Rejoice! The number of Muslim MPs has doubled

I’m sure this post will upset lots of Islamophobes in the blogosphere.

I've just received in my inbox this press release (below) from the Muslim News, which has cheered me up (but has probably sent a shiver down the spine of Melanie Phillips, Douglas Murray, Charles Moore et al).

The number of Muslim MPs has doubled to eight in the closest elections in decades and saw the first three Muslim women -- all Labour -- elected to the 650-member House of Commons.

In addition, the Conservatives have gained their first two Muslim MPs, but the possibility of adding a third was dashed after Zahid Iqbal failed in overturning Labour's 3,000 majority in Bradford West, northern England.

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

But Transport Minister Sadiq Khan defied the swing to retain his seat for Tooting in south London with a reduced majority of 2,500 votes.

Khalid Mahmood also successfully defended his parliamentary seat for Labour in Birmingham Perry Bar for the second time, increasing his majority to more than 11,000.

In Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar also increased Labour's majority to almost 16,000 in replacing his father, Mohammed Sarwar, who stepped down at the election after becoming Britain's first Muslim MP back in 1979.

Over 90 Muslim candidates of various political persuasions stood in the general election, including 22 women.

Three Muslim women, all Labour, became the first to enter parliament.

The first Muslim woman to win was Yasmin Qureshi, winning in the Bolton South-East constituency in north-west England, but by a reduced majority of more than 8,600.

Shabana Mahmood increased the majority of the outgoing former international development secretary Clare Short from under 7,000 votes to more than 10,000 in Birmingham Ladywood in central England.

Rushanara Ali won with a huge majority of 11,000, defeating Abjol Miah of the Respect party to third place in Bethnal Green and Bow. The Lib Dems' Ajmal Masroor came second.

The first Muslim Conservatives to be elected were Sajid Javid, who retained Bromsgrove [for the Tories] with an increased majority of more than 11,000 . . . and Rehman Chisti, who won by more than 8,500 votes in newly created Gillingham and Rainham in south-east England.

Nadhim Zahawi, chief executive of the online market research agency YouGov, also became the first Iraqi Kurd to become a UK MP by successfully defending the Conservatives' 10,000-plus majority in [Stratford-on-Avon], central England.

Congratulations to Labour and the Tories for electing non-white MPs in general and Muslim MPs, in particular, and shame on the all-white, male-heavy Liberal Democrats.

I should also add that if the Muslim population of Britain were proportionately represented in parliament, we'd have more than 20 Muslim MPs and not just eight. But beggars can't be choosers, I suppose . . .

 

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.

Getty Images
Show Hide image

Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war