Southall is an area rich in ethnic diversity. The non-white population stood at 47% in the 1991 census, mostly consisting of Asians. The main shopping area is informally known as ‘Little India’, a reflection of the many Indian stores and restaurants here.
The present incumbent Piara Khabra is Southall’s first Asian MP, and has served here since 1992. The local party deselected the sitting Labour MP Sydney Bidwell in favour of Khabra. Bidwell stood against Khabra in 1992 as a True Labour candidate, obtaining less than 10% of the vote.
The influx of Commonwealth immigrants to the area is said to have begun when an Indian ex-soldier came to Southall after the War to seek out his former British commanding officer. With his help, the soldier is believed to have secured a job in a local factory. He was soon joined by his friends and relatives to work in nearby plastics, rubber and food processing factories. Most of the early immigrants were adult Sikh men from Punjab. Others arrived from Pakistan and the Caribbean.
A major rail accident happened here in September 1997, at Southall Station, in which many were injured and seven people were killed.