May urges Hindus and Indians to help her make UK 'world's great meritocracy'

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Theresa May has made an impassioned plea to British Hindus and Indians to help her make Britain the "world's great meritocracy" just days before the General Election.

She made the comments during a visit to Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north-west London on Saturday evening, one of the biggest Hindu temples outside India.

In a 20-minute speech to a crowd of around 2,000 worshippers gathered in the main hall she said: "I say to all British Hindus and Indians, come with me as we make Britain the world's great meritocracy.

"Come with me as we support all Hindu faith groups.

"Come with me as we build a truly global Britain, and help me build those vital links with India.

"Come with me as we build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous vision for us all."

Mrs May was accompanied by her husband Philip, with both removing their shoes before entering as a customary mark of respect.

It is the PM's last weekend campaigning before the public cast their votes in the snap General Election she called earlier this year.

During the speech Mrs May praised British Indians as "inspiring role models across all walks of life" and said their accomplishments were built "on the very best of British and Indian values".

But, she went on: "I also know you have often battled against the odds, and had to break down barriers to achieve and secure these achievements.

"And that's why I'm passionate about making Britain a great meritocracy. A place where advantage is based on merit, not privilege, where it is your talent and hard work that matter, not where you were born and who your parents are.

"Making Britain nothing less than the world's great meritocracy is one of my top priorities for the next government."

"I'm determined that every person regardless of their ethnicity or background, should be able to fulfil their full potential in life," she added, saying it was a "hallmark of a better and brighter future".

The Prime Minister said she was pleased that, as part of her education plans, the Conservatives would continue adding at least 100 free schools each year.

This would allow new faith schools to receive support and funding, she said, adding that she would also remove the "restrictive regulations" that stop faith schools from expanding.

Mrs May and her husband were both decorated with a "tilak" - the red dot on the forehead adopted by Hindu worshippers on religious festivals.

It is the PM's second visit to the temple, in March 2013 she was guest of honour and keynote speaker to mark International Women's Day - themed "celebrating women above and beyond".

During Saturday's visit she was presented with a traditional symbol of friendship and goodwill as a gift and told she was an inspiration to the Hindu community.