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Sayeeda Warsi interviewed in Guardian

Baroness Warsi

Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative Party chairman and the first Muslim woman to hold a cabinet position features in an interview in today’s Guardian G2 supplement by Decca Aitkenhead.

Warsi, who has been held up for some time as a Conservative high flyer, is also one of the founding regional coordinators of Operation Black Vote. You can read the full article here.

By Richard Sudan

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16 Responses

  1. “Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative Party chairman and the first Muslim woman to hold a cabinet position”

    Before I read the article, I would like to point out that in a racially fair and understanding society, and in the new millenium, this should not be a big deal. That point alone, shows you how backward we have gone under a dreadful Labour Government; which surpressed the progress of non-whites over the past thirteen years.

    Their racism did not win them the last election.

  2. I read this article yesterday

    I always find with black and Asian conservative members that they get upset when people mention their race and ethnicity in relation to being a politician

    If people think the issue of race or religion shouldn’t be brought up or mentioned, then at best they’re being idealistic and at worst totally naive.

    Warsi was getting increasingly annoyed with the Guardian journalist mentioning her ethnicity, but to not touch upon the subject is ridiculous.

    Besides as a reader I would want to know how her race and ethnicity has inflluenced her experiences and politics.

    If I became cabinet member for the Tory party, I would expect my race to be discussed an highlighted. It would be wrong for my race to define everything about me, but you can’t ignore it either.

    When it comes to such things I’m a realist and a pragmatist. If you’re a female, Asain, muslim in a Tory/ coalition government then it’s going to be highlighted as it’s significant.

    Why pretend it isn’t?

    • Hello Rodney,

      “regarded as racist, anti-immigrant and resoundingly white”

      The above quote ws the way the British National Party was decribed it the Guardian article. I have to admit that this was exactly what New Labour was in 1997 when they won the general election; an outright racist government.

      “I always find with black and Asian conservative members that they get upset when people mention their race and ethnicity in relation to being a politician”

      My view is that they want to take Britiain forward and advance the position of minority ethnic citizens within this country. That, in my view, is not such a bad thing.

      “Warsi was getting increasingly annoyed with the Guardian journalist mentioning her ethnicity, but to not touch upon the subject is ridiculous. ”

      Her anger is very understandable. When are minority ethnic citizens in this country ever going to be accepted as part of it rather constantly being reminded of their origins? My understanding of Baroness Warsi’s position is she is simply asking to be recognised as a government minister – the same as her white colleagues – and not her background. I fully support her on that one.

      “If I became cabinet member for the Tory party, I would expect my race to be discussed an highlighted.”

      You are a completely different personality to the Baroness. In a free society her point of view should be taken seriously and respected.

      “It would be wrong for my race to define everything about me, but you can’t ignore it either.”

      Once you let the genie out of the bottle, it will be very difficult putting it back. Once you allow your race to be discussed and highlighted as you have suggested – knowing the racial position of the country especially after the last dastardly and extremely racist Labour Government reintroduced racism into all aspects of its operation – prepare yourself for any hurtful slurs or remarks from people.

      ” If you’re a female, Asain, muslim in a Tory/ coalition government then it’s going to be highlighted as it’s significant. ”

      If you are prepared to accept this, then brace yourself for more racist treatment in the future.

      I totally support Baroness Warsi’s position regarding that newspaper article. Britain as a nation should move forward and not hold to the past.

    • Hello Rodney,

      At least, the Baroness had the guts to stand up for what is right. One in the eye of racial stereotype.

  3. As a Conservative I have no issue of my race whether it is brought up or not but i do consider myself as “Sylbourne Sydial the individual first” before anything and I will always emphasise that point whenever necessary as I in complete recognition of my identity and roots.

    I can see where the Baroness is coming from and nuff respect to her!

    I remenber when Dawn Butler was questioned as whether or not she belonged in the House of Commons.

  4. Until Parliament is representative ‘race’/colour will remain an issue.

    It is as simple as that. In an ideal world race would not be a factor. In fact in an ideal world we’d stop using the word ‘race’ as it is scientifically baseless.

    But we haven’t reached the summit yet far from it.

    While no one wants to be judged on the colour of their skin, to ignore the fact that skin colour has been a factor in preventing BME political advancement is redundant and self defeating.

  5. Yinka

    I take on board your comments, but I really am baffled by your view that the Labour party and the previous Labour government was/is outright racist!

    They’re a centre left mainstream political party. Secondly if they were out and out racist as you say, why have they traditionally been the party that ethnic minorities have voted for?

    Moving on to Baroness Warsi here’s something to consider:

    In May I went to OBV ‘Black Britain Decides’ rally which featured Harriet Harmen, George Osborne and Vince Cable from the 3 main political parties.

    George Osborne came onto the stage to a chorus of boos from the audience, he hadn’teven spoken. Why was this?

    I took it as an expression of the Black community’s historic distrust of Tory governments. (by the way I thought the audience was quite rude with their abuse)

    Whether it’s fact or fiction the Tories have always had an image problem with regards to BME voters.

    If you have a new Tory government featuring a female, Muslim, cabinet member from a working class background, then it is going to be commented on, and to some extent it should be.

    Yes, she is a government minister and should be judged on her ability, but part of her personal and political story is being the first Muslim, female Tory Cabinet member. Why sweep that under the carpet?

    I read a similiar type of interview with black Tory MP Adam Afriyie in the Standard. The feature covered his career in and out of politics and his family background, but he didn’t want to discuss the issue of being a black MP in the Tory party.

    That’s his decision, but I found that stance a little be gutless to be honest as it was something I wanted to know about, to get a better understanding of him.

    The likes of Warsi and Afiyie could learn something from the likes of black Tories like Shaun Bailey or Wilfred Emmanuel Jones who seem very comfortable talking about policies and politics but also acknowledging their position as black working class Tories Something I have more respect for.

  6. Hello Rodney,

    “Secondly if they were out and out racist as you say, why have they traditionally been the party that ethnic minorities have voted for?”

    Misguided loyalty. They don’t know what I know, what the coalition government knows, and the reason for some black defections from New Labour before the last elections. I believe Lee Jasper, the fighter for equal racial justice, left New Labour for the Green Party. The evidence against New Labour regarding racism is overwhelming.

    Why did Paul Boateng, the most senior minority ethnic MPfor New Labour, not make the cabinet in 1997 when three white homosexuals did?

    “I took it as an expression of the Black community’s historic distrust of Tory governments.”

    You’ve addressed that point yourself. During the previous Conservative Government (1979 to 1997) the Conservatives did not interfere with black peoples rights. New Labour did by constantly interefering with the Race Relations Act 1976 scrapping the Commission for Racial Equality and replacing it with the toothless Equality and Human Rights Commission, and it is that disgraceful Labour Government that secretly brokered a deal with the BBC to invite the British National Party leader on national telelvision in order to cover their own racism.

    New Labour were a dreadfully racist party cum government.

    • I never realised life was so bad under New Labour.

      Perhaps I would have been better off living in Apartheid South Africa!

      • Rodney,

        The action taken by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition to get rid of New Labour was not just an ordinary feat. Even they were aware of New Labour’s duplicity.

        Given time, their very narrow and crass actions would have become clear to the rest of the country. I for one, am very glad it did not get to that. Unfortunately for the descent folks in our society, those who voted New Labour in 1997 voted for deceit, dishonesty and racism.

    • Yinka

      We can agree that New Labour was a serious let-down on the issue of racism, and at times clearly stoked racial tensions for political purposes (whether it be Blunkett’s courting of the Daily Mail; Hodge & Brown pandering to the BNP; or Straw and ‘burqa-gate’).

      Leaving the Lawrence Inquiry and the positive contributions of New Labour aside, I wanted to highlight a few facts in response to your comment above: “During the previous Conservative Government (1979 to 1997) the Conservatives did not interfere with black peoples rights”.

      I’ll be as brief as possible…

      Not quite true:

      – Shortly after being elected, in December 1979 the Tories introduced new immigration rules which further restricted the entry of Commonwealth dependents into Britain.

      – In January 1981 they passed the Nationality Act which effectively removed the right to British citizenship – known as ‘unconditional jus soli’ – from most New Commonwealth citizens who had previously been classed as British citizens. This Act overwhelmingly affected African, Caribbean and Asian people.

      – Fast forward a few years and you’ll find that 32 (mainly African and Caribbean) countries boycotted the 1986 Commonwealth Games. This was in protest at the Conservative government’s continued inaction toward the South African apartheid regime. Despite the protests of several African leaders and of the Queen, the Tories continued to acquiesce. This may have been down to a significant portion of the party supporting the regime and branding the ANC (including Mandela) as terrorists (but more about that below).

      – A year later they introduced the Carriers Liability Allowance i.e. large fines against airlines and shipping companies which carried passengers without proper documentation or visas. This ensured that it was almost impossible for refugees to flee their country of origin. In 1991 the fine was doubled, and by 1993 the total number of asylum applicants to arrive in Britain was almost halved.

      – This may seem like a tough stance on illegal immigration, but to provide the wider context I refer you to the Court of Appeal who held that the Home Secretary Kenneth Baker was in contempt of court because he defied a court order and deported a man from Zaire (DRC). The man was subsequently murdered on his return but even so Baker did not resign as Home Secretary.

      Not for the lack of trying:

      – So as you have witnessed, those are just some examples where they did directly interfere. However, there could have been more if many in the party had their way.

      – The Conservative Party has a group called the Monday Club (more about them later too). Throughout the late 1970s, the 1980s, and in to the early 1990s they campaigned heavily for the (in their words) scrapping of the Commission for Racial Equality, the repeal of race relations laws, an end to all further large-scale permanent immigration from the New Commonwealth, and (wait for it) an improved repatriation scheme with generous resettlement grants for all those from New Commonwealth countries who wish to take advantage of them.

      – To clarify how important the repatriation issue was, just note the name of the committee that put forward these policies: the Immigration and Repatriation Policy Committee (the committee secretary between 1981-2 was someone who is currently a Tory MP, oh and see below for their stance on South Africa and on the independence of former colonies).

      New-Labouresque (by your own definition):

      – I use this header as much of what you have objected to about New Labour has been extended to their rhetoric and not just their policies.

      – I’m sure you are familiar with the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Federation of Conservative Students proposed motions for Mandela to be executed as a terrorist. You can find a copy of a poster from these times here: http://lh4.ggpht.com/_QI1gRwFYn-k/S3PiY8Cx4aI/AAAAAAAACD8/Sqd75Pj_tXo/hang-mandela.jpg

      – Mind you those ‘pesky Africans’ were a bit of a thorn in the side of many a Tory during this time. The aforementioned Monday Club were opposed to independence and were pro white supremacist rule.

      – In 1990 they were happy to invite the former ruler of Rhodesia, Ian Smith to a dinner organised in his honour. Here is a picture of him with two recently ‘retired’ Tory MPs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Smith_Dinner.jpg.

      – They were nothing if consistent, having invited Andries Treurnicht as guest of honour the year before, that’s Treuricht who quit the National Party of South Africa because he felt it had compromised too much and formed the Conservative Party of South Africa.

      – Excuse me for veering outside of the 1979-97 timeframe but just a point about pandering to the white racist or in your words the ‘white working-class’. This is the Prime Minister elect in 1978 “…what Keith and his committee are trying to do is to find out exactly how we are going to do it; who must come in; how you deal with the compassionate cases, but nevertheless, holding out the prospect of an end to immigration” before saying “I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture”.

      When people said that New Labour was Conservatism by another guise, I thought they were talking about the economy. It seems, if your allegations are true (and I have no reason to doubt you), they took inspiration elsewhere too.

      This is not to say that the Tories cannot change or have not changed, but to not challenge such an inaccurate comment would allow a Tory revision of history or ‘white-wash’ if you will.

      Racism is reinforced by misinformation, so I’m sure we can agree that the more the facts are revealed the better we are prepared to combat racism (from whichever party, and anyone for that matter).

      With respect

      David

      • Hello David,

        “Leaving the Lawrence Inquiry and the positive contributions of New Labour aside,”

        What positive contributions towards racism did New Labour make?

        “Shortly after being elected, in December 1979 the Tories introduced new immigration rules which further restricted the entry of Commonwealth dependents into Britain.”

        A nation has the right to protect its border’s and keep immigration into its country to a reasonable level. I fail to see where the Conservatives have got it wrong with regards your assertions. In what way does this affect British Born non-whites?

        How does paragraph 5 to 8 of your thread affect British born non-whites?

        “The Conservative Party has a group called the Monday Club (more about them later too). Throughout the late 1970s, the 1980s, and in to the early 1990s they campaigned heavily for the (in their words) scrapping of the Commission for Racial Equality, the repeal of race relations laws”

        New Labour subsequently attempted it.

        “- A year later they introduced the Carriers Liability Allowance i.e. large fines against airlines and shipping companies which carried passengers without proper documentation or visas. This ensured that it was almost impossible for refugees to flee their country of origin.”

        Where would a genuine refugee be able to afford an air ticket? If they really fleeing persecution, why target the United Kingdom as their place of refuge? Shouldn’t the refugees flee to the nearest safe haven i.e, a Lbyan to Tunisia?

        “When people said that New Labour was Conservatism by another guise, I thought they were talking about the economy. It seems, if your allegations are true (and I have no reason to doubt you), they took inspiration elsewhere too.”

        If New Labour took their inspiration from all you have described, then it shows how very limited they were in their ways of reasoning. The huge difference between what you have described about the Conservatives and New Labour is that the Conservatives were open about their threats; some of which they did not carry out.. Compare that to the dishonnest behaviour of New Labour which was applied surreptitiously.

  7. Dear Baroness Warsi,

    Your stance is a very positive one and if followed by other British born non-whites, would be very helpful towards integration and racial harmony in the United Kingdom.

    You have used your influence positively. You have shown the direction Britain should be heading to. Thank you for being strong and standing up for what you believe.

    It is very positive thinking like yours and Diane Abbott’s that would give minority ethnic citizens a great belief in themselves, and hopefully, lead them towards making positive contributions to this great country.

    I hope the last government (New Labour) whose approach to all non-whites as your quote in the Guardian quite rightly reads: “we know what’s best for you brown people” learn from your very positive approach.

    Madam, please keep up the good work.

    Kind regards,

    Yinka Oyesanya.

  8. Yinka

    Your categorical statement was that the “previous Conservative Government (1979 to 1997)…did not interfere with black peoples rights”. So why now narrow this to “British-born non-whites”? Stand up for your original claim, don’t move the goal-posts.

    It is clear from the evidence presented that the Tories did interfere with black peoples rights, whether they were born here, recent immigrants, refugees wanting to seek asylum here, or citizens of other countries (if you can define indigenous South Africans as ‘citizens’ under apartheid).

    One thing we do agree on though, the Tories were more blatant, and less ashamed of their bigotry. New Labour were wolves in sheeps clothing – even Labour party people said as such – not just on race, but on most matters. Let me be categorical: they were shameful in many respects.

    My argument has never been that you were wrong about New Labour, just that you were too narrow and that the Tories were not the saints you inferred they were. At least you now concede that they were bigoted, but more honest about it.

    That’s quite a difference from ‘not interfering’ but there’s no need to labour the point (excuse the pun).

    Two final matters:

    “Where would a genuine refugee be able to afford an air ticket?”. You confuse persecuted with poor. Some refugees were and still are quite comfortable, many do not need nor receive support when they are here. It is their views and beliefs their states find objectionable, irrespective of their economic status.

    “Conservatives were open about their threats; some of which they did not carry out”. They didn’t carry out some of the Monday Club threats because they were voted down in the House of Commons. Ironically given your sentiments, they were voted down (in part) by Labour politicians.

    Those are the facts.

    With respect

    David

    p.s. Regarding my suggestion of other positive contributions, (using just one example): would you argue that the minmum wage was negative and in some way deterimental to black people? I remember campaigners pre1997 making the case that the lack of minimum wage disproportionately affected black people as they were deliberately paid less than their counterparts. Maybe you weren’t around for that debate.

  9. David,

    Let’s get one thing straight about my position regarding my fight for racial equality in the United Kingdom – the country of my birth. I have always campaigned as best as I can for British born non-whites. The position of other non-whites born abroad is hard to support as most of them tend to lean in favour of the country of their birth; and quite rightly so. I hope I have clarified my position regarding narrowing down and the movement of goal posts.

    “It is clear from the evidence presented that the Tories did interfere with black peoples rights, whether they were born here, recent immigrants, refugees wanting to seek asylum here, or citizens of other countries (if you can define indigenous South Africans as ‘citizens’ under apartheid). ”

    This is supposition. Back this point up with real hard evidence.

    “just that you were too narrow and that the Tories were not the saints you inferred they were. At least you now concede that they were bigoted, but more honest about it. ”

    I do not agree with your assertions. Read my post to you dated 4 August 2010 and it might give you a different perspective to where I stand. Is there bigotry in British Politics? Yes there is. Is Baroness Warsi’s position regarding this problem a positive one? My answer to that is yes.

    “You confuse persecuted with poor. Some refugees were and still are quite comfortable, many do not need nor receive support when they are here.”

    Not really. The rich refugees, I am sure, would be welcome into the United Kingdom. If I can remember rightly, you made a general assertion about refugees fleeing their countries. You now seem to have narrowed it down to the rich.

    “They didn’t carry out some of the Monday Club threats because they were voted down in the House of Commons. Ironically given your sentiments, they were voted down (in part) by Labour politicians.”

    Hypocritical opportunists who have gone on to do worse.

    “Regarding my suggestion of other positive contributions, (using just one example): would you argue that the minmum wage was negative and in some way deterimental to black people?”

    I would go as far as to say that largest proportion of people earning the national minimum wage are black and foreign. I rest my case on that one.

  10. The facts stand as they are – the Tories have no more credibility than Labour. Some Tories are positive as are some Labourites.

    If my assertion that by supporting and financially investing in apartheid the Tories interfered with black peoples rights is “just supposition” so be it.

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