Monday, 24 May 2010

British Muslims and UK's 2010 General Elections

UK’s 2010 General Elections
and British Muslim

Dr. Mozammel Haque

UK’s 2010 General elections is a milestone in Britain’s Muslim politics. A number of histories are made in this election. Firstly, British Muslim Members of the House of Commons has been doubled after the 2010 General Elections; first-ever British Muslim woman is elected to the British Parliament; the Conservatives have gained Muslim to be elected in this election and first-ever British-Bangladeshi is elected to enter the House of Commons.

Muslim MPs doubled in 2010 elections
Firstly, the number of British Muslim Members of the House of Commons has been doubled. Eight Muslims are elected to the British Parliament in this 2010 election – six from the Labour Party and two from the Conservatives. Out of the six Labour MPs, there are three males and three females. Sadiq Khan, the former Minister of Transport, is re-elected as Labour candidate from the Tooting Constituency with a majority of 2,524 votes and Khalid Mahmood is re-elected as Labour candidate from Birmingham Perry Bar for the second time, increasing his majority to more than 11,908 votes. In Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar won the election by increasing Labour’s majority to almost 16,000. He replaced his father, Mohammad Sarwar, who stepped down at this election. Mohammad Sarwar was the Britain’s first Muslim MP in 1979.

First British Muslim woman MP
Secondly, for the first-time British Muslim woman is elected to the House of Commons in this election. Three Muslim women are elected - Yasmin Qureshi, Shabana Mahmood and Rushanara Ali. Barrister Yasmin Qureshi (47) is elected from Bolton South East where Labour had a comfortable majority of over 10,000 votes from retiring MP Brian Iddon, but by a reduced majority of more than 8,600. 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 elected from Birmingham Ladywood. She increased the majority of outgoing former International Development Secretary Clare Short from under 7,000 votes to more than 10,000 in Birmingham Ladywood in Central England. Shabana’s father, Mahmood Ahmed, is chairman of Birmingham Labour Party. Birmingham Ladywood has a Muslim population of nearly 30 per cent.

Rushanara Ali, 35-year old Oxford University graduate, won with a huge majority of 11,000 votes defeating Abjol Miah of Respect Party to the third place in Bethnal Green & Bow Constituency. Ajmal Masroor from the Liberal Democrats in second place. Ali, born in Bangladesh in 1975, moved to the East End of London, United Kingdom with her family at the age of 7 and attended Mulberry School and Tower Hamlets College.

Robert Booth wrote in The Guardian, ”The number of successful black and minority ethnic candidates rose from 16 in 2005 to 27, a rise of two for Labour and nine for the Conservatives. Three Labour candidates, Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham Ladywood, Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Bow, and Yasmin Qureshi in Bolton South East, became Britain’s first female Muslim MPs, with majorities of more than 8,000.” He also wrote, ”With 11 seats still to count yesterday afternoon, Labour had elected 79 female MPs -31% of its total – and the percentage of women in the house rose to 21% from 19.5% in 2005.”

“Female representation in the UK Parliament has long been shameful: after the 2005 election women made up just 19% of all MPs, number 73 in the global league table, behind Norway, South Africa, Austria and Rwanda,” wrote Kira Cochrane in The Guardian on Saturday.

First Conservatives Muslim MP
Thirdly, for the first time the Conservatives have gained their Muslim MP entered into the House of Commons. The First Muslim Conservatives to be elected was Sajid Javid who retained Bromsgrove with an increased majority of more than 11,000 in Bromsgrove, Central England. Another Conservatives Rehman Chisti won by more than 8,500 votes in newly-created Gillingham and Rainham in south-east England. Nadhim Zahawi, the chief executive of online market research agency, YouGov, also became the first Iraqi Kurd to become UK MP by successfully defeating the Conservatives’ 10,000-plus majority in Strafford, Central England.

First British Bangladesh-born Muslim MP
Fourthly, for the first time British-Bangladeshi is elected to the House of Commons. Rushanara Ali, born in Bangladesh, regained the Labour seat in Bethnal Green & Bow constituency. All the Parliamentary candidates in this constituency were from the British-Bangladeshi background and there was a tough three-prong contest between Labour candidate, Rushanara Ali, Respect Party candidate, Abjol Miah and Liberal Democrat candidate, Ajmal Masroor. Ali won the election defeating Abjol Miah of the Respect Party by a majority of 11,000 votes. Though a daughter of a manual worker, she is the first in her family to go to university. She is graduate of Oxford University studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford. An ambitious young Labour activist who was listed by The Guardian as one of the most powerful Muslim women in Britain, Rushanara Ali claimed back the once Labour stronghold of Bethnal Green & Bow at the election.

May 6 elections were marked by a swing from Labour to the Conservatives which resulted in one of the two Muslim ministers, Shahid Malik losing his parliamentary seat for Dewsbury in northern England by just over 1,500 votes.

In 2010 UK General election, there were 89 Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) of Asian origin compared with 68 in 2005. More than 80 Muslim candidates stood in Britain’s general elections out of which 16 were Muslim female candidates. These 16 Muslim female candidates were selected by different political parties. Labour has four Muslim female candidates; Conservatives six and Liberal Democrats four Muslim female candidates. Only one Muslim female contest election outside these three main parties is Salma Yaqoob who represented the anti-war Respect Party.

Muslim progression in political participation
Muslim has made a great progression in political participation in Britain. In 1992 General Elections, there were 11 Muslim PPCs, 4 from the Conservatives, 1 from Liberal Democrats and 6 from Other but none was elected. In 1997, there were 24 Muslim PPCs, 3 from Labour, 6 from the Conservatives, 4 from Liberal Democrats and 11 from Other but only 1 was elected from Labour, the first Muslim male, Mohammad Sarwar from Glasgow Central, elected into British Parliament in 1997 election as Labour MP. In 2001 general elections, there were 53 Muslim PPCs, 7 from Labour, 8 from the Conservatives, 11 from Liberal Democrats and 27 from Other but only 2 were elected from Labour; Mohammad Sarwar was re-elected and Khalid Mahmood was elected from Birmingham Perry Bar in 2001 election. In 2005 General Elections, there were 79 Muslim PPCs, 13 from Labour, 16 from the Conservatives, 21 from Liberal Democrats and 29 from Other but 4 were elected from Labour. Mohammad Sarwar re-elected, Khalid Mahmood re-elected, Shahid Malik from Dewsbury and Sadiq Khan from Tooting were elected as Labour MPs in 2005 election.

Anti-war Respect Party failed to win a single seat
Another feature of this election is that all the candidates of the anti-war Party, Respect Party - George Galloway, Abjol Miah and Salma Yaqoob, failed to win the election from the constituency - Poplar & Limehouse, Bethnal Green & Bow and Birmingham Hall Green respectively. Writing about Salma Yaqoob, Afua Hirsch observed in The Guardian on Saturday, “One of the highest profile minority casualties was the Respect party’s leader, Salma Yaqoob, who was standing in Birmingham Hall Green and had been described in the Asian press as the most respected Muslim female politician in Britain. Yaqoob came second to the sitting MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, following what her campaign manager claimed was a smear campaign against her.”

“Yaqoob would have been the first hijab-wearing MP, and her defeat by Labour is one of the most high profile minority failures,” observed Hirsch.

Humiliating defeat of BNP in Barking
Another feature of this election is that the far-right political party, British Nationalist Party (BNP), suffered a humiliating defeat in Barking as Labour stormed to victory with an increased vote. Labour MP Margaret Hodge fought off the far-Right party’s leader Nick Griffin, in what she described as the “toughest battle of my life”. Mrs. Hodge held on to her seat with 24,628 votes and the BNP in third place with 6,623 votes. Labour MP Margaret Hodge fought off the far-Right party’s leader Nick Griffin, in what she described as the “toughest battle of my life”. Even the BNP failed to make any breakthrough in council elections, losing seats in Stoke, Leeds, Sandwell and Epping Forest. The far-right organisation lost all 12 of its councillors in its supposed stronghold of Barking and Dagenham.

Labour’s victorious candidate, Margaret Hodge, who increased her majority said, as quoted by Mathew Taylor in The Guardian, “The people in Britain, we in Barking have not just beaten but we have smashed the extreme right,” she told her supporters and added, “The lesson from Barking to the BNP is clear: Get out and stay out, you’re not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Pack your bags and go!”

The 2010 General Election ended with the first hung parliament in 36 years. The Conservatives needed 326 seats for an overall majority but aim to govern as a minority government. Labour suffered a heavy defeat, losing at least 86 seats including big names, such as Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke. But Labour fared less badly in the capital than nationally.

First Muslim woman in
Cameron-Clegg Coalition Cabinet
Cameron-Clegg Coalition government was formed and David Cameron, the Prime Minister, announced the appointment of his Cabinet in which, for the first time, there is only one member of the cabinet from the ethnic minority community. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is the only member of the Cabinet who represents both the ethnic minority community, Muslim community. She is unpaid, unelected and a “Minister without portfolio”. Baroness Warsi is the firsts in so many respects: the first Muslim Female to sit at the top table, in the Cabinet; the first non-white member of the Cabinet and the first Muslim woman to become the Conservative Party Chair.

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