The General Elections 2005
Election postscript & George Galloway Reception in Whitechapel (6th June 2005)
New Labour emerged from the May 2005 Election with a majority in the Commons reduced from 161 to 60 and, in comparison with the 2001 Election, a negative swing of 5.5% – bruised but not beaten. Amongst the most significant results was in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in East London, where George Galloway, founder of the Respect Party, with widespread support of Muslims, beat incumbent Labour MP Oona King, entirely because of her unrepentant pro-Iraq war stance. King saw a 10,000 majority in the 2001 election become a deficit in 2005.
On 6th June 2005, the Islamic Forum Europe, a leading Muslim community organisation with headquarters in Whitechapel, organised a victory reception for Galloway – extracts of his speech are presented below, together with the concluding remarks of the meeting’s chairperson, Dilowar Khan, Director, London Muslim Centre.
|London Muslim Centre, 6 June 2005, Part 1|
|London Muslim Centre, 6 June 2005, Part 2|
|London Muslim Centre, 6 June 2005, Part3|
|London Muslim Centre, 6 June 2005, Part4|
An outcome of the 2005 poll is the emergence of many more seats that will be marginals for the 2009/10 General Election – these MPs in particular will need to be very responsive to their constituents. Studies are likely to reveal that the swing away from Labour was most prominent in the 40 constituencies with significant Muslim populations. The number of Muslim MPs in the Commons increased from 2 to 4: new MPs Sadiq Khan (Tooting) and Shahid Malik (Dewsbury) joining Muhammad Sarwar (Glasgow Central) and Khalid Mahmood(Birmingham Perry Barr), all on the Labour benches. In Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, Salma Yaqoob (Respect Party) cut back the Labour majority of 16,000 held by Roger Godsiff to just 3,289.
For the first time in a British General Election, there has been considerable interest in the voting intentions of the Muslim community. Traditionally regarded as a captive Labour vote bank, it is a constituency that cannot be taken for granted.
Three issues have prompted Muslims to rethink their natural allegiance to Labour:
First, the type of a draconian anti-terrorism legislation introduced even prior to 9/11 (for example the list of proscribed organizations – mostly bodies that could claim to be involved in liberation struggles – issued by the Home Office in March 2001)
Second, the crude carrot-and-stick approach of New Labour politicians, that has contributed to Islamophobia – for example, Blunkett in December 2001 calling on immigrants to adopt “British norms of acceptability”; Peter Hain in March 2002 describing some of the Muslim community as “very isolationist”; Denis MacShane in November 2003 calling on British Muslims to choose between the “British way” of political dialogue and non-violence and the “way of the terrorists” and Hazel Blears in March 2005 informing Muslims that they have to accept it as “a reality” that they will be stopped and searched more often than the rest of the public
Third, the way the nation was led into the Iraq War under false pretences in order to demonstrate solidarity with the US.
Veteran Labour politician Roy Hattersley has noted how, “For more than 20 years I took the votes of Birmingham Muslims for granted…my successor Roger Godsiff cannot rely on such unswerving loyalty. The Muslim view of Labour has changed…Respect is what the Muslim community – more confident than ever before – demands. They are not sure that it is available within the present political system. And they are certain that the west’s war on terror has made its achievement for less likely” (8th April 2005, The Guardian).
The wooing of the Muslim vote and the community’s own preparedness is unprecedented. At stake is about 0.5 million votes (the Muslim population in the UK is 1.6 million, of whom about 62% are over 18 – around 1 million, of whom a significant proportion will be registered on the electoral rolls and will cast their vote on the day) concentrated in a small number of conurbations in the UK
(click here for map). Salaam has identified 14 constituencies where the impact of the Muslim vote is ‘Very High’, 23 where it is ‘High’ and 67 where it is ‘Medium’, based on an assessment of the 2001 winner’s margin and an estimate of Muslim voters (click here for details).
The voting dilemma is that in a large number of Labour marginals, a switch away from Labour will bring in a Conservative. If a vote is therefore cast for Labour in a marginal seat particularly, now is the time to obtain a commitment on Muslim issues; the elected MP’s record will be under scrutiny. However there are constituencies where the nearest Labour challenger is a Lib Dem candidate e.g. Cardiff Central, Oldham East & Saddleworth, Bristol West and Birmingham Yarldey . Lib Dems are also defending narrow margins in Brent East, Chesterfield and Guildford.
Frequently Asked Questions on the General Elections 2005
Who can vote in a General Election?
Only persons registered to vote are entitled to vote. Those eligible to vote are:
- British citizens aged 18 or over;
- Citizens of the Irish Republic and Commonwealth countries who are aged 18 or over and meet certain residency requirements.
- Those ineligible to vote include are:
- Those aged less that 18;
- European Union citizens;
- Citizens of any other country apart from Commonwealth countries and the Irish Republic;
- People with mental disabilities who are incapable of making a reasoned judgement.
Those registered to vote on 5th May would have received a polling card from their local council or borough’s election officer.
Should I vote?
- Sheikh Suhaib Hasan, Islamic Sharia Council of Great Britain
- Sheikh Michael Mumisa, University of Newcastle
- Sheikh Muhammad ibn Al-Mukhtar Ash-Shanqiti, Mufti
- Dr Musharraf Hussain, Director & Imam, Karimia Institute, Nottingham
- Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, The Muslim Council of Britain
What are the issues?
The Muslim Council of Britain has identified ten key questions for Muslim voters to put to their prospective parliamentary candidates.
Click here for the MCB Voter Card.
Views from the community
The Muslim Council of Britain
“If we take a policy-by-policy look, it appears the Labour party are offering more. We know the Iraq war did meet with enormous opposition from the community.”
The Muslim Association of Britain
“MAB highly recommends following candidates in the general elections… George Galloway, Respect, Bethnal Green and Bow; Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Islington North; Salma Yaqoob, Respect, Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath; Diane Abbott, Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington; Lindsey German, Respect, West Ham; Yasmin Qureshi, Labour, Brent East; Alan Simpson, Labour, Nottingham South; Maxine Bowler, Respect, Sheffield Central; Sadiq Khan, Labour, Tooting; Osama Saeed, SNP, East Renfrewshire; Mohammed Sarwar, Labour, Glasgow Govan; Mohammed Khaliel, Labour Party, Aylesbury; Shahid Malik, Labour, Dewsbury; Harry Cohen, Labour, Leyton and Wanstead; Clare Short, Labour, Birmingham Ladywood; Paul Rowen, Lib Dems, Rochdale; Neil Gerrard, Labour, Walthamstow; Mark Krantz, Respect, Stretford and Urmston” Source: www.mabonline.info
Pir Ala’ud Deen Siddiqui, Prof Abdur Razzaq Shahid, Prf Jafar Bilal Barkati
“We were opposed to the government’s military intervention in Iraq. We know many people demonstrated against the war and continue to be very angry. We continue to urge the government to outline a swift and responsible exit strategy. But we realise elections should not and are not decided on one issue alone. We believe the Labour government has delivered valuable changes for the Muslim community. The Labour government has been the first government to support Muslim schools through state funding, and facilitated Sharia-compliant finance, as well as outlawing religious discrimination in the workplace and making a manifesto commitment to outlaw incitement to religious hatred. We believe the government’s introduction of the minimum wage and child trust funds have and will continue to benefit economically disadvantaged Muslims. We also welcome the Labour government’s repeal of the hated primary purpose rule which kept so many Muslim families apart.
We believe that these are positive achievements and that we need to maintain momentum for the benefit of British Muslims and wider society. We also strongly welcome this government’s commitment to tackle and reduce poverty in developing countries and we are calling for them to commit to a firm but fair foreign policy that will prevent Britain going to war against any Muslim or non-Muslim country without the authorisation of the UN, and will work towards resolving the Kashmir and Palestine issues”.