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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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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