I have a tale to tell about Baroness Warsi (who resigned from the government on Tuesday over the Gaza crisis) which I’ve kept to myself for several years, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
When David Cameron was leader of the opposition back in 2006 he was courting the Muslim vote and granted an interview to a certain media outlet. The interview was arranged by Sayeeda Warsi who was then vice chairman of the Conservative Party.
He was asked a warm-up question to test the microphone sound along the lines of “who is the leader of Hamas?” Cameron – who was at the time trying to bolster his foreign policy credentials – replied “Hassan Nasrallah.”
Realising her leader’s gaffe Sayeeda Warsi attempted to put a stop to the interview there and then, presumably believing that Cameron was being set up for a fall. But to his credit, the future Prime Minister insisted on continuing and made it clear that no question was off-limits.
So the interview went ahead even though the normally unflappable Cameron appeared to be a bit flustered. Afterwards the media outlet was contacted by Warsi (or another Conservative official) and was told in no uncertain terms that Cameron’s gaffe should not be revealed. And it never was.
I tell this story simply to illustrate what I believe to be Warsi’s character – fiercely ambitious, fiercely loyal to her leader and the Conservative Party, willing to use her “Muslimness” to advance her career and deliver votes for her boss, and ready to apply pressure on community representatives if they stepped out of line.
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Warsi was the first Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet, the third Muslim minister and the first female Muslim to serve as a minister in the UK – despite the fact that she never won an election.
Over the years she became one of the faces of British Islam, and was often called upon to represent the “Muslim view” on high-profile media appearances. In short she was probably the most influential and powerful Muslim woman in the country.
But despite all that I always thought that Baroness Warsi was hopelessly out of touch with the community itself. Let’s face it, how many Muslim Tory voters are there that are out there, let alone Muslims who would actively want to espouse Tory party policy on the doorstep?
Sure, she might have marched against the Iraq war in 2003 but that didn’t stop her backing a host of government domestic and foreign policies since 2010 which the Muslim community by and large rejected.
These included the Prevent policy which is supposedly designed to combat violent extremism, which Muslims across the board have denounced as an ideologically-driven project which effectively spies on Muslims from cradle to grave.
Then there were the foreign policy disasters since the outbreak of the Arab Spring – the bombing and destruction of Libya, the destabalisation of Syria, the economic war waged against Iran, the propping up of dictatorship in Bahrain. All of which Warsi publicly backed.
Yet despite her loyalty to the Tory project over and above concepts such as truth and justice, Warsi still found herself attacked by the Islamophobic right-wing media and even opponents within her ranks.
I assume Warsi is a proponent of wielding influence from within the corridors of power and some may argue that an example of this was the setting up of the Tell Mama project of which she was a champion.
Tell Mama monitors and records Islamophobic incidents and I understand that Baroness Warsi was influential in ensuring that it was well funded by the taxpayer.
And despite many in the community having reservations about its partners (which included Zionists and a Muslim LGBT group) Tell Mama won around many sceptics with the thoroughness of its reporting. However, I should add that this initial trust has somewhat dissipated after it formed further controversial alliances.
Anyway, if the Tell Mama project is to be Warsi’s lasting legacy, I would argue that it is small comfort compared to the “Muslim cover” Warsi afforded to the government’s foreign policy actions, which did so much damage during the Arab Spring.
Which brings me to Baroness Warsi’s resignation which has been widely welcomed by a plethora of Muslim groups.
In it she said: “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”
So far so good but then she rather delusionally added: “William Hague was probably one of the finest Foreign Secretaries this country has seen and has been inspirational.”
Nevertheless, Muslim groups (desperate for any good news I suppose) welcomed Warsi’s “principled” move. Pro Palestine group The Friends of al-Aqsa said “This no doubt has been a very trying time for her and we hope her moral stand will compel the British government to become an honest broker in the conflict and help bring about a permanent end to the blockade of Gaza and an end to the occupation.”
Now I have no doubt that Warsi was indeed outraged by Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians, but would she have really decided to resign “on principle” had she not been recently demoted? Would she have decided to quit if her government career was going places? I think not.
After all, she isn’t exactly a pro Palestinian activist and has admitted to supporting the vile Conservative Friends of Israel. But I guess when we have such a rabidly pro-Zionist political establishment and media we need to clutch any straw we can find.
So goodbye Sayeeda Warsi. I don’t think your resignation will have a significant effect on the Tories as I’m pretty sure you don’t really have a “Muslim constituency” to draw upon. And I don’t really buy your “resignation on principle” claims given your consistent support for Islamophobic domestic and destructive foreign policies.
And now that you’ve fallen out with Dave perhaps you won’t mind if that media outlet releases the tape they buried.