Muslims and the election: The good news and the bad news…

Political blogger Imran Shah says the general election was a mixed one for Muslims. While the community stayed largely loyal to Labour, five more years of a Conservative government won’t be good news for them. The one bright spark, though, was the SNP’s success in Scotland.

It was all going so well. Polls were neck and neck yes, but that was all down to the swing on the marginals.

Labour seemed to winning out on the fringe. Celebrities right, left and centre were endorsing them. Even Russell Brand went back on his “no-vote” stance for the sake of Miliband.

Twitter saw #GetToriesOut, #DavidCameronMustGo & even #JeSuisEd.

Ed Miilband seem to be hitting all the right notes too. He had a full progamme to tackle Islamophobia from schools to hate crimes. He also overtly said he would take on Murdoch and big business, which had Murdoch in a major panic.

If that wasn’t enough, then surely the rising number of food banks, general complaints of austerity and Ed Miliband finally being seen as a statesman would have won it for him.

So our collective shock was not unjustified.

The exit polls were met with disbelief. Twitter burst into outrage at hearing the BBC polls which was complimented by a milder response in the BBC studio. Paddy Ashdown dismissed them as folly and even taunted at their credibility with repeated threats of hat-eating.

Lib Dem meltdown

So what happened?

Our current election system – First Past The Post (FPTP) – ensured that the vast majority of seats in England were safe. It all rested on the handful of 170-odd marginal there weren’t safe. This was where the real battleground was.

A consistent pattern in every single seat was the sight of Liberal Democrats losing votes. Lots of them. They saw a massive drop of support – on both sides, Labour and Tories hemorrhaged the Liberal Democrats seats, decimating their numbers from 57 to just 8.

Those in Lib/Cons marginals for the most part voted Conservative. Those in Lib/Lab marginals voted Labour. As a result, we saw nearly all the big Lib Dem names get kicked out of their seats. Their voter-base punished them heavily for betraying their trust.

Muslim vote

What was also consistent without exception, in constituencies where Muslims have over 15% of the vote share they either stayed strongly Labour or moved over from Conservative or Liberal Democrat to Labour in all of those 40 seats.

If there was a case of a “Muslim vote bloc,” this was it. In fact, this is what seemed to have stopped Labour from getting an even more pitiful result.

Muslims largely remained loyal to Labour
Muslims largely remained loyal to Labour

However, there wasn’t the same momentum towards Labour in other Conservative marginals. As a result, many of those marginal stayed blue and a tiny Tory majority government of 12 seats was formed.

Yet this was paraded as a success. Mainly because we, including the Tory leadership, were expecting something completely different.

But in reality this a fragile government. Every single policy will have to be firmly whipped and is vulnerable to even the smallest of rebellions, which can be caused by grassroots movements.

Nevertheless, this didn’t stop David Cameron relishing in his victory and it didn’t stop the Tory Cabinet from pushing forward on benefit cuts and scrapping the Human Rights Charter amongst other things.

Labour Party

Three of the other party leaders were forced to embrace the shock result in a different way.

After losing over 75% of their seats, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was the first to resign.

Ed Miliband was next, resigning at what he said was “a very disappointing result for Labour”.

The next Labour leader should be of strong interest to us. A number of candidates have put their names forward, including the Tony Blair-endorsed Chuka Umunna.

The last thing Muslims need is a right-of-centre “New” Labour party. It will not serve Labour’s interests either. Forcing three-quarters of Parliament to be right-of-centre will only favour the Tories and UKIP in England and the SNP in Scotland.

Labour will not gain from such positioning nor will it be a strong voice against racism or Islamophobia.

The only Labour seats that bucked the trend were the left-of-centre “old” Labour candidates and MPs that either increased their majorities or won over Tory marginals.

If the Labour party is wise, they will position themselves left-of-centre to form a strong opposition with the SNP to give the British Left a voice and to start being competitive in Scotland again.

UKIP

A number of pro-Israeli Labour MPs did get kicked out of their seats and replaced with largely pro-Palestinian SNP party members. Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to name a few.

In addition, despite the UKIP hysteria, UKIP only managed to gain one seat and it wasn’t Nigel Farage that got elected.

He also announced his resignation, whilst mentioning the possibility that he may run for party leadership again. What UKIP supporter would want give up Farage?

Nigel Farage of UKIP
Nigel Farage of UKIP

Despite their apparent defeat, UKIP came in second place in 118 seats. That means when it comes to the next election, UKIP will have a “high chance” of winning a good proportion of those 118 seats.

This is something that never happened with a racist party, like the BNP. It is a strong indicator that the Islamophobic/xenophobic narratives that UKIP espouse is seen to be legitimate in people’s minds.

Furthermore, despite weekly exposures of UKIP candidates being openly Islamophobic and racist, despite Farage’s comments on Muslims and pledges to scrap the Race Relations Act, the many millions that voted for UKIP are either comfortable with this or refuse to see the party in a racist and Islamophobic light. This is very worrying.

What the Tories will do in the next five years will be bad, but what is even more frightful is the far-right party UKIP having some real foothold in law making and embedded in public society.

SNP landslide

In light of all this, the SNP landslide in Scotland seems like a God send.

A party that is not only anti-austerity, but is also against the anti-immigrant and anti-discriminatory rhetoric, which has stood up against the likes of Murdoch, and which has demanded a Scottish boycott of arms sales to Israel.

But how was it that the SNP was able to break through a system that has favoured only the two major parties?

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of the SNP
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of the SNP

It’s obvious that voting didn’t fail the Scots (and the Scottish Muslims) as is so frequently suggested. They got a party that represents their views more than any other in the past century.

As a strong voice of the Left, at a time when politics is moving towards the hard-right, the SNP are natural allies for Muslims. But it seems the Scottish Muslim, with less hang-ups on voting, knew that already.

The SNP movement came from more than 5 years of continuous political demand. What they got this election are the fruits of that.

This is something Muslims still fail to appreciate when tackling Islamophobia and something that all Muslims need to learn quickly if they expect political results against an ever-rising tide of hate before the next 5 years are spent.

Imran Shah is writing here in a personal capacity. You can follow him on Twitter @ImranShah884

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