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Minister Priti Patel: From Uganda refugee parents to U.K. Cabinet

NEW DELHI -- The first Indian origin cabinet minister in Britain, Priti Patel, is the daughter of an immigrant who migrated to the UK before dictator Idi Amin expelled the Indians settled there, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan Kulive Kulove Kulaugh.

A ‘dukawalla’ or a shopkeeper, Sushil Patel, now 64, set up set up a post office in rural Norfolk and later established corner shops in London and south-east England.

She fled to Britain with her parents when Dictator Idi Amin persecuted the Indian community and ordered them out within 90 days.

"My parents were kicked out of Uganda,’" she said in an interview.

"They came to the UK with nothing, worked hard and set up a successful shop business.

"There was a desire to work hard and to be successful so you didn’t have to rely on anybody else. Coming from a country where you’re persecuted means that you want to work hard and to contribute to the society where you end up."

Surprisingly, her father joined the anti-immigration United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) even stood as a candidate from this party in 2013.

But when the ghost of Idi Amin was raised, the Uganda Indian stepped down after 90 minutes!

Priti was inspired by Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and, more recently, by Michelle Obama who has become the first lady of United States.


Priti Patel British Minister of State for Employment | Coastweek

Priti Patel, who previously served as exchequer secretary to the treasury, has been promoted by British Prime Minister David Cameron to the new role as Minister of State for Employment. WIKIPEDIA PHOTO


Now Priti is the first Indian origin woman to sit in the British cabinet.

Born in 1972, Priti attended a comprehensive school in Watford before studying economics at Keele University and then obtained her postgraduate degree at the University of Essex.

In July 2004, Patel married Alex Sawyer.

They have a son, Freddie, born in August 2008.

As the Conservative’s first woman Asian MP in 2010, Priti was elected from Witham in May 2010.

In November 2013, the Prime Minister appointed Priti as the first ever UK Indian Diaspora Champion.

In November 2013, she visited India with her Prime Minister to promote Indo-British bilateral relations.

She addressed the Pravasi Bhariyiya Divas meeting in Ahmedabad this January.

After the recent general elections, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her as the Minister of Employment, a challenging portfolio considering the slow growth of the British economy in recent years.

Following the Indian general elections last year, she took BBC to task for one-sided coverage of Narendra Modi and created a storm.

She knows a lot about the media because she worked for former foreign minister William Hague in his press office, dealing with media relations in London.

Later, she joined a leading PR agency to promote major tobacco and liquour companies and this created quote flak for her in the parliament.

"When I hear ‘sir’, ‘your honour’ or ‘right honourable’, I want them to be followed by a British Asian name," recently, "One day I want to hear that title ‘Prime Minister’ followed by a British Asian name."

To date, every single British Prime Minister has been white, and you can count the number of Asian cabinet ministers on one hand. Perhaps Priti could do it.



      British Prime Minister names first all-Conservative cabinet following election victory


  LONDON (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday formed his first all-Conservative cabinet after his party stormed to victory in this year’s general election.

The new cabinet saw most of Cameron’s close allies retaining their jobs, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. Osborne also became First Secretary of State, an honorific title implying seniority over other ministers.

Michael Gove, former government chief whip of the House of Commons, became Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, succeeding Chris Grayling, who was appointed Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons.

Nicky Morgan remained as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, while former Immigration Minister Mark Harper was made the new chief whip.

Tens of ministers and senior officials have resigned from government, including former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats party suffered a disastrous defeat in the general election.

Other notable Liberal Democrat ministers stepping down from government include former chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander, former business secretary Vincent Cable, and former energy and climate change secretary Edward Davey.

  John Whittingdale, former chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the House of Commons, was named Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, succeeding Sajid Javid, who became the new Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The cabinet reshuffle also saw a number of female ministers being accepted into Cameron’s top team.

Amber Rudd, former Undersecretary of State for Climate Change, was appointed the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Meanwhile, Tina Stowell, the incumbent Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal, was promoted to cabinet.

Priti Patel, who previously served as exchequer secretary to the treasury, took on the new role as Minister of State for Employment. She was also allowed to attend cabinet.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, newly elected as a member of the Parliament, would not become a government minister but he accepted an invitation to attend weekly "political cabinet" meetings. A spokesperson for the mayor said Johnson has to "fulfill his mandate running London first" until his mayoral term ends in May next year.

The Conservative Party won 331 out of a total of 650 seats in the general election held on Thursday, securing the first Conservative majority in the parliament since 1997.




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