Here is my list of Top 5 UK politicians to follow on Twitter in 2014, who will be (or ought to be) the real influencers regarding the UK’s trade and investment relationship with India.
Greg Barker @GregBarkerMP
Prime Minister Cameron’s @David_Cameron point man when it comes to the UK’s business relationship with India. Though an energy and climate change minister, Barker was given additional charge of boosting trade and investment with India – a unique appointment by a PM who has staked his credibility on making India central to the UK’s future economic progress. Barker has somewhat been overshadowed by foreign office minister Hugo Swire of late. But remains a mate of the PM, and trusted (if ever such a word existed in politics!).
Priti Patel @priti4witham
Now this is an interesting one. Patel was recently appointed by David Cameron as his “champion” of the million-strong Indian Diaspora in the UK. Seen as the PM’s favourite among all the Indian-origin politicians (Vara, Sharma, Uppal, Verma, Popat), Patel is determined to make her mark as a bridge builder with the community and strengthen trade links with India. Some ask whether her appointment was really needed, cynically citing the acronym NRI as meaning Not Required in India. I am hopeful. But the jury is definitely out and 2014 will be a big year for Patel as she tries to prove to her party she is ministerial material.
Jo Johnson @JoJohnsonMP
Formerly the FT’s @FinancialTimes man in India, this experienced journo turned politician probably knows India better than all his fellow Tory MPs put together. Johnson has made a determined effort to keep his head down, and to be his own man – difficult given that he is the younger brother of the eccentric Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. It will be interesting to see what Johnson has to say as India goes to polls in 2014, particularly given his historical scepticism of prime ministerial frontrunner Narendra Modi @narendramodi.
Chuka Umunna @ChukaUmunna
Suave, popular, and engaging, Umunna for many in the Labour Party is the future. He hates being called the UK’s Obama (like I have just done!), but there is a buzz about this guy and 2014 is going to be a big year for him. Ed Miliband @ed_miliband would be well advised to deploy Umunna to maximum effect in the media. I suspect no one by the end of the year will be excused for not being able to pronounce his name. Rumour has it that Umunna as the shadow business secretary has been secretly swotting up on all things Indian. His long-awaited first visit to the country will, I am sure, happen in 2014.
Barry Gardiner @BarryGardiner
Mr India in Parliament personified. Ever since being elected in 1997, Gardiner has consistently spoken up for India on a range of issues including investment, immigration, and India’s relationship with the UK (even at the most sensitive of times). Gardiner stuck his neck out long before it became trendy to say good things about [Gujarat chief minister] Narendra Modi. But all credit to his diplomatic skills, Gardiner continues to hold court with a beeline of Indian politicians from all sides and business people who regularly seek out his views. Though his focus is much more on being a shadow environment minister these days, as chairman of Labour Friends of India, Gardiner is too experienced, networked, and knowledgeable about India ever to be ignored.