Friday, 30 April 2010

16 British Muslim Female PPCs for 2010 elections

16 British Muslim Female Prospective Parliamentary
Candidates for 2010 General Elections

Dr. Mozammel Haque

UK 2010 General election will make history on May 6 when the first-ever British Muslim female will be elected to the British Parliament. Major political parties have fielded Muslim female candidates in safe winnable seats and there may be a handful of women politicians from the Muslim community in the House of Commons by the summer.

A record 22 Asian women are running to become Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs in England and Scotland in 2010 election. It must be pointed out that the first Asian male MP was elected in 1892, when Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian, took the seat of Finsbury, Central London, for the Liberals. Almost 120 years later nine Asian male MPs have been elected, but still no Asian woman.

The first Muslim male, Mohammad Sarwar from Glasgow Central, elected into British Parliament in 1997 election as Labour MP followed by second Muslim Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood from Birmingham Perry Bar in 2001 election and Shahid Malik from Dewsbury and Sadiq Khan from Tooting also elected as Labour MPs in 2005 election; but no Muslim female as yet.

In 2010 UK General election, there are 89 Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) of Asian origin compared with 68 in 2005. More than 70 Muslim candidates are standing in Britain’s general elections next month out of which 16 are Muslim female candidates.

These 16 Muslim female candidates have been selected by the different political parties to contest in this election. Labour has selected four Muslim female candidates; Conservatives six and Liberal Democrats four Muslim female candidates. Only one Muslim female who is contesting election outside these three main parties is Salma Yaqoob who is representing the anti-war Respect Party.

Labour has three Muslim women standing in safe seats at this election. Labour has selected three Muslim female candidates – Yasmin Qureshi, Shabana Mahmood and Maryam Khan, to defend Labour seats respectively in Bolton South East, Birmingham Ladywood and Bury North. Barrister Yasmin Qureshi (47) is almost certain to be elected in Bolton South East where Labour had 57 per cent of the vote in 2005. She is inheriting a comfortable majority of over 10,000 votes from retiring MP Brian Iddon. She was born in Gujarat, moved to Britain in 1972 when she was nine and qualified as a Barrister in 1985. She has worked in the Government Legal Services and the Crown Prosecution Service. She was the Head of the Criminal Legal Section of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and later the Director of the Department of Judicial Administration in Kosovo.

Barrister Shabana Mahmood (29) is standing in safe constituency - Birmingham Ladywood - where former International Development Secretary Clare Short was re-elected as Labour MP for the constituency in 2005 with nearly 52 per cent of the vote, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 31.5 percent. Shabana’s father, Mahmood Ahmed, is chairman of Birmingham Labour Party. Birmingham Ladywood has a Muslim population of nearly 30 per cent.

Maryam Khan (27) is representing Bury North. She will replace the current Labour MP David Chaytor who is stepping down. Maryam became Manchester’s youngest councillor in 2006. Her father, Afzal Khan, was the first Asian and first Muslim Pakistani Lord Mayor of Manchester from 2005 to 2006. If elected, the 27-year old solicitor will not only become the first Pakistani Muslim female MP, but also the youngest in Greater Manchester.

Besides those three safe constituencies, Labour has selected 35-year old Oxford University graduate, Rushanara Ali, who was born in Bangladesh, to try to regain Labour seat in Bethnal Green and Bow where George Galloway MP, the darling of the anti-war movement and outspoken champion for dispossessed Palestinians, won against Labour black Jewish MP Oona King by a small majority of 823 votes in 2005 election. Keeping his “one term only” promise, George Galloway, the sitting MP of the Respect Party, is standing down in Bethnal Green & Bow to stand as Respect candidate in the newly created constituency of Poplar and Limehouse constituency against Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick. Rushanara Ali is a local Tower Hamlets resident and a reputed brainbox with an Oxford PPE. She is currently a director at the Young Foundation.

Another potential Muslim female candidate is Salma Yaqoob who is contesting outside the main three political parties from the Respect Party, set up in 2004 as an anti-war party. Salma Yaqoob, born in Bradford but raised in Birmingham, scored an impressive result in the 2005 election when she came second with a total of 10,498 votes in Birmingham’s Sparkbrook & Small Heath constituency, the population of which was nearly 49 per cent Muslim. She came second to Labour with 27 per cent of the vote, and slashed the majority of the Labour MP Roger Godsiff from 16,000 to just over 3,000. In May 2006 she was elected councillor for the Sparkbrook ward in Birmingham.

Salma Yaqoob has addressed numerous demonstrations and meetings all protesting against the war in Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She has continued to fight for civil liberties in Britain and against all policies that target those freedoms and liberties. In the new constituency of Birmingham Hall Green which is 35.7 per cent Muslim, Salma Yaqoob, a prominent anti-war activist and Respect’s co-founder member and vice-chair, is standing as a candidate for the tiny and fractured Respect party, again against Godsiff.

Under the caption entitled, “A small revolution: the British Muslim who could make history,” Madeleine Bunting, a Guardian columnist and its associate editor, wrote in The Guardian, Salma Yaqoob could become Britain’s first Muslim woman MP.

Professor Anwar notes that at least Labour has selected three Muslim women for safe seats at the 2010 general election but that the other parties have not selected Muslims for safe seats.

Among the Muslim male candidates, Labour has four sitting Muslim MPs, three of them, Sadiq Khan, Shahid Malik and Khalid Mahmood are seeking re-election, while in Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar is seeking to replace his father, Mohammad Sarwar, who is stepping down.

The Conservatives have selected two Muslim candidates – Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi in safe constituencies. The Liberal Democrats have 17 Muslim candidates, including four women.

Whatever happens, one thing is certain: this election is likely to see an increase on the current 4 Muslim MPs and the election of the first Muslim women MPs with candidates such as Yasmin Qureshi standing in a safe seat in Bolton. (If parliament reflected the British population there would be 19 Muslim MPs.)

Sir Iqbal Sacranie is of opinion that Yasmin Qureshi would be the first-ever Muslim Female MP in the British Parliament after the election. Sir Iqbal thinks we will get a sort of five or six Muslim MPs maximum. “If seats reflected the make-up of the population as a whole, there would be more than 60 ethnic minority MPs and 70 peers, rather than the present 15 in the Commons and around 30 in the Lords,” Professor Anwar said.

Sir Iqbal said, “If you look at the percentage of the Muslim community, the number of candidates still less than 25%. We are 3% of the total population.”

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