If Lady Warsi is hounded out, it will be a loss to British politics

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It will be a sad day for British politics if Conservative party chair Sayeeda Warsi is hounded out of office. The party is experiencing its worst slump in the polls since coming to power and within her own party many are making Warsi the scapegoat. There is barely a week that goes by without someone, usually a Tory, calling for her head. This time Labour has seized upon her present plight, over alleged flaws in her expenses claims, and called for her to step down.

A fair assessment of whether or not she wilfully broke the rules will come to light soon. But what is often lost in this relentless pursuit by some who want Warsi gone is what she has brought to British politics in the last decade and more. In a few weeks, we will celebrate 25 years since the four black and Asian Labour MPs – Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Keith Vaz and Paul Botang – came into parliament. A quarter of a century on, Warsi is the only minority-ethnic politician in government.

I've known her for more than 15 years. In 1996 she helped us establish Operation Black Vote in the north. Our goal was to encourage minority communities to engage in civic society, and use the democratic process to ensure greater social and racial equality. Her passion for these goals and empowering women, particularly Asian women, was infectious.

She bellowed at the men: "This is not back home, where women are seen but not heard. Here our mothers, sisters and daughters must be allowed the wonderful opportunity to fulfil their great potential." She then turned to the women among the audience: "I know this is often difficult for you, but the stronger you are, the better our community, our society will be." Even back then Warsi wasn't just a firebrand making rousing speeches; she backed up her rhetoric as a human rights lawyer and activist, helping many, including women escaping from abusive marriages. It was no surprise to me that political bosses from all sides of the spectrum beat a path to her door in a bid to get this talented woman on their side.

It is important to note that when a black or Asian person enters into formal politics, unlike other politicians, they are faced with an almost impossible balancing act, which most get wrong. They have a choice to be a multifaceted MP with views on a whole range of issues, such the economy, education, housing, health, at the expense of talking about race or a particular religion; or to be a one-dimensional politician who is rarely seen outside the paradigm of race or religion. Most minority politicians choose the former, which is akin to female politicians never talking about gender inequality. As the most senior minority-ethnic politician in Britain, Warsi has bravely straddled both worlds in a way that is barely acknowledged, much less appreciated.

For example, when some UK Christians felt under threat, Warsi – a devout Muslim – declared that this was a Christian nation, and she was proud of its values. But she is also strong enough to stand up for her own faith, lamenting that "middle class Islamophobia" was becoming the norm.

On the international stage, she is an example of progressive Britain, looking for opportunities to open up trade links with the emerging markets such as India, Pakistan and China. On the domestic front Warsi, along with Theresa May and Dominic Grieve, has been central in transforming her own parliamentary party – from being all white when she joined, to its 12 minority MPs today. The 2010 election saw the greatest ever increase in minority MP numbers.

Ultimately, David Cameron may capitulate to Warsi's detractors; but if she is hounded out of office, where will the progressive voice in so many difficult areas come from? Not from the Conservative males who are doing the hounding, that's for sure.

Simon Woolley

Archived Comments

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Loss leader

In the grand scheme of things Jeremy Hunt should go before her. His position is untenable.

However, two points of note. 1. I understand that they are not allegations, she has responded to them without denial. Either she goes for claiming for expenses she did not incur, or her advisor should go - you are not allowed to sublet without a landlords permission. 2. I can remember quite clearly Baroness Warsi making hay with Labour MPs over their expenses, so what's good for the goose...

Mr Stuart is right about Warsi

As ever the wisdom of David Stuart is sound...

I want honest politicians with integrity above all else

Simon. I admire your loyalty in sticking up for Lady Warsi and defending her. BUT having read up on the story in the media it really does not look very good for her at all. I agree with David, that if she has been claiming expenses when she really should not have done so, then she should go. And if that is the case, it won't be a loss to British politics.

I want politicians who are above board, honest and have integrity. Anything less is not good enough. They are bringing Westminster and the Houses of Parliament and politics itself into disrepute.

Fight on ! Lady Warsi !

Men are packed animals, they hound in packs. I suspect Lady Warsi is a bit like Lady Thather, who was accused and suffered from being "not clubbable", This means she is prone to packed hounding from less able males who group together to boost their strength.

Warsi is a street fighter, a Big Beast. Tory has been using her as their defence shield more or less.

Fight on, Lady Warsi, you have got what many of these men hasn't, sheer guts that is .

What Goes Around.

Westminister, the House of Parliament, British Law and integrity were brought into disrepute under New Labour between 1997 to 2010.

Baroness Warsi's crime might be because she spoke up against the Rochdale Sex Grooming Gang. If not, why did the Asian gentleman wait this long to reveal this information?

He has finally nailed her political career to the ground. The Conservative Government have finally got her where they want her.

Class Before Colour

I fully sympathise with your viewpoints but if she's broken any part of the ministerial code then she or the special advisor will need to go. Even though she is annyoing and unelected, it's still nice to have a female Asian woman up there.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear

It is not looking good for Lady Warsi:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9308031/Tory-peer-Baroness-Warsi-and-her-secret-business.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9309129/Tory-peer-Baroness-Warsi-should-face-police-inqury-Labour.html

If any of these allegations turn out to be true, she has to go, and it is no loss to British politics.

Social equality? Really?

Let us not forget the homophobic leaflets that Lady Warsi propagated during her 2005 election campaign and that she has branded peaceful secularists in her fairly recent 'militant secularisation' speech as Stalinesque anti-Christian zealots. Someone who wants to maintain privilege for straight religious people at the exclusion of everyone else is not a promoter of social equality in my view.

Mr Stuart is correct

What's good for the goose indeed. I understand the sentiment, but she's a Tory before she's anything else, and her hands are as dirty as the rest.

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