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UK trader’s peerage sparks row

London, Aug. 8: The House of Lords will now have two Sikh members, following the elevation today of businessman Ranbir Singh Suri, 79, who will join religious affairs commentator Indarjit Singh, 82, who was similarly honoured three years ago.

The elevation of Suri immediately sparked a row with the Daily Mail disparagingly dubbing him “King of Bling” and claiming that a “cash for peerages” row has flared again.

It alleged that Suri, who is chairman of a company called Oceanic Jewellers, “handed the Tories more than 300,000” to be made a Lord.

Suri was not available for comment today but the truth is that all the major parties put pressure on businessmen, big and small, to make donations.

The Mail, at least, pointed out that Suri, according to Tory sources, “was a leading figure in the Sikh community who had served as a magistrate for a decade and a half. He was also a successful businessman who employs dozens”.

It acknowledged that Suri has been a founder member of the British Asian Conservative Link, “which aimed to encourage those with an Asian background to get involved in politics”.

Since 2006, he had donated 129,380 to the Conservative Party, while his company had gifted another 183,055. Reported to be worth 40 million, “he has been a Tory member for more than 30 years”, the Mail said.

Suri was born in pre-partition Rawalpindi on February 10, 1935, and came to Britain from Kenya in 1973. He and his wife have three sons and a daughter.

Suri is one of 12 new peers appointed today. Financier and party co-treasurer Michael Farmer has donated more than 6.5 million to the Conservative Party.

The chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Katie Ghose, said that such appointments meant wealthy political donors were effectively able to buy a place in the legislature.

“These appointments further cement the impression that to get into the House of Lords, all you have to do is write a fat cheque to a political party or be a party hack,” she said. “The second chamber is a crucial part of our political system, with real legislative power. It cannot be right that people are effectively able to buy a seat at the highest level of politics.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has done his bit for the Muslim community and for Pakistan as well. He will be happy he has found another Muslim woman he can promote — the last experiment with Sayeeda Warsi has ended in tears following her resignation as senior foreign office minister over the UK’s “morally indefensible” Gaza policy.

Another among the 12 is Nosheena Mobarik, a former chairman of CBI Scotland and chairman of the Pakistan Britain Trade and Investment Forum.

Rich Asian business face a no win situation.

“Don’t you think you have done well in this country?” they will asked by party fundraisers. When the tycoons say they have and that they are grateful to Britain, they are placed under moral pressure: “Don’t you think it’s about time you put something back by making a donation to the causes you believe in?”

 
 
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