Lord Pearson's anti-Muslim rant

Islamophobia and Ukip

Islamophobia and Ukip

I have blogged before about the odious Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the Ukip peer and front-runner for the leadership of that EU-obsessed party. But is Europe its only obsession? The Telegraph's Ed West says that "Lord Pearson told me that, if elected, he will make the threat of radical Islam the major focus" of the UK Independence Party.

Defenders of Pearson would argue that his fear is of Islamism, or "radical Islam", and not mainstream Islam as a whole, or all Muslims. However, this disingenuous defence falls apart on examination of this video on the News of the World website, in which the Ukip peer, aside from railing against the "growing threat of Islamism" and "the threat that faces us from violent Islam", argues that the Britain is under threat because "the Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us". He says: "I don't know at what point they reach such a number we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands."

His true colours have been revealed. It is not "violent Islam" that exercises him; it is the presence of Muslims -- all Muslims! -- in Britain. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that his alarmist and ill-informed predictions about the Muslim birthrate, and the demonising and dehumanising language ("breeding ten times faster than us"; "resist their demands"), mirror the language employed by the far right about the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.

Even more sickening and depressing is that most of the commenters in the thread below the NoTW piece agree with Lord Pearson's outburst -- as I am sure they will below this post even here on the NS website. Islamophobia is alive and well in Great Britain!

Note: Before the Muslim-hating trolls in the blogosphere descend on this post to rant about my own video infamy, I would point you in the direction of this post, and this article, which make my own views quite clear.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while a free would be held, party policy would be changed to oppose military action - an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, those present made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet (I'm told that my account of that meeting was also raised). There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update on their phones from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.