Britain has a Gujarati-origin lawmaker at the helm of UK politics as Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday promoted Priti Patel to his Cabinet after his surprise victory in general elections.
As the new minister of state for employment in the Department of Work and Pensions, the 43-year-old will attend Cabinet as the senior-most Indian-origin member of the newly-elected British government.
“Nurturing and expanding the financial partnership between the UK and India has been a key objective of this government since 2010,” said Patel, who has been at the forefront of British MPs extending an invite to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the UK.
“We will continue to build ever closer engagement with the Indian government, so that both of our great nations can benefit from the economic and cultural rewards,” she added. Patel had also been appointed Indian Diaspora Champion by Cameron.
In January this year, she was awarded the ‘Jewels of Gujarat’ honour at a reception in Ahmedabad, where she led a British delegation to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015.
“I have always been proud to have a heritage in Gujarat. Gujarat is a state with which the parallels between the UK and India are clear. Both economies are open, outward looking and dynamic- a great example of why UK- India trade links are so strong, and why Gujarat and the UK have been doing business with each other for centuries,” she had said back then.
She also played host at the first-ever Gujarat Foundation Day in the House of Commons, celebrating the achievements and contributions of the Gujarati community in the UK and around the world in May 2014.
Her popularity as a Conservative party MP has been on the rise and while she had a majority of 15,196 in 2010 at her Witham constituency in Essex, she extended that by more than 4,000 votes in the May 2015 elections.
“As Witham’s MP, I will continue to support families and communities throughout the constituency, campaign for investment in our infrastructure and services, and back local businesses as they create more local jobs,” she said after her win last Friday.
Patel was born in north-west London to Indian-origin immigrant parents who settled in Britain after fleeing Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda in the 1970s.
Her family went on to set up a series of successful cornershops in London and the south east of England. Patel studied economics at University of Essex before joining the Conservative party during the prime ministership of John Major in the 1990s.
In July 2004, Patel married marketing director Alex Sawyer and they have a son, Freddie, born in August 2008. As she assumes charge at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as employment minister on Sunday, it remains to be seen if her role as Indian Diaspora Champion carries on- officially or unofficially.