Shooting Michael Ancram?

Owen Walker's round-up of the best of the politics blogs finds arguments to the left and arguments t

In a week where Gordon Brown stood legs akimbo across the centre ground and declared his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, stalwarts from both sides of the political spectrum let off time bombs within their own ranks.

George Galloway began by sending out a document to Respect’s National Congress members which argued for "re-evaluating" the party’s relationship with the SWP. It can be read in full here.

This sparked a series of debates on the comments boards of various blogs. David Osler began one debate by asking: "Why has the SWP made all this public at such an early stage, instead of trying to keep word of the document under wraps? Does this indicate that this is more than a minor spat?"

In another, John Gray stated: "I reckon that Galloway is gambling that the SWP will back down and let him run the show. The present leadership of the SWP have invested heavily in Respect. Also, frankly there is nowhere else for them to go."

On to the Right side. Following Patrick Mercer and John Bercow’s decision to accept advisory posts offered by Gordon Brown, former Tory chairman Michael Ancram launched an attack on the modern party which drew outrage from the Young Turks.

Antony Little was livid with the trio (Mercer, Bercow and Ancram – which Mike Ion pointed out sounds like an accountancy firm): "Don't they see that they are been used as a stage-managed tool by the Brown government (in the case of Bercow and Mercer) or just giving ammunition to our opponents (Ancram ... who should know better). Activists up and down the country must have their heads in their hands."

While, Caroline Hunt sees the problem as being endemic within Conservative ranks: "I have learnt in the last year that a vast number of Tory party members would rather live under a Labour government indefinitely and instead stick the knife into their own party rather than attack this woefully dishonest and inept government."

Over at Our Kingdom, Anthony Barnett has written a neat piece about what he sees as a class war within the Tory party. This, he states, is the reason for much of the backlash against Ancram’s open letter.

This was partly based on criticism from Iain Dale, who asked for contributions for the top ten reasons why Michael Ancram should be taken outside and shot (which Dale was keen to stress – for those lacking a sense of humour – was “done in the style of David Letterman's Top Ten Lists, which are funny, sardonic and often ironic”). The pick of the bunch were: “Number 10: So he knows how the grouse feel; Number 9: Because we need to discourage the aristocracy from overbreeding; and Number 1: Because shooting him inside would mean that you'd have to repaint the walls.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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There are two sides to the Muslim segregation story

White families must also be prepared to have Muslim neighbours. 

Dame Louise Casey finally published her review on social integration in Britain. Although it mentions all communities, there is a clear focus on Muslim communities. However, the issues she raises - religious conservatism, segregation in some areas and Muslim women experiencing inequalities -  are not new. In this case, they have been placed in one report and discussed in the context of hindering integration. If we are truly committed to addressing these issues, though, we have a duty of care to discuss the findings with nuance, not take them out of context, as some tabloids have already done.

The review, for example, highlights that in some areas Muslims make up 85 per cent of the local population. This should not be interpreted to mean that Muslims are choosing to isolate themselves and not integrate. For a start, the review makes it clear that there are also certain areas in Britain that are predominantly Sikh, Hindu or Jewish.

Secondly, when migrants arrive in the UK, it is not unreasonable for them to gravitate towards people from similar cultural and faith backgrounds.  Later, they may choose to remain in these same areas due to convenience, such as being able to buy their own food, accessing their place of worship or being near elderly relatives.

However, very little, if any, attention is given to the role played by white families in creating segregated communities. These families moved out of such areas after the arrival of ethnic minorities. This isn't necessarily due to racism, but because such families are able to afford to move up the housing ladder. And when they do move, perhaps they feel more comfortable living with people of a similar background to themselves. Again, this is understandable, but it highlights that segregation is a two-way street. Such a phenomenon cannot be prevented or reversed unless white families are also willing to have Muslim neighbours. Is the government also prepared to have these difficult conversations?

Casey also mentions inequalities that are holding some Muslim women back, inequalities driven by misogyny, cultural abuses, not being able to speak English and the high numbers of Muslim women who are economically inactive. It’s true that the English language is a strong enabler of integration. It can help women engage better with their children, have access to services and the jobs market, and be better informed about their rights.

Nevertheless, we should remember that first-generation Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, who could not speak English, have proved perfectly able to bring up children now employed in a vast range of professions including politics, medicine, and the law. The cultural abuses mentioned in the review such as forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation, are already being tackled by government. It would be more valuable to see the government challenge the hate crimes and discrimination regularly faced by Muslim women when trying to access public services and the jobs market. 

The review recommends an "Oath of Integration with British Values and Society" for immigrants on arrival. This raises the perennial question of what "British Values" are. The Casey review uses the list from the government’s counter-extremism strategy. In reality, the vast majority of individuals, regardless of faith or ethnic background, would agree to sign up to them.  The key challenge for any integration strategy is to persuade all groups to practice these values every day, rather than just getting immigrants to read them out once. 

Shaista Gohir is the chair of Muslim Women's Network UK, and Sophie Garner is the general secretary and a barrister.