individual before. The first time I heard of him was when his name was mentioned as a new peer' and 'while we welcome the appointment of a Sikh to the House of Lords, the general feeling in the community is that it would have been good to have somebody who could speak on a range of issues. It would also have been good if he was known for his contributions in the Sikh community.'
Kulwant Singh Dhesi, President of the British Sikh Council, said he had never heard of Lord Suri and “I’ve never met this person. I can’t even recognise his face.”
Lord Suri has been an active member of the Conservative Party for more than 30 years. He is a member of the 'Renaissance Forum', an exclusive dinner club only open to those who have donated more than £10,000 to the Conservative Party and given access to an audience with speakers such as Government Ministers, George Osborne, William Hague and Eric Pickles. He has been described by Prime Minister Cameron as : “delightful and a good leader”. The problem is that he doesn't appear to have 'led' anything and therefore starts his life on the benches of that august and undemocratic body, the House of Lords, with tarnished ethnic credentials. However, he need not worry, the House of Lords always has room on its benches for another apparently, undeserving old man.