Letters - My anti-racist record

As the race equality minister from 1997-2001, who worked to launch the first Holocaust Memorial Day, I should not have to defend myself against claims of anti-Semitism from Nick Cohen ("Labour's contemptible election trade-off", 31 January). Cohen has regurgitated claims by the Conservative Party and the Daily Mail that there is something wrong in criticising Michael Howard in a Muslim newspaper. These claims have been dismissed by the Commission for Racial Equality. Indeed, most people who have read my article in Muslim Weekly have rejected the allegations. David Mencer, until recently the director of the Jewish Community Security Trust, has called the attacks on me "ludicrous and a bad case of playing dangerous politics with the serious subject of the increase in real anti-Semitism". I would compare my record in fighting racism and anti-Semitism with Cohen's any day. I drafted new laws to tackle racial violence and harassment in 1998, later took through the Commons the Race Relations Amendment Act and was responsible for implementing the Human Rights Act.

In my Muslim Weekly article, I mentioned Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP. "Why not pick on Charles Kennedy?" asks Cohen. "But

then, Kennedy's family isn't Jewish." This gibe appears to have been cribbed from a misreport in the Daily Mail: in fact, my article did mention Kennedy, and Harris was mentioned only in passing. I did not know Harris is Jewish and nor, I suspect, did most readers of Muslim Weekly. Cohen's ugly insinuation is that all who read that paper must be anti-Semitic.

Mike O'Brien MP
House of Commons
London SW1

This article first appeared in the 21 February 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Condoleezza Rice