Saturday, January 08, 2005
Was Labour's wooing of the Muslims anti-semitic? (08.01.2005)

If we are to assess whether Mike O'Brien's article in the Muslim weekly was anti-semitic as The Daily Mail claimed, it is best to read the original piece. Having done so, one can see that Labour faces an uphill struggle to convince Muslim voters that they are worth an X.

The article provides a long list of policies that O'Brien insists have been implemented to assist the Muslim community, in particular, those who hail from South Asia. Included is the much quoted admission that the government shamelessly kowtowed to Muslim lobbyists for laws against religious discrimination and prohibiting that artificial canard, hate speech.

The Muslim Council of Britain has been at the forefront of lobbying the Government on issues to help Muslims. Recently Iqbal Sacranie, the General Secretary of the Council, asked Tony Blair to declare that the Government would introduce a new law banning religious discrimination. Two weeks later, in the middle of his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Tony Blair promised that the next Labour Government would ban religious discrimination. It was a major victory for the Muslim community in Britain.

But this is not the first and only time that Labour Party has delivered for Muslims. When I was a Home Office Minister in 1997, the MCB lobbied me to introduce not only a new law which would increase sentences for racial violence and harassment but also to recognise the particular problems faced by Muslims. As a result we were able to amend the law to make religion a factor in any violence and harassment. Today, new Crime Bill, announced in the Queens Speech is coming before Parliament to toughen the laws on incitement to religious hatred. This has upset some M.P.`s such as Evan Harris MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesman, who has said he will oppose it because it is unnecessary!

The core accusation is that Evan Harris and Michael Howard were singled out because they were Jews. Apart from the fact that the article is aimed at the Muslim community, there is little of substance in the piece to support this. Some may single out the prominence that O'Brien gives to Blair's support for Palestine as evidence. This support is pitiful since he is reduced to arguing that Blair never gave up on Arafat and that, unlike Howard or Kennedy, he has influence with President Bush, a man even more loathed than Blair amongst the ummah.

Whether we in Britain like it or not, the reality of the modern world is that only the Americans can influence Israel. And it seems only Tony Blair has any influence with the Americans. Can anyone seriously imagine that Michael Howard or Charles Kennedy would be able to significantly influence George W. Bush? If they do, then they need to join the real world. The Prime Minister who has the most political clout to help the Palestinians is Tony Blair.

And again:

Soon after the recent US elections, Tony Blair travelled to Washington to make it very clear that he wanted to see the road map to a Palestinian state opened up. If we are to have a Palestinian state in the next five years, then a key player in creating it will be the British Prime Minister, who will need to have world influence. In practice, only Tony Blair has the required credentials and track record. The reality remains that with George W. Bush in the White House, neither Charles Kennedy nor Michael Howard has the clout to deliver

As we know here, appeals to realpolitik are not votewinners, and inclusion of such arguments indicates that Labour has lost the debate or needs to employ better speechwriters. The article is designed to show Muslim readers that the New Labour government positively discrimates in favour of their needs. It convinced me that this government does so, opening up other arguments on why Labour should favour certain communities. Harris and Howard were singled out because of their political positions, not because of their ancestors' background. A pity that Melanie Philips could not see this.

Mike O'Brien has provided excellent evidence of the divisive, illiberal policies that New Labour has followed in order to court the Muslim vote. These are policies that undermine equality before the law and favour the communalism which the multiculturalists favour, establishing voting blocs that will perpetuate their hold of the New Left on power. With one military campaign, their strategy fell apart and O'Brien's wooing shows the contradictions between multiculturalism and the war on terror.


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