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.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.