'Fakest Person Ever': People from London's 'Little India' on Priti Patel

I went to Southall – home to London's biggest South Asian population – to canvass people on the controversial UK Home Secretary.
Priti Patel smirking next to Southall resident

Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo a

Home Secretary Priti Patel may have been recently foiled in her plan to fly a deportation flight to Rwanda, but she’s persevering in her determination to “do the right thing”, which, judging by her actions in the past, will more than likely be the wrong thing. With a longstanding lack of empathy for refugees and a strong anti-immigration stance, Patel has admitted that even her own parents would have struggled to enter the UK under her own legislation. 


Although I share my name with the man who sang “What’s New Pussycat?”, my mum is originally from Punjab, a state in northwest India, and I find Patel’s attitudes to immigration and refugees baffling. Her family are Ugandan Gujarati – a group who were forced, along with 60,000 other Asians, to flee the country by dictator Idi Amin after their homes and businesses were confiscated. You’d be tempted to think that someone whose community went through mass upheaval might have more empathy for those in a similar predicament, but no: Patel has presided over some of the most divisive and hardline policies on immigration in recent memory.  

With that in mind, I headed to an area of West London I’ve been visiting since I was a kid: Southall, sometimes known as “Little Punjab” or “Little India”, home to the largest South Asian community in London, to find out more about what people there make of Patel’s recent initiative. 

Southall resident standing outside train station


VICE: What are your thoughts on Priti Patel?
I think she’s just pretending to be too British when she could work both ways fairly. People aren’t really happy with her – she’s trying to be too much into politics rather than thinking about human beings. She’s trying to make more fake loyalty towards the country and she doesn’t have to do that – she could be a good, genuine person and help other people. She’s the fakest person I’ve ever seen – she’s not actually [supporting] diversity; she’s going the other way. I think she’s the fakest person ever!  

Southall resident wearing sunglasses


VICE: How do you feel that someone from the South Asian community in the UK has views like hers? 
I’m a third generation immigrant and I feel both disgusted and incredibly confused. By her own standards, her dad wouldn’t even get in. It takes a certain level of hate to have those kinds of views – I just don't get it. You see her and you think how could anyone have such a horrible view on refugees and immigrants, especially considering her own father was one. It doesn’t make any sense. It's the definition of climbing a ladder and then pulling it up for yourself…. It's just straight up gross and it’s evil, just like the rest of the Tory government. 

Southall resident in white t-shirt


VICE: What do you think of Priti Patel and her attitudes towards immigration?
I think she’s terrible – I disagree with her approach to refugees and to immigration. I think the narrative that she’s pushing is incorrect. It’s unhelpful and stigmatising. From someone like Boris Johnson’s perspective, it might be good to have someone from a multicultural background in that position because their identity suggests that they might be more open to it, when in reality she isn’t. I’m sure it’s done her well to take this stance in terms of her political career. That would be my assumption…


[Hugh’s friend Anya pitches into the conversation, but has requested anonymity as she works for the government.] 

Why do you think that someone from an Indian background could be so opposed to immigration? 
As an Indian woman, I don't know why she does it. There are lots of people in India with very right-wing views, so perhaps she feels like she now has privilege and doesn’t want anyone else to have it… There could almost be a sort of shame that she’s reflecting – a shame in herself and her own background that she’s internalised and [is] projecting onto other people. Her stance and her willingness to be so public about it makes me question something about her, individually. I’ve seen a photo of her and her husband, who is English, wearing a big top hat. That just made me think maybe this is her route into a society that her parents may not have been accepted in.

Corner shop cashier in Southall wearing Chicago Bulls jersey


VICE: What are your thoughts on Patel’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda? 
I’m from Afghanistan and I took asylum when I first came to this country. If she came here to Southall, I don’t think she would be welcomed - no chance! The question is why she doesn’t want people coming here: Why does she want to send people to Rwanda? Asian people in Southall want to know. When we see on television the news about Priti Patel and the Rwanda flight, Asian people here are upset. 

It’s really shocking, she’s Indian as well and she doesn’t want to help anyone – she has no humanity. I work in a shop here and it’s mostly Asian people who come here and talk about Priti Patel and [the Rwanda flight]. All Asian people who shop here don’t want this [flight] to pass. If you're coming to this country as a refugee, of course you’re coming for help – nobody wants to leave their house, their parents [or] their homes. The people of Southall don’t want Priti Patel and that’s that.