Seven months after the resignation of House of Lords deputy speaker Swraj Paul, the British upper house of parliament could see another Indian-born luminary take a leading role — this time as speaker. Economist Meghnad Desai, a Labour peer, has thrown his hat into the ring for the office of speaker, and is among six candidates for the mostly ceremonial office.
Election by the alternative voting system, where members will rank all candidates by order of preference, will take place on July 13 and Desai said he is “moderately hopeful” of winning. British newspaper columnists, however, think he could ignite the contest. Desai said he decided to contest the election after attending a G20 Speakers’ conference in Ottawa last September, representing speaker Baroness Hayman. “I enjoyed the experience very much and so decided that if there’s a vacancy, I’ll run,” said Desai. In May Baroness Hayman decided that she will not seek re-election.
Desai said he is not fighting on “a race ticket.” Steel magnate Swraj Paul, a strong India advocate, resigned as deputy speaker in November after being named in the expenses scandal involving British politicians. “I’ve never behaved like an Asian,” he said. “My career has been entirely independent of black and ethnic minority politics. It’s my expertise as an economist that has counted — my Indian experience is not relevant.” Desai was one of two examiners who approved Saif Gaddafi, son of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, for a PhD degree from the London School of Economics. The school’s director resigned in March after the LSE was found to have accepted financial donations from a foundation headed by Saif.