Baroness Warsi should be shunted out of the Cabinet altogether
There’s much fevered speculation about an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, in which the Prime Minister is expected to replace Sayeeda Warsi and Andrew Feldman as co-Chairmen of the Conservative Party with a single candidate drawn from the House of Commons, if not the party’s Right flank. Such a person, it is posited, would be better able than either Baroness Warsi or Lord Feldman to represent the interests of the party’s grassroots. Several names have been floated, including Housing Minister Grant Shapps, Work Minister Chris Grayling, and Michael Fallon, the current Deputy Chairman.
But Baroness Warsi turned to The Daily Telegraph to plead with the Prime Minister to keep her in situ, principally because, being female, Asian and Muslim, she embodies the change which David Cameron wants to see in the Conservative Party. His Grace won't re-rehearse the praise he has poured out on Sayeeda Warsi in the past (time and time and time and time and again). As he has previously observed, she is brave, articulate and forthright in her beliefs. She glides through the complexities of Pakistani politics, confronts ‘honour’ killings and forced marriage, exposes voter fraud and immerses herself in very relevant and pressing social issues which benefit more than her co-religionists: her eyes are not solely on the glorification of Allah and the wellbeing of the Ummah. But her Telegraph interview is most undignified, and merits a jolly good fisking:
Speaking in Tampa Bay, Florida, where she has been attending the Republican convention...
Where? Why? How precisely is attending the launch of the Republican presidential candidate a function of the Party Chairman? How does it aid growth in membership? How does contribute to policy formulation? How does it further the grassroots listening process which is vital to the representation of mainstream Conservative views at the Cabinet table? Florida in August looks suspiciously like a holiday (who paid for it?), while back home CCHQ have taken their eye well and truly off the forthcoming Corby by-election. The GOP aren’t going to help the Conservatives retain that seat, are they?
...the peer said: “If I genuinely had a choice, I would like to stay doing what I’m doing.”
Well, it’s the Prime Minister’s choice, and being Chairman is simply not the best use of your skills. One needs to be (or, at least, appear to be) pastoral, diplomatic, in-touch, and adept at political campaigning. Consistently, you have come across as rude, aloof, insulting, ignorant and incompetent.
“If you look at the demographics, at where we need to be at the next election, we need more people in the North voting for us, more of what they call here 'blue collar’ workers and I call the white working class.”
It’s good that you’ve noticed that the Conservative Party needs more people in the North voting for it. But what, exactly, have you been doing over the past two-and-a-half years to contribute to this objective? Where is the empirical evidence that whatever you’ve been doing has made the slightest bit of difference? And why do you equate ‘blue collar’ with ‘white working class’? Are there no brown working class? Isn’t that a rather.. err.. racist omission?
Turnout was higher among Asians in the 2010 General Election – 67 per cent of Pakistanis, 70 per cent of Bangladeshis and 67 per cent of Indians came out to vote – compared to just over 60 per cent nationally. The Conservative thing to do would be to stop talking about skin colour and focus on policy – you’ll find that Asians are rather fond of low taxes, good education and efficient healthcare. They want jobs; they want to see strategies to alleviate poverty; and they want to vote for a party that supports a traditional view of the family...
“We need more people from urban areas voting for us, more people who are not white and more women. I play that back and think: 'I’m a woman, I’m not white, I’m from an urban area, I’m from the North, I’m working class – I kind of fit the bill. All the groups that we’re aiming for are groups that I’m familiar with.”
So, reductio ad absurdum, the Conservative Party also needs more gays, lesbians and disabled people voting for it as well, and they’re sizeable demographics. Sadly, by your logic, you can have no appeal to them. Indeed, considering your campaign leaflets in the 2005 General Election, you have manifestly expressed hostility toward ‘gay rights’ and an equal age of consent. Further, being female and Muslim, how many male Muslims does this irk? How many Sikhs and Hindus do you think you might alienate? And what of the affluent, country-dwelling, Northern ‘white upper class’ (if that’s the term you’d use for ‘white collar’)? You see, not everyone in the North is working class from an urban area, and surely the Party needs to regain and retain the affluent rural vote as well as gain votes from the urban ‘working class’?
Incidentally, Norman Tebbit as party chairman managed to do it under Margaret Thatcher, without being a Northern urban woman.
In an unusual intervention, Lady Warsi, the first female Muslim Cabinet minister, said she was angry at being seen as a “tokenistic appointment”. She described how she has “had to fight for everything, every single day”.
Oh, come on. You have never won an election in your life; indeed, the Party’s share of the vote has fallen wherever you’ve stood. You are a Cameroon creation, elevated solely because you are female, Muslim and Asian. The ‘greasy pole’ was obligingly degreased especially for you: high-profile roles were created and ladders were made abundant while the snakes of political reality were de-fanged and un-venomed. All because you embody the Cameroon ‘modernisation’ strategy and ‘decontamination’ agenda. You are indeed a symbol – a ‘tokenistic appointment’ – as some of your co-religionists observe.
In a riposte to her critics, she said: “Do you want to try to be an Asian woman and try to do it my way?”
This is just silly: perhaps you might try being a white, middle-aged, heterosexual Christian man, and getting a foot on a rung of the ladder in David Cameron’s Conservative Party.
Of the reshuffle, she indicated that she had considered other roles in the Cabinet, saying: “I’m not exactly cut out to be secretary of state for Defra [the environment department]. “David [Cameron] knows me quite well … he’s known me for a long time now. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and that I’m honest. I believe you’ve got to have the right people in the right job.”
You’re right, you’re not cut out for DEFRA. But neither are you cut out for the DfID or Northern Ireland (for which you’ve reportedly been fishing).But there is something you do rather well, and you really don’t need to be in the Cabinet to do it.
Lady Warsi said: “If you’d gone back a decade when I first got involved in the Conservative Party, then people would have said the party was a challenging environment for someone like me. The culture is beginning to change … now it’s a place where I am entirely comfortable.”
Only 16 per cent of all ethnic minorities voted Conservative in 2010. By 2050 ethnic minorities will make up 20 per cent of the entire population. There’s no quick fix to this electoral challenge. And whatever the slow fix is, it certainly won’t be a top-down approach from a Muslim matriarch at CCHQ: it calls for local engagement and local knowledge. To speak of ‘the North’ is antithetical to the strategy required: campaigning must be carried out by those who know and understand the challenges in every community.
Yet the Party’s foot soldiers are leaving; deserting in droves. Why is this? Could it possibly be because the Conservative Party has ceased to fulfil their needs and aspirations? Has it become tokenistic and ignorant of mainstream Conservative values? Haven’t you been rather complicit in this decline?
Lady Warsi, the daughter of a textile worker who moved to Britain from Pakistan and went on to build a successful business, said she was always aware of the unpleasant suggestions that she was only appointed because of her gender and ethnicity.
Yes, the truth hurts.
She said: “Some people think I’m there as a tokenistic appointment. That’s hard to take for someone like me who grew up in the environment that I grew up in, who has had to fight for everything, every single job.”
We’ve all had to fight, dear: that’s life. But we don’t all end up in the House of Lords for doing it. You’ve had your share troubles and difficulties, no doubt, but you’ve been handed your entire political career on a plate, and, by all accounts, you’ve dined very well on it.
She has been criticised by some MPs who say she does not appear regularly enough on television to back the party. She strongly defends her record as chairman. “I’m out in the country two days a week, doing dinners and door-knocking,” she said.
Sorry, but dining at Tory supper clubs and ‘door-knocking’ aren’t enough: you need to be a consistent media advocate for all that the Conservative Party is doing, and you give the appearance of trying to serve two masters. It is not simply in the increasing disconnect between CCHQ and the Party's local associations that you have failed, but in your determination to spout on about multiculturalism and Islam under a patronising veneer of Christianity. You appear to have little knowledge and even less respect for the Party's history and structure, and are quite ignorant of its philosophy and traditions. If you had dedicated just one tenth of the effort you've devoted to religious affairs to arresting the inexorable decline in the Party’s membership, you might be justified in pleading to retain your position.
“If you said to us that after two and a half years in government, we would have more councillors than the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats put together - which we do have - I’d have said we were in a good place.”