Constituency Focus (this section is regularly updated)

__________________________________

Stephen Timms

 

Focus on East Ham – Incumbent MP Stephen Timms

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Timms, S.C. Lab 21326 53.9 minus 19.2 Y 13155
Mian, A.K. Resp 8171 20.7 - - -
Macken, S.L. Ms. Con 5196 13.1 minus 3.5 -
Haigh, A.M. Ms. LD 4296 10.9 plus 3.9 -
Bamber, D.J. CPA 580 1.5 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Well respected former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and now Minister for Competitiveness in the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform. Timms attended the Muslim News Awards Ceremony 2006 and in June 2007 he was appointed by PM Gordon Brown appointed as the Labour Party vice-chair with responsibility for Faith Groups.

The East Ham constituency has a significant Muslim population – almost 30% [2001 Census] – an important factor if there is a national swing towards the Conservatives in the next General Election.

Timms has been forthcoming in acknowledging the good work done by civil society bodies. In September 2006, at a visit to the offices of the charity Muslim Aid, he commended its work in the earthquake affected areas of Pakistan and also relief activities in Sri Lanka and Somalia. Timms has also visited a Muslim Aid project in Bangladesh. Stephen Timms was appointed Minister for Competitiveness in June 2007 at the newly formed Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform.

Gossip:

Apparently much put out when confronted by a Muslim Respect Party opponent in the 2005 General Election.

__________________________________

Jack Straw

 

Focus on Blackburn – Incumbent MP Jack Straw

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Straw, J.W. Lab 17562 42.0 minus 12.1 Y 8009
Ameen, I.A. Con 9553 22.9 minus 8.3 -
Melia, A.P. LD 8608 20.6 plus 12.5 -
Holt, N. BNP 2263 5.4 plus -
Murray C.J. Ind 2082 5 - - - -
Baxter. D. Ms. UKIP 954 2.3 - - - -
Carter, G.A. Grn 783 1.9 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Lord Chanceller and Secretary of State for Justice; formerly Leader of the House. Also served as Home Secretary & Foreign Secretary.

In the run-up to the 1997 General Election, he undertook to push forward the granting of voluntary aided status to the Islamia Primary School and support the MCB campaign for a voluntary question in the 2001 Census. New Labour delivered on both of these commitments.

Gossip:

A man of genuine charm, who through a long-term friendship with Lord Adam Patel, has been able to draw on the Gujrathi/Tablighi Jamaat vote bank for decades. Generally considered to be ‘Muslim-friendly’, Lord Rees-Mogg believes that Straw was sacked as Foreign Secretary in May 2006 for challenging Blair on Iran – Straw favoured diplomacy rather than the neo-con sabre-rattling. However Jack Straw’s remarks on the niqab (click here) in October 2006 remain inexplicable: why was he risking his Muslim vote through this unnecessary controversy? Various theories are offered – that New Labour has decided to abandon the Muslim vote and woo the right wing; or that after some time out of the limelight, he wished to re-establish his credentials in the race for the next Deputy PM. In an unguarded moment, Tony Blair is said to have called him a “tart” – perhaps reflecting Straw’s willingness to trim his sails to suit the wind.

Febuary 2008 update: meeting a group of Muslim representatives, Jack Straw felt it necessary to convey to them ‘how much Labour had done for Muslims2.

__________________________________

Mike Gapes

 

Focus on Ilford South – Incumbent MP Mike Gapes

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Gapes, M.J. Lab 20856 48.9 minus 10.8 Y 9228
Metcalfe, S.J. Con 11628 27.2 plus 1.5 - -
Lake, M.E. LD 8761 20.5 plus 9.3 -
Rana, K. BPP 763 1.8 - - -
Taylor, C.H. UKIP 685 1.6 - - - -

Links: They work for you

MPAC write-up

Comments: Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Gossip:

Mike Gapes is an assiduous constituency MP in a strong Labour constituency. His previous association with the Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary group raised questions on his ability to fully reflect the views of all sections of his constituency, but there are now indications of a more even-handed approach e.g. joining the Parliamentary ‘Friends of Islam’ group.

__________________________________

Roger Godsiff

 

Focus on Birmingham; Sparkbrook and Small Heath – Incumbent MP Roger Godsiff

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Godsiff, R.D. Lab 13787 36.1 minus 21.4 Y 3289
Yaqoob, S. Ms. Respect 10498 27.5 plus - - -
Hussain, T. LD 7727 20.2 plus 9.3 -
Mirza, S. Conservative 3480 9.1 minus 1.7 -
Brookes, J.J. Ms. UKIP 1342 3.5 - - - -
Jamieson, I.J.. Green 855 2.2 - - - -
Chaudhary, A.Q.. Ind 503 1.3 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments: Godsiff is not a Brummie but a South Londoner – a Lewisham councillor for 19 years.

Gossip:

Following the Despatches Programme in January 2007 which set out to demonise the Sparkbrook Islamic Cente in Birmingham run by the UK Islamic Mission and mosques in Small Heath, Birmingham and Hastings Street, Derby, run by the Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, Godsiff – without waiting for responses or explanations from the organizations concerned – called on the Police and the Department of Public Prosecutions to take action against the mosque authorities. Doesn’t say much of his engagement with the local community. He was given a close run for his money by the feisty Salma Yaqub in 2005 – who has described him as ‘complacent’. After the election she petitioned the high court, questioning the validity of Roger Godsiff’s re-election because of the history of rigging in postal voting in some wards. Constituency boundary changes (renamed Hall Green) have increased the number of Muslim voters, so a lackadaisical attitude on matters close to their heart will not do in the future.__________________________________George Galloway


Focus on Bethnal Green and Bow – Incumbent MP George Galloway

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Galloway, G. Respect 15801 - - - Y 823
King, O.T. Ms. Labour 14978 34 minus 16.4 - -
Farouk, S.B. Con 6244 14.2 minus - -
Dulu, S.N.I.. Lib Dem 4928 11.2 minus - -
Foster, J.P.W.. Green 1950 4.4 - - - -
Etefia, E.. Ind 68 - - - - -

Links: They work for you

The day George knocked the US Senate for six

Audio (mp3) George Galloway speaking at the London Muslim Centre, June 2005

Comments: George Galloway, the darling of the anti-war movement and outspoken champion for dispossessed Palestinians, ousted the adamantly Blairite Oona King in the 2005 General Elections by the narrowest of margins. The Muslim voter rallied around Galloway, and it is said that even Bangladeshi senior citizens made the journey to the polling booth, thanks to transportation provided by local activists. His Big Brother ‘cat’ act was however a PR disaster. The Standards and Privileges Committee of the Commons censured him for failing to register his links with Saddam and meted out an 18 day suspension in July 2007. Galloway’s outspoken campaigning for Gaza, including the Viva Palestina campaign has made him a legend of our times. When he steps down as Bow MP – which he has indicated – his will be a hard act to follow.

Ajmal MasroorAmong those contending for his seat are two young Muslims of Bangladeshi origin, the ambitious brainbox Rushanara Ali for Labour, and the charismatic former Islamic youth leader, Ajmal Masroor, for Lib Dems. His chances are rated ‘winnable’ within Lib Dem circles. Both contenders have East London roots, with Ajmal growing up in Shadwell and attending the Bluegate Field School on Cable Street. He is well-known activist, associated with a variety of associations such as the Islamic Society of Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain and the ‘Forward Thinking’ network. His appearances on Islam Channel have also made him a Muslim household name. About Labour’s record, he notes, “Labour take away more of our freedoms every day – more stop and search, more detention without trial, more ID cards…”. If he is to succeed, Masroor will need to inject some of his famous energy into galvanising a campaigning base that can take on the formidable Labour Party machinery with its awesome network of patronage and influence. In 2005 Labour voters abandoned Oona King for Galloway’s Respect candidature. Will they now revert to type?

Archive:

  • Update March 2007 – Though George Galloway has publicly pledged to put forward a Muslim candidate to stand on the Respect platform next time round, manoeuverings within the Bangladeshi community suggest the Labour Party machinery is hard at work. About 17 hopefuls put themselves forward (!) – the two shortlisted are Raushnara Ali and Lutfur Rahman. In the running remain Jelal Abbas, Rupa Huq, Shiria Khatun and John Biggs.
  • The feeling on the ground is that what Bethnal Green needs a man or woman prepared to take courageous stands – like George Galloway – and reflect the constituency’s views, rather than someone elected on the back of a Muslim heritage but who buckles quickly to demands of Labour Party whips. Those in the know believe that the strong contenders are Lutfur Rahman and Jelal Abbas.
  • Update 4th May 2007- Rushanara Ali has emerged as Labour’s PPC, after Lutfur and Jelal knocked each other out. Rushanara is a local Tower Hamlets resident, and a reputed brainbox with an Oxford PPE. She is currently a director at the Young Foundation. Her previous political experience includes a spell as Oona King’s parliamentary assistant, who commended her for her intelligence and brains – though she abandoned ship before the 2005 election.
  • Update 16th Jan 2008 – Respect faces melt-down – Towards the end of 2007, in the wake of rumours that Gordon Brown might call an early election, Galloway made the surprising announcement that he was considering standing for Tower Hamlets – present incumbent Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour. This riled the Socialist Workers Party, a member of the Respect coalition, who felt that Galloway had abandoned ‘revolutionary socialist principles’ and was aligning himself with ‘reactionary’ [read 'Muslim'] community groups and small businessmen [read 'petit bourgeoisie']. The exit of SWP has led to a re-christening of Respect as ‘Respect Renewal’, still backed by stalwarths such as Salma Yaqoob. Who Labour brings up to stand against Galloway remains to be seen.__________________________________

hilip Davies
Focus on Shipley – Incumbent MP Philip Davies

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Davies, P.A. Con 18608 39 minus 1.8 Y 422
Leslie, C.M. Labour 18186 38.2 minus 5.8 - -
Briggs, J. Lib Dem 7018 14.7 plus - -
Linden, T.W.A.. BNP 2000 4.2 - - -
Deakin, Q.E. Green 1665 3.5 - - - -
Crabtree, D.W.. IWNN 189 0.4 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Philip Davies represents Shipley, near Bradford and is local to the region, having studied at the University of Huddersfield. Shipley is an example of a constituency where the Muslim voter swing against Labour has resulted in a Tory consolidation. On 30th April 2007, Davies was quoted in a sensationalist front page article in the Daily Express, ‘Now Muslims get their own laws in Britain’, as saying “I am absolutely appalled and find the prospect of such courts totally terrifying. Places like this should be closed down or else everybody will want to establish their own courts”.

For an MP is an area of high Muslim population (though not the wards in his constituency) this was a remarkably ill-informed remark – much like the Jewish community’s Beth Din courts, the Shariah councils deal entirely with civil matters such as marriage and divorce.

Davies also added his tupenny’s worth on the recent guidelines from the Judicial Studies Board on the veil. The MP noted: “This is another nail in the coffin for this country. We have reached the point where we are bending over backwards to pander and forget the culture and laws that made this country what it is. The veil is not something that is part of the Muslim culture and is even banned in some Muslim countries.” (Express, 25th April 2007)

Earlier in the year he had called on mosques to fly the Union Jack!

In October 2006 Davies felt obliged to comment on a cooked-up story of a house in Datchet, Windsor, vandalised by Muslims: ““If there’s anybody who should f*** off it’s the Muslims who are doing this kind of thing. Police should pull out the stops to track down these vile thugs” (The Sun, 7th October 2006). When it was later established that Muslims had nothing to do with this incident, Davies did not apologise and offered the excuse that his remarks were made in good faith!

Gossip:

Notwithstanding his allergy to other cultures, Davies notes that his favourite meal is a curry! In October 2005, in the course of a radio programme, he was involved in what is described as a ‘fracas’ with Labour MP Stephen Pound, twenty five years older. Pound “had to be taken to hospital for a possible cracked rib”. According to the Ealing Times, “the bust-up happened when new MP Philip Davies, 33, lunged at law and order spokesman Mr Pound, 57, after he read an embarrassing email live on Talksport radio on Friday, October 14″.

__________________________________

Paul Rowen
Focus on Rochdale – Incumbent MP Paul Rowen

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Rowen, P.J. Lib Dem 16787 41.1 plus 6.2 Y 442
Fitzsimons, L. Ms. Labour 16345 40 minus 9.2 - -
Hussain, K. Con 4270 10.5 minus - -
Adams, D. BNP 1773 4.3 - - -
Whittaker, J. UKIP 499 1.2 - - - -
Chatterjee, S.. Green 448 1.1 - - - -
Salim, M.. IZB 361 0.9 - - - -

 Links: They work for you

Comments:

Paul Rowen won the Rochdale seat from Labour in the 2005 General Election. A former teacher and deputy head, he was first elected to Rochdale Council in 1983, becoming leader of the Lib Dem Group in 1990 and Council Leader between 1992 and 1996, and again between 2004 and 2005. He has been firmly against the Iraq war and spoken out against disproportionate anti-terrorism legislation and the introduction of ID cards. In March 2007 Rowen was one of the signatories to the Early Day Motion calling on the Government to “immediately to begin work with coalition and Iraqi partners to secure a full withdrawal of all British forces by the end of October 2007″ – none of the Muslim MPs put their name to it!

Gossip:

Among those disappointed in not winning the Labour Party nomination to face the Lib Dems in the next General Election was Labour activist and former Lord Mayor of Manchester Afzal Khan. The Labour central part machinery however backed Simon Danczuk, a former Darwen councillor. The 2nd Feb 2007 issue of Private Eye offers its own unique insights: “Ruth Turner, the Downing Street adviser who had her collar felt by Knacker in the course of his investigation into the loans for peerages affair, is not the only member of her circle to be having a fraught time lately. A week before Turner’s arrest, her friend and former business partner, Simon Danczuk, with whom she founded Vision 21, a ‘social research company’ used by public bodies, opened his door to find two funeral wreaths. One was a six-foot white cross, while the other featured his name tastefully picked out in flowers, gangland funeral style”. Given these shenanigans, is the Muslim vote most likely to stay Lib Dem?__________________________________

Jim Fitzpatrick

 

Focus on Poplar & Canning Town – Incumbent MP Jim Fitzpatrick

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Fitzpatick, J. Labour 15628 40.1 minus 21.1 Y 7129
Archer, T.J. Con 8499 21.8 plus 2 - -
Rahman, O. Respect 6573 16.8 - - -
Ludlow, J.I. Ms. Lib Dem 5420 13.9 - - -
McGrenera, T. Green 955 2.4 - - - -
Hoque, M.A.. Ind 815 2.1 - - - -

 Links: They work for you

Comments:

Jim Fitzpatrick is not one of your MPs who believes in burning the midnight oil. A former Minister for London (2005) – and with 30,000 Muslims in his own constituency – he has never visited East London Mosque! This laid back style was apparent when there were severe cuts in London’s fire services – surprisingly for a former fire fighter, he could only express “some sympathy” for their strike in 2002. Fitzpatrick has voted for the Iraq war, ID cards and tuition top-up fees. He has served as a Labour whip and “vice chamberlain of Her Majesty’s household (2003 – 2005)”. He has been a Blair loyalist, first and foremost.

Gossip:

Fitzpatrick saw off the challenge from Oliur Rahman of Respect in the 2005 election. It will be tougher next time round – specially if there is a quid pro quo deal between the local Labour and Respect parties of Poplar and Bethnal Green. For example, the former would agree a transition from Labour to Respect, and the latter from Respect to Labour. So both Raushnara Ali and Oli benefit!

__________________________________

Paul Goodman

 

Focus on Wycombe – Incumbent MP Paul Goodman

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Goodman, P. Conservative 20,331 45.8 plus 3.4 Y 7051
Wassell, J.D. Ms. Lab 13,280 29.9 minus 5.5 - -
Oates, J.B. Lib Dem 8,780 19.8 plus 2.7 -
Davis, R.B. UKIP 1,735 3.9 - - -
Fitton, D.A.H. Ind 301 0.7 - - - -

Links:  They work for you

Paul Goodman’s essay ‘Islamism – from analysis to action’ on a Tory blog
Parliamentary debate on counter-terrorism bill, 25th June 2008

Comments:

Tory Paul Goodman entered Parliament in 2001 with a majority of around 7000; the estimate of Muslim voters in the Wycombe constituency is around 4,500, possibly the largest number in a Conservative constituency. He was formerly a journalist at the Daily Telegraph and remains as a leader writer. He was a treasury spokesman on Treasury matters and is now Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government.

Goodman belongs to a self-referential neo-con Tory power group that includes Michael Gove MP, author of the alarmist ‘Celsius 7/7′ (“How the West’s policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror – and what has to be done now”). Gove and his school believe that “it is only by appreciating that the enemy we face is a seamless totalitarian movement that we can begin to appreciate the scale of the challenge we must confront” (p12). Goodman has not disowned his mentor as far as his Muslim constituents are concerned.

For example in the parliamentary debate on the counter-terrorism bill (25th June 2008) he apparently repeated Gove’s meaningless slur on the reputation of the Muslim community’s leading independent academic centre, the Islamic Foundation in Leicester – that it was ‘separatist’! In the past Goodman has applied the same ‘separatist’ label to the Muslim Council of Britain! Goodman’s latest shot across the bows of MCB MCB was in Parliament on 29th January 2009 :, “I close with three swift questions to the Under-Secretary, who, as ever, made a good speech today. First, will he give the House a categorical assurance that all police forces will record anti-Semitic crimes by the end of 2008-89, as promised Secondly, what is the Government’s view of reports that the Muslim Council of Britain boycotted Holocaust memorial day this year? If they are true, will the Government’s engagement policy in relation to the MCB change? If so, in what way?”

It would be interesting to see whether the MP would now also question the Foreign Secretary for a ‘recalibration’ of relations with Spain, because Barcelona also cancelled a public service marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in protest of Israeli offensive; or even a diplomatic rupture with Germany, because “Germany’s leading Jewish organization, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it was boycotting the memorial event in the German parliament because surviving victims had not been personally acknowledged in the past”?

Goodman also likes to cite reports from the ‘Centre for Social Cohesion’, whose phantom is the threat posed by the ‘virtual caliphate’. Goodman would apply a different set of standards to freedom of expression as far as Muslims were concerned: as a “definer of extremism” he proposes that this could also include “campaigning for the establishment of separate sharia jurisdictions under British law”. Goodman also objects to the Muslim Association of Britain being part of the MINAB initiative, because of links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Without irony, he notes that “extremists are clearly adept at constructing a grand narrative of conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims by the manipulation of Islamic texts…”

In his eyes there is little the Muslim community can do right. He often refers to anti-terrorism arrests in High Wycombe, while the reality is that the persons detained were released and in fact obtained compensation from the media. He has also been much exercised by TV broadcasts such as the Channel 4 Despatches on mosques (January 2007), while acknowledging that in his own area “the tradition of the main mosques is moderate and sufi-influenced. Its leadership condemns terror unequivocally”. Moreover, “local Muslims have helpfully made it clear that wearing the veil isn’t an Islamic requirement”. This is not good enough for their MP, who adds, “nonetheless, the local veil case is a reminder of the fragility of relations across Britain”. He also accepts that the mosque leadership in the area “would be horrified by these [Despatches] statements and wouldn’t allow such [extremist] preachers into their mosques”. However notwithstanding this reality he proceeds willy nilly to make invidious linkages, “but such words can’t be dismissed as the eccentric view of a few isolated crackpots: rejection of the world of ‘the kuffar’ is part of an ideology – just as hatred of ‘the Jews’ or ‘the bourgeoisie’ was part in turn of the Nazi and communist ideologies”. He accepts that Shaikh Qaradawi “opposes the use of violence in western Europe”, then adding, “but to oppose violence is not necessarily to be acceptable. This is why the Conservative policy answer to the question ‘How can a moderate British Muslim majority be sustained?’ must reject Qaradawi’s drive for sharia jurisdictions in the Britain and the west as well as Bin Laden’s quest for a revived Caliphate across the globe”.

Goodman also has much advice to offer, “… in many mosques the language of worship and of the Friday khutbah hails from the subcontinent or elsewhere abroad. Often, younger people and women have little place in the institutional life of the mosque. Children, meanwhile, are taught to recite the Koran, but not necessarily to understand its meaning and explore wider Islamic teaching, history, spirituality and culture”. He also notes, “….I have previously floated the idea of a privately funded institute of British Islam”.

Gossip:

Damian Thomson in the Daily Telegraph, 17th December 2008: “I was delighted when Pope Benedict (who is not insensitive on these matters) decided to receive a former Muslim during the Easter Vigil this year. And some of the most formidable Catholics I’ve ever met come from Jewish families. One of the brightest sparks in the Tory Party, Paul Goodman MP, is an example.”

Many local political associations are now alert to this soi-disant Muslim expert and grass-roots bodies in Wycombe are girding themselves for the next General Election. Alert to the groundswell, he is going out of his way to make complementary references to the Karima al-Marwaziyya and the Wycombe Islamic Mission. As shadow minister for communities, Goodman will sooner or later have to grasp the olive branch and open discussions with mainstream Muslim community bodies with national clout, such as the Muslim Council of Britain – though an apology will undoubtedly be expected for earlier slurs and he will have to drop some fanciful schemes on acting as mid-wife to a ‘British Islam’. However he is also a man with ideas and alert to the shortcomings in current policy. For example his suggestion of facilitating “charitably inclined Muslim donors” to work with mosques so as to improve their capacity is one that bodies like the MCB should pursue further.

__________________________________

Brian Iddon

 


Focus on Bolton South East – Incumbent MP Brian Iddon

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Iddon, B. Labour 18,129 56.9 minus 4.9 Y 11,638
Dunleavy, D.J. Ms. Con 6,491 20.4 minus 3.8 - -
Harasiwka, F. Lib Dem 6,047 19 - - -
Bates, F. Ms. UKIP 840 2.6 - - -
McGrenera, T. Ver 343 1.1 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Brian Iddon chairs the all party parliamentary committee on Palestine. He is a distinguished Chemistry professor, first elected to Parliament in 1997, who has decided to step down at the next General Election. He has seen his majority cut by half in the 2001 and 2005 elections, but the incumbent margin remains a comfortable 11,000 votes, which should give the newly selected Labour prospective parliamentary candidate barrister Yasmin Qureshi, a cast-iron guarantee. Brian Iddon’s stands were never particularly close to the aspirations of his 11% Muslim constituency, making guarded comments on schooling issues (“although I can understand the demand for faith schools, we have to be careful that they do not lead to increased segregation”), promising local Muslim groups but never delivering on an EDM condemning the Danish cartoons, and abstaining on the Iraq war votes.

His speech at the anti-war march in Manchester in January 2009 however indicated that his conscience had been stirred – he described being ‘in tears’ when on his visit to Gaza in 2008 he saw a boy who had three limbs blown off. He said, “it will get even worst if they invade by land…Hamas won fairly the democratic elections in Gaza”.

Gossip:

Yasmin Qureshi is to be congratulated for her selection against a tough line-up, which included the chair of the local Constituency Labour Party and Tony Blair’s speech writer Phil Collins (whom the Mirror likes to refer to as “Filthy Phil”). However Yasmin ran a lack-lustre campaign against Lib Dem incumbent Sarah Teather for the Willesden Green constituency in 2005 – many residents just shut the door to Labour canvassers. Bolton’s politicised Muslims should not be considered a captive vote bank. While a Muslim woman MP will serve as an important role model, local Muslims really want an effective advocate who could reflect the concerns of all sections of the community. They will be watching her stand on issues such as new anti-terrorism legislations introduced by the Brown government. They would expect her to back Bolton Council’s principled decision to incorporate the Holocaust Memorial event within an genocide memorial day. Yasmin has had the benefit of working in Ken Livingstone’s office as his human rights advisor so hopefully some of his passion on issues such as Palestine and the right of Muslim women to wear the head scarf should have rubbed off. We wait and see. Existing Muslim MPs and Muslim PPCs should never forget that they are where they are primarily to satisfy the need of the political party bosses for Muslim faces through which to access vote banks and convey inclusiveness, and only secondarily due to their wit and charm. They should therefore remain true to this constituency’s aspirations and concerns.

__________________________________

Clare Short
Focus on Birmingham, Ladywood – Incumbent MP Clare Short

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Short, C. Ms Lab, now Independent Labour 17,262 51.9 minus 17 Y 6801
Khan, A. Lib Dem 10,461 31.5 plus 23.3 - -
Stroud, P. Ms Con 3,515 10.6 - - -
Nazemi Afshar, L. Ms UKIP 2,008 6 - - -

Links:

They work for you

Speech made during the Parliamentary debate on Iraq, June 2007

Comments:

Clare Short served as a brilliant Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to May 2003. She was a critic of the Iraq war, but inexplicably did not resign at the same time as Robin Cook in March 2003. Her eccentricity – some would call it naivete – is captured in the play ‘Called to Account: The Indictment of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair for the Crime of Aggression Against Iraq: A Hearing’. In one scene set in February 2003 she expresses her concern that Blair would not wait for UN authorization of the war and explains that she then decided to consult Cherie Blair: “Well, Cherie is a human rights lawyer and you know, she and Tony have a very close relationship-why not give it a try?”

She has decided not to contest the seat Ladywood seat again, noting that “the Labour Party has lost its way, our constitutional arrangements are broken and the gap between the political elite and the country grows ever wider. At the same time, Britain has become more unequal, violent and unhappy. And the world is in desperate trouble. The situation in the Middle East will get worse, and global warming threatens massive disruption”. Her dissatisfaction with Gordon Brown stems from his backing of the Trident missile.

Gossip:

Latest: The dark horse has turned out to be barrister Shabana Mahmoud. According to the Mail on Sunday, 15th June, “Clare Short’s decision to step down as an MP has sparked chaos in her Birmingham constituency. Labour has selected Muslim Shabana Mahmoud to replace her as a parliamenary candidate. Now supporters of Yvonne Mosquito, the black Christian defeated in the run-off, have challenged the result. Ms Mahmood’s father is the local Labour chairman”.

Paul Dale, writing in the Birmingham Post noted, “A close friend of Mosquito, who declined to be named, said: ‘This is the final straw. The Labour Party is bending over backwards to please Muslims at the expense of the church-going Christian community and now also at the expense of the African Caribbean community and is manipulating party rules in order to do so’.” (9th June)

The boundaries of the Ladywood consituency will change significantly compared to those in the 2005 General Election – the new consituency consists of four Wards: Aston, Ladywood,Nechells and Soho – giving the Lib Dems an advantage. The Labour shenanigans probably serve to strengthen the hand of Lib Dem Ayoub Khan – particularly if there is tactical voting by disgruntled Labour and Tory supporters (see also note below). Could Salma Yaqoub be tempted to step in as the strong Independent?

Archive: In the running to inherit Ladywood is the young Lib Dem Councillor Ayoub Khan (born 1973), who stood against Clare Short in 2005 and made a major dent in her majority – with one of the largest Lib Dem swings in the country. Chris Arnot in The Guardian (8th August 2007) wrote admiringly “One of 12 children of a factory labourer, he went to a local comprehensive school and now has university degrees in three different subjects. International affairs, in the form of the Iraq war, brought him into politics, yet he seems to relish the nitty-gritty of community issues in a ward with an unwelcome reputation for drug dealing and associated gun crime. ‘I can talk to local dealers in Mirpuri because I grew up with them, and I’ve persuaded more than one to move into legitimate businesses,’ he says.”

The danger to Ayoub’s ambitions will be Labour putting up an Asian candidate – perhaps Tahir Ali, a former cabinet member when Labour ran Birmingham; and Ansar Ali Khan, a Washwood Heath councillor. Other gossip suggests Labour might put up Elena Cohen, one-time “very close friend” of Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood, or Yvonne Mosquito. Apart from Yvonne, other black candidates thought to be in the running are Renuka Marley, the head of a local business academy, and Unison official Eleanor Smith.

Ladywood is a constituency with a 49% BME population and over 30,000 Muslims – so Ayoub can have a fair crack at the whip notwithstanding spoiler tactics or big party machinations.

__________________________________

Tony McNulty 

Focus on Harrow East – Incumbent MP Tony McNulty [updated 22nd Jan 2008]

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
McNulty, A.J. Labour 23,445 46.1 minus 9.2 Y 4730
Ashton, D.J. Conservative 18,715 36.8 plus 4.7 - -
Nandhra, P. K. Lib Dem 7,747 15.2 plus 2.7 -
Cronin, P.D UKIP 916 1,8 - - -

Links:

They work for you

BBC coverage of speech at Labour Party Conference 2007

Comments:

McNulty has represented Harrow East since 1997. He has served as a Minister of State at the Home Office on Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing since August 2007. He was previously a Home Office Minister with responsibility for immigration, nationality and citizenship.

He retained Harrow East in the 2005 elections with a majority of about 5000 – slashed from around 10,000 in the 2001 election. The demographics of this constituency have changed considerably in recent years. While the 2001 Census indicates a Muslim population of 8000, this was probably an undercount, missing swathes of newly settled Somali and Sri Lankan communities. Significant numbers of Muslims too young to vote in 2005 will now be eligible in the forthcoming General Election, making the Muslim voter estimate for Harrow East around 4,500. Though there has also been a significant increase in Eastern European workers, only those from the EU can vote, and that too not in the General Election (only in Council and London Mayoral elections). All this should be sobering for an incumbent MP who hitherto has not given much attention to his Muslim constituency – he was strongly pro-Iraq War and ultra-Blairite – and whose ministerial duties have kept him from maintaining contact with the changing contours of Wealdstone.

McNulty’s focus hitherto has been on a different vote bank. In a BBC show in June 2007 he stated, “I stood as a Labour MP to represent my constituency who happen to be 45% Hindu, 10% Muslim 10% Jewish and probably about 10 or 15% Irish Catholic”. This political context explains why the proposal in the Home Office White Paper ‘Secure Borders, Safe Haven’ for an English language requirement for Ministers of Religion was watered down. The move for English-language competence for visiting imams was supported by Muslim community bodies – but other faith communities objected. Notably mandirs indicated that their invitees from India to lead services should not be expected to speak English because their expertise were in sacred languages such as Sanskrit. The Home Office accepted the argument with McNulty stating “many faiths require a range of personnel to perform religious rites within their community who do not have a pastoral role. This new category caters for such workers. Ministers of Religion preach to their congregation and therefore are required to speak English, but non-pastoral workers coming to the UK under the new category will not preach, will not be required to speak English, and will not be eligible to stay in the UK for more than two years.”

This sensitivity is in marked contrast to McNulty’s bullishness at the recent Labour Party conference, where his speech contained an unusual aside: ‘that it had been a mistake for Government to treat the Muslim Council of Britain as if it was the only voice of British Muslims and to elevate it to an exclusivity that wasn’t warranted; that the MCB’s response to the failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow this summer was profoundly different to 7/7 and he praised former communities secretary Ruth Kelly for “recalibrating the relationship”.’

These are criticisms based on false premises. The MCB’s own website declares that it “can’t speak and represent all Muslims just as all organisations of a similar type cannot. The MCB does however, through the number and geographic spread of its affiliate organisations throughout the UK, speak for and represent a large cross section of the British Muslim community. Organisations that affiliate to the MCB grant it the legitimacy to represent their concerns and interests” . Moreover the stand of the MCB and a host of other responsible and representative Muslim bodies condemning attacks on innocent civilians has been clear and unchanged since 9/11. Muslim organisations have the values of their faith, and not Ruth Kelly, to give them moral compass.When McNulty was asked about his Labour conference remarks, his response was that he “wasn’t criticising the MCB” and it should be seen as part of a wider distancing from Blair.

Voters in Harrow East will be making their own recalibrations – and perhaps give McNulty a sharp nudge that he should, firstly, seek greater empathy with all sections of the constituency and, secondly, be better informed on the community’s largest representative body.

Gossip:

18th October 2007 update: A month after his Labour Conference remarks, McNulty’s gaffes on the MCB have continued: he is said to have queried the MCB logo on the Eid in the Square event – clearly unaware of the work this body puts in to the organisation of the event. His attitude reflects thinking during the period when Blair and his loyalist Secretary of State at DCLG Ruth Kelly attempted to marginalise the MCB. Things have moved on, Tony – you have missed a trick here.

2nd January 2008 update: Speaking at the Fabian Society annual conference on 19th January 2008, McNulty observed that Labour had mistakenly ‘elevated’ the role of the MCB and that he was glad that Ruth Kelly overturned that – it seems that the Blair era mindset continues unabated in some ministerial circles and/or that the policy advisors of that era continue in post!

It is believed that on 8th February 2008 McNulty came face-to-face with some members of the MCB, and there was a “frank and sincere discussion” – to use Kissinger’s favourite phrase.

21st February update: at a meeting with Muslim community representatives, McNulty defended the Government decision not to issue the Islamic scholar Shaikh Qaradawi with a visa, noting ‘he doesn’t share our values’. The representatives came away with the impression of a politician conscious of his clout in Government, based on what is believed to be an effective seven-year ministerial career in the Home Office in implementing policy

21st July update: apparently McNulty was invited by the Muslim Council of Britain to participate in a panel discussion on the theme ‘Beyond the Terror Narrative, the British Muslim Community in Ten Years Time’, chaired by Dr Abdulwahab el-Affendi of the Centre for Democracy, Westminster University, in a prime-time slot at its AGM held on 8th June. McNulty hum and hawed for a week and eventually refused.
__________________________________Bill Rammell

 

Focus on Harlow – Incumbent MP Bill Rammell

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Rammell, W. E. Labour 16,453 41.4 minus 6.4 Y 97
Halfon, R.H. Conservative 16,356 41.2 plus 6.4 - -
Spenceley, L.H. Ms. Lib Dem 5,002 12.6 minus 0.8 -
Felgate, J.S. UKIP 981 2.5 - - -
Bennett, A.J.S. Ver 941 2.4 - - -

 Links: They work for you

Comments:

Entering Parliament in 1997, Rammell was first in the whip’s office and subsequently appointed under-secretary of state at the Foreign Office in 2002, and then subsequently Higher Education minister in 2005. In the July 2007 shuffle he became Minister of State, Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education.

In the 2005 General Election, Rammell clung to his constituency by a bare whisker – 97 votes! This was after having secured a majority of over 6000 in the 2001 General Election and 10,000 in 1997! The Muslim voter will have to choose between someone who is AC/DC on issues close to his or her heart, and the Conservative PPC Robert Halfon – Political Director of Conservative Friends of Israel. Though the Lib Dems represent the neighbouring Colchester constituency, they need to increase their vote bank by 10,000 to cut Rammell or Halfon down to size. With a voting population of around 1000, Muslims in Harlow are thus a key group in a super-marginal. Local Muslim grass roots organisations have a number of bones to pick with Rammell: first, there is his unstinting support for the war in Iraq. Then there is his antipathy towards Muslim faith schools. In May 2006 he made the sweeping generalisation that “there are weaknesses in the way young Muslims are educated about what their faith really requires”.

Questions will also be raised on his belief that “there is evidence of serious, but not widespread, Islamist extremist activity in higher education”. This is very much the agenda proposed by Union of Jewish Students and the Board of Deputies to create a McCarthyite-type ethos in the British educational scene in order to silence pro-Palestinian voices. Rammell also found it necessary to dash to Israel to sooth ruffled feathers when a university teachers’ union were planning a boycott of Israeli universities in 2007.

Gossip: Most recently, Rammell commissioned a report on the teaching of Islam in universities in England. Reliable sources note that instead of picking on its recommendations on issues such as the need to update courses still rooted in the colonial legacy, or the opportunity to introduce new topics like Islamic finance, the minister was preoccupied at the launch to appear tough on ‘extremism’.

Updates:On the launch of a report from the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills, ‘Promoting good campus relations, fostering shared values and preventing violent extremism in Universities and Higher Education Colleges’ on 22nd January 2008, Rammell found it necessary to state, “Britain technically is a Christian country with many secular features. It’s those two things. It’s not anything else. If you expect that you would have the same response to your faith needs in Britain as would happen within a Muslim or Islamic country, [you] would be disappointed”. This was a strange pronouncement, given that most of the Muslim students are home students, and Britain actively seeks foreign students to pursue their education in this country – many university departments rely on overseas students to remain viable! Also curiously, the Report refers to Muslims’ concerns for the “perceived injustices e.g. Palestine” (p.20). Till the tragedies in Palestine are recognised for what they are – realities and not mere ‘perceptions’ – it is unlikely such Reports will make much headway.

__________________________________

 

Andrew Dismore
Focus on Hendon – Incumbent MP Andrew Dismore

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Dismore, A. Labour 18,596 44.4 minus 8.0 Y 2,699
Evans, R.G. Con 15,897 38.0 plus 3.7 - -
Boethe, N. Ms. Lib Dem 5,831 13.9 plus 3.9 -
Williams, D.G. Green 754 1.8 - - -
Smallman, M. UKIP 367 1.5 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Andrew Dismore has been representing the NW London constituency of Hendon since 1997. His margin of victory in the 2005 election was 2,700. The estimate of Muslim voters in Hendon is over 3,000 based on 2001 Census data, and is likely to have increased particularly as second and third generation professionals resettle from the East End.

Dismore is a former solicitor and was also leader of the Labour group at Westminster (1990-97), where he famously clashed with Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter on the Tory ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal.

Dismore is best known for having championed the institutionalisation in Britain of the Holocaust Memorial Day

through his parliamentary intervention in 1999. He is currently Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. This is ironical, given his voting pattern in the Commons on human rights issues – in support of control orders and the extension of pre-charge detention period to 90 days. Dismore was relentless in pursuit of the late Sulayman Balal Zain-al-Abidin. He also played a role in the media hype relating to Abu Hamza when it is now known that this man was serving the role of an ‘unwitting informer’ and honey-trap all along.

Mr Dismore has been Vice-Chair of the Party Group Friends of Israel since 2001, and since 2005 the secretary of the all-Party Israel Group. George Galloway has described Dismore in Parliament (July 2007) as a “a fanatical supporter of Israel”. He has consistently voted for the Iraq war (“Saddam Hussein was preparing to use a chemical weapon or even a conventional weapon against Jerusalem. Let us suppose that he had deployed it. What would have been the consequences not only for the Iraq conflict but for the middle east and the world?”) and in opposition to any inquiry on the matter.

In the scandal on Labour Party funding, Dismore observed, “people are looking for links to Jewish interests and evidence of a Jewish conspiracy. The press are turning every stone to find one.” He did not believe the case would have received such intensive coverage “if it did not involve Jews. The undercurrent of antisemitism is worrying.” (JC, 30/11/2007)

Gossip: Friends from his Westminster City Council period describe him as extremely ambitious, but frustrated at not having achieved ministerial status.

To his credit, Andrew Dismore made an important contribution in the Parliamentary debate of 12th June 2008, in which he spoke against 42 day pre-charge detention: “I do not believe that the Government have made their case for the need for 42 days. In the evidence that they have given to us, the threat level has been described as ‘about the same’. There have been assertions of a growing threat in terms of numbers, but no qualitative analysis or assessment has been provided. We should never underestimate the threat, which is of course serious, but equally we should not over-hype it. We need to give a clear and accurate picture in order to maintain public confidence. I think that it is instrumental that the three most recent attacks have been somewhat amateurish affairs, as we all know.”

__________________________________

Barry Sheerman

 

Focus on Huddersfield – Incumbent MP Barry Sheerman

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Sheerman, B. J. Labour 16,341 46.8 minus 6.5 Y 8,351
Bone, E.J. Ms. Lib Dem 7,990 22.9 plus 7.9 - -
Meacock, D.G. Conservative 7,597 21.7 minus 3.1 -
Stewart-Turner, J. Ms. Green 1,651 4.7 - - -
Hanson, K.S.M. BNP 1,036 3.0 - - -

 Links: They work for you

Comments:

Barry Sheerman is an erudite and seasoned MP (first elected 1979, joint author of a biography on Harold Laski ) and currently chair of the Parliamentary Children, Schools & Families Select Committee – so what he says about faith schools is of crucial importance to the Muslim community.

Unfortunately this has not been very positive. In January 2008 he noted, “I am getting reports from people in local government who find it difficult to know what is going on in some faith schools, particularly Muslim schools. There is real concern in local government about its ability to find out how well an important part of our community is being served by its education provision. Will we find out that young people in certain kinds of faith school, and particularly young women, are not getting the provision or education that they deserve? Faith schools are an important area of concern. This is something the Government should look at in a focused way, rather than drifting into the proliferation of faith education”.

Rather than casting suspicions on Muslim schools, one would have expected an MP with a sizeable Muslim population to have an understanding of their concerns. After all, in neighbouring Bradford, only 24% of all Muslim students obtain grades A-C in Key Stage 4, when the average is 46%! This is because, by and large, state schools in inner cities have had falling standards for decades and a failure to motivate young Muslims. On the other hand, faith schools achieve some of the best academic results. He is also on record for this trite remark: “‘It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked”. He recently declared, “my job is to represent my constituents in Parliament” – does that include the 12,000 Muslim population (9,000 in the 2001 Census)? It is as if they are invisible! His voting record has been Blair-loyalist: for the Iraq invasion and the 90-day detention.

Mr Sheerman has had access to the Kashmiri vote bank – while traditionally Labour voters, there is now a serious questioning amongst younger members of the community whether gestures on Kashmir are the price to pay for insouciance on more pressing issues.

Gossip:

In 1999 Barry Sheerman was awarded a gold pager at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference for asking the prime minister a fawning question. He later emerged to strongly defend Gordon Brown’s remarks on Oxford’s bias against state school students – the Linda Spence saga of 2001. Will this be enough to fend off the sharks swimming around his seat, hoping that he would declare his retirement (born 1940)? It is a relatively safe Labour seat – and deserves to go to some long-standing activist of the region rather than a No10. parachute drop. Watch this space!

__________________________________

Barry Gardiner

 


Focus on Brent North – Incumbent MP Barry Gardiner

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Gardiner, B. S. Labour 17,420 48.8 minus 10.5 Y 5,641
Blackman, R.J. Conservative 11,779 33 plus 3.7 - -
Hughes, H.M. Lib Dem 5,672 15.9 plus 4.6 -
Ahmad, B. PAP 685 1.9 - - -
Weiss, R.G. Vote 126 0.4 - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Barry Gardiner was first elected to Parliament in 1997 and has been representing Brent North since then. While he did very well in the 2001 elections, in the 2005 General Election his majority over veteran Tory Brent councillor (subsequently London Assembly Conservative leader) Bob Blackman) was reduced to 5,641. Brent North’s Muslim population was 12% in the 2001 Census, with an estimated eligible voter strength in the region of 4,500.

Gardiner’s experience has included serving as a junior minister, Northern Ireland Office (2004 – 2005), Parliamentary secretary at the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry (2005 – 2006), and minister in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2006 – 2007). He is now the PM’s ‘special envoy for Forestry’ and a back bencher. The reasons why his career has stalled are unclear – but it is surprising given his academic credentials – a John F Kennedy scholarship at Harvard where he studied philosophy under John Rawls – and wide-ranging governmental experience.

Gardiner’s constituency is amongst the most ethnically diverse in the UK, with large Hindu and Muslim communities and also many originating from Sri Lanka. He has served as chair of the Parliamentary Friends of India group, and also taken an interest in the talks and agreements between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE.

However his Muslim constituencts compare his performance with that of the dynamic Lib Dem powerhouse MP Sarah Teather of neighbouring Brent East. Sarah has championed the plight of constituency members caught up by the draconian anti-terrorism legislations – an issue on which Gardiner has been markedly silent. In fact Gardiner was a staunch Blairite on Iraq and in September 2002 urged attack even without a UN resolution. His stand lacks the nuance perhaps expected from a former student of political philosophy: “The events of 9/11 and the subsequent war against terrorism has seen the claims of the absolutists – those who believe they are the guardians of the truth – reassert themselves above the claims of …democratic, political negotiation” (writing in the journal of the British Humanist Association, 2004). So much for his capacity to analyse injustices!

It is perhaps Gardiner’s BHA associations – he has been a member of its ‘Humanist Philosophers Group’ – which are responsible for his singular silence when it comes to engaging humanely with his Muslim constituents on their issues of concern – Islamophobia, human rights, issues facing Muslim school children, Palestine….

Gossip:

During his ministerial stint, Gardiner received some unwelcome publicity because his claimed car mileage allowance was “equivalent to driving his family car to Delhi and back, even though he is a London MP with an official government car” (27th May 2007, The Times). According to the web site ‘They work for you’, his 2006/7 staffing allowance claim was £119,193 (more than any other MP in the UK). The Willesden & Brent Times reported that “Mr Gardiner admitted to the Times his staffing costs were ‘exceptionally high’ citing they were due to the legal cost he incurred during a court battle with an individual, which he won and was awarded costs” (6th November 2007).

__________________________________

Margaret Moran

 


Focus on Luton South – Incumbent MP Margaret Moran

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Moran, M. Labour 16,610 42.7 minus 12.5 Y 5,650
Stay, R.C. Con 10,960 28.2 minus 1.3 - -
Hussain, Q. Lib Dem 8,778 22.6 plus 11.6 -
Lawman, C.S. UKIP 957 2.5 - - -
Scheimann, M. Green 790 2 - - - -
Ilyas, M. Respect 725 1.9 - - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

A striking feature of Margaret Moran’s website (www.margaretmoran.org) are its multilingual greetings – welcome, khush amdaid and shagotham. There is also a link to the Labour Party newsletter ‘Mosques Update’ – Margaret is certainly no shrinking violet as far as multiculturalism is concerned. This is of course excellent news for the 17,000 Muslims in her constituency (2001 figures – now probably around 20,000) who form about 20% of the population with a vote bank of about 7000. Margaret’s margin of victory in the 2005 General Election was around 6000.

Prior to her election to Parliament in 1997, Margaret Moran was a Labour councillor for 13 years and was the first woman leader of Lewisham Borough Council. However she has seen her voter support drop from 26,000 in ’97 to 17,000 in the 2005 General Election – about 9,000 votes last time round went to Lib Dem’s Kashmiri stalwart and local councillor Qurban Hussain. Voters in the next General Election will be weighing her up, balancing her commendable stand against right wing extremists in Luton South, her support of diversity and multiculturalism and her concerns on drug abuse with the ambivalent position she has taken on civil liberties – strong words and actions on forced marriages (she has sponsored Dr Nazia Khanum’s study on the subject) – but quietism on Blair’s proposed control orders on mosques and other draconian ‘anti-terrorism’ measures. Moreover she originally indicated that she would oppose the Iraq war if it didn’t have UN backing, but then voted with the government. Her occasional Parliamentary interventions with questions on Kashmir may be well-received in some sections of her constituency, but younger voters are likely to scrutinse her record more closely.

Gossip:

Margaret Moran has a similar background to Home Office minister Tony McNulty - Irish heritage, Catholic schooling – and she has obliged by asking him set piece questions in Parliament – for example on his Department’s proposals “to create offences of grooming and radicalisation of children and vulnerable people by terrorists and extremist organisations” and what assessment has been “made of the use of children by terrorist organisations”.

On 9th February 2007 the Daily Telegraph alluded to a parliamentary investigation into a “possible breaching of House of Commons rules” relating to some use of materials. In October 2005, Bedford Today reported, “MP Margaret Moran’s expenses are again in the spotlight after it emerged today that she was the second highest claimer in Britain. In fact she actually tops the pile in current MPs, as number one Croydon Central’s Geraint Davies was not re-elected in May. The Luton South MP claimed £168,569 from April 2004 to March 2005 – a massive £29,588 increase on the year before. Her staff costs rocketed to £84,502 and she also spent the fourth highest figure in Britain on postage” – the last mentioned cost item in the region of £35,000!

__________________________________

Kerry McCarthy

 

Focus on Brisol East – Incumbent MP Kerry McCarthy

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
McCarthy, K. Labour 19,152 45.9 minus 9.1 Y 8,621
James. P.C.. Lib Dem 10,5,31 10,531 plus 8.1 - -
Manning, I.J.B. Ms. Con 8,787 21.1 minus 0.7 -
Krishna-Das, A. Green 1,586 3.8 - - -
Smith, M.J. Ms. UKIP 1,132 2.7 - - - -
North, P.A.L. Ms.. Respect 532 1.3 - - - -

 Links: They work for you

Comments:

An incumbent MP in Bristol East may well feel comfortable with a 9,000 votes majority in the 2005 General Election – but there is no room for complacency: while the 2001 Census has only indicated a Muslim population of 3,000 in Bristol East, the reality is that it may be x4 that number! Bristol City Council itself has acknowledged the undercounting in Easton and Lawrence Hill wards in Bristol East. The Muslim voter estimate in the Bristol East constituency may be closer to 9,000, rather than 3,000 based on Census extrapolations.

In April 2007 Kerry McCarthy was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Rosie Winterton, Minister for Health Services, and since July 2007, she has held a similar position for the Secretary of State for International Development. Prior to a career in politics, she was a specialist in financial markets law and is a trained solicitor (she also has a PhD, supervised by Professor Ben Pimlott – and is also a vagan and a teetotaler). McCarthy is on the Treasury Select Committee.

McCarthy’s first Parliamentary term has been marked with a commitment to tackle issues of child poverty and the plight of asylum seekers, as well as a willingness to question the illegal Israeli projects in the Occupied Territories. She has questioned Israel’s ‘E1′ project in Parliament, noting that this “economic zone [that] will link the huge settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, effectively cutting the west bank in two and completely destroying its territorial contiguity”. Her knowledge of conditions in Palestine is based on several visits, including her role as an election observer in Nablus in 2006.

Her commitment to causes of justice and fairness, both in domestic and international politics should stand her in good stead with the Muslim constituency – however her Blair-loyalist pro-Iraq War stand will also rankle.

Gossip:

Kerry McCarthy faces Tory PPC Adeela Shafi, Bristol born-and-bred and a psychology lecturer. Shafi notes, “exploring the Conservative Party ethos on basic things like family values, its views on marriage, its views on school discipline… [it] rung far more true than any of the other parties. Once having explored each of the parties’ ethos and how they think and believe, to me the choice was quite clear…I think it’s very much in tune with how Muslims like to live their lives. As Muslims, the family is a basic structure of society, we believe in marriage and the sanctity of marriage…At the moment, the way that Labour runs the country, everything comes from Whitehall, and is all centrally diffused right down…the Conservatives strongly believe that to make decisions effective they need to be made more at a local level…The whole thing surrounding Muslims and how we’re portrayed in the media…how the ordinary Joe Bloggs on the street views us…it puts an unfair responsibility on us to say ‘no, we’re not like that’… I’m not having somebody else speak up for me, and make decisions about who we are and how we’re like. It’s time to stand up and say ‘this is who we are’ and just show the positive side to us.” [Source: The Muslim News, 28th March 2008]

If there is a national swing to the Tories, the Kerry vs Adeela contest will be one to watch.

__________________________________

Anne Milton

 

Focus on Guildford – Incumbent MP Anne Milton

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Milton, A. Ms. Con 22,595 43.8 plus 2.3 Y 347
Doughty, S.K. Ms. Lib Dem 22,248 43.1 plus 0.5 - -
Landles, K. Ms. Lab 5,054 9.8 minus 3.9 -
Pletts, J.M. Green 811 1.6 - - -
Haslam, M.N. UKIP 645 1.2 - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Anne Milton holds Guildford for the Tories by a slender margin of around 400 votes: hers is one of those marginal constituencies that ought to be prompting Conservative Central Office to recalibrate its relationship with the Muslim voter. The estimated Muslim vote bank of 500 (that was in 2001 – probably more than double now given new settlement patterns) is one that needs to be cultivated. First entering Parliament in 2005, Anne Milton has yet to learn a trick or two on how to win the confidence of all sections of her constituency. She ought to take a lesson from nearby Epsom & Ewell, where fellow Tory Chris Grayling – hardly in need of the Muslim vote given his comfortable majority – finds time to build bridges with local mosques and community centres and work out who’s who. When it comes to the next General Election, one of Anne’s plus points is her disassociation with the Iraq war vote in Parliament: “I was not a Member of the House when the decision on the invasion of Iraq was taken. I regret that decision deeply, and I believe that its repercussions will be with us for many years to come”.

Gossip:

The Tories have replaced their Party logo from a torch emblem to an environmental motif – however is this cosmetic or a sea-change? For Ann and fellow Conservative MPs the change in logo needs to be accompanied with a rejection of the fanatical Michael Gove and Douglas Murray neo-Con faction of her Party. The way forward now is less dogma and room for saner Tory voices willing to listen to Muslim concerns on a wide range of issues from Islamophobia to engagement with their representative bodies like the Muslim Council of Britain.

__________________________________

Muhammad Sarwar

Focus on Glasgow Central – Incumbent MP Muhammad Sarwar

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Sarwar, M. Lab 13,518 48.2 minus 6.5 Y 8,531
Nelson, I. Ms. Lib Dem 4,987 17.8 plus 12.4 - -
Kidd, W. SNP 4,148 14.8 minus 1.9 -
Sullivan, R. Conservative 1,757 6.3 - - -
Masteron, G. Green 1,372 4.9 - - -

Links:  They work for you

Comments:

Muhammad Sarwar has the distinction of being the first Muslim elected to Westminster (1997 General election, for the Govan constituency). He is a well-established Glaswegian businessman and chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee in the Commons. Although acquiring a good reputation for his work on local causes – for example preserving the Govan shipyard, and even abseiling down Glasgow Mar

riot Hotel for charity fundraising – he has declared an intention not to stand again. In his career as MP, Sarwar has only occassionally raised his head above the parapet, most noticeably when he was signatory in the well-known letter to PM Blair in August 2006 which criticising British foreign policy, linking it to domestic insecurity.

Sarwar’s decision to stand down provides a challenging opportunity for SNP stalworth Osama Saeed, who made his name as MAB spokesperson during the momentous anti-war marches of 2002.

Osama Saeed

Osama has also served as a researcher and advisor to SNP leader Alex Salmond. Osama Saeed has attacked Sarwar for supporting the Government on 42 days’ detention: “After the 42 days vote Sarwar said he was ‘a happy man’. This was because the Home Secretary offered payments to anyone held for 42 days but was not later charged. It’s the approach of a businessman, not of principled political leadership. It was the same with Iraq when he said he was against the war but voted against an inquiry. It was the same with post office closures, which he said he was against, but was too lazy or too scared to turn up and register dissent in Parliament when it mattered.”

With the swing against Labour, Osama’s will be a welcome combative voice in Westminster.

Gossip: SNP has helped kick-start the Scottish Islamic Foundation – chief executive Osama Saeed. There have been bleatings from the Labour Party – but who are they to speak given the massive support to favourites like the Sufi Muslim Council and British Muslim Forum? The newly formed Muslim Council of Scotland, while praising Osama Saeed’s political skills, are wary of too close an allignment with any single political party.

 

__________________________________Phil Woolas

Focus on Oldham East & Saddleworth – Incumbent MP Phil Woolas

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Woolas, P.J. Labour 17,968 41.4 plus 2.8 Y 3,590
Dawson, T. Lib Dem 14,378 33.2 plus 0.5 - -
Chapman, K.A.. Con 7,908td> 18.2 plus 2.1 -
Treacy, M. BNP 2,109 4.9 minus 6.3 -
Nield, V. Ms. UKIP 873 2 plus 0.5 -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Phil Woolas holds Oldham East & Saddleworth by a margin of 3,590 – in the 2001 Census the Muslim population in this constituency was around 2,500.

Woolas is well-familiar with the emerging social landscape of North West England with its growing second and third generation Pakistani families – he went to school in Nelson and later attended Manchester University and serving as a president of the NUS. He cut his teeth as a communications manager in the GMB trade union, but his causes have not been the traditional ones of social justice. Instead he belongs to the media savvy Blairite era – Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who fought Woolas in a byelection, remembers a man in control: “he was archetypal new Labour – he never expressed anything from the heart.” He is currently Minister of State for borders and immigration

Blair, and now Brown, have found Woolas’s media skills fit for purpose in pandering to Middle England’s prejudices. He has repeatedly stirred the pot on contentious issues, verging on the islamophobic. Thus in October 2006 he was strident in the case of the teacher Aisha Azmi who wished to don the niqab when in adult male presence: “The headteacher says that she [Ms Azmi] is not able to do her job. I don’t think you would want government ministers interfering in individual personnel issues but the general point is clear – if the education can’t be provided for children who need it and have a right to it, many of whom are Muslim and other ethnic minority children. It’s those children that I’m concerned about. And I want them to get the best chance in life as do their parents and they have that right. And if the headteacher says that’s the action she needs to be taken, then so be it.” Azmi’s lawyers called on Woolas to withdraw his comments.

In February 2008 he stated that “the issue we need to debate is first-cousin marriages, whereby a lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability.” This raised the sceptre of Muslim inbreeding, earning a retort from Khalid Mahmood MP “who people marry is a matter of personal choice. These are issues which do need to be addressed. But they need to be raised in a helpful way.”

Woolas’s recent foray has been in October 2008, when he suggested that immigration legislation had to be toughened up “to provide confidence to the indigenous population”. In a piece of pure political theatre, the Home Office then put the word out that Woolas had been pulled from further media appearances because of his gaffes! The truth is that all this is carefully scripted.

Perhaps it is time for his Muslim voters to remind him that they too are now part of the “indigenous population”.

Gossip: watch this space!

__________________________________

Marsha Singh

 


Focus on Bradford West – Incumbent MP Marsha Singh

 

Name

Party Votes winner_votes_percent swing Swing_percent incumbent_flag incumb_margin
Singh, M. Labour 14,570 40.1 minus 7.9 Y 3,026
Rashid, H. Con 11,544 31.7 minus 5.4 - -
Ali, M. Lib Dem 6,620 18.2 plus 11.9 -
Cromie, P.G.S. BNP 2,525 6.9 minus - -
Darr, P. Green 1,110 3.1 - - -

Links: They work for you

Comments:

Marsha Singh represents a constituency with a high Muslim population – almost 37%. His margin of victory in the 2005 General Election was around 3,000 – so the seat is now up for grabs, notwithstanding his attempts to distance himself from Tony Blair’s Iraq blunder. Before entering Parliament in 1997, Singh was a Senior Development Manager, Bradford Community Health Authority. The mood in Bradford West is ready for a change.

Astrong challenge will be mounted by Tory Zahid Iqbal, though his ethnic vote bank has been reduced due to boundary changes resulting in Little Horton moving to Bradford East – one way of weakening Muslim political clout?

Zahid IqbalZahid is a successful property developer with Yorkshire roots (born in Pudsey) and is a barrister who has been consistently Tory – standing in Bradford North in 2001.

He recently declared, “people are disillusioned with Labour and they take communities across Bradford for granted. That is something I would never do as the MP for this area. It deserves someone with a real voice, someone not afraid to speak out on every issue.” He has also noted, “With sex education and Section 28 we undermine the rights of those [Muslim] parents who don’t want their kids to learn about this…”. He is also his own man on other family related issues, refusing for example to conflate the issue of arranged marriages with forced marriages, where he thinks his party has “jumped the gun” (maybe with Baroness Warsi in mind?). Zahid Iqbal is a man to watch in Cameron’s class of the 2010 Commons intake.