Sunday News Review

Straw comments spark race row amongst Labour MPs

A row around race and sexual exploitation flared last night as opponents and supporters reacted to a suggestion by Jack Straw that Pakistani men were grooming white girls for sexual abuse. The former home secretary was accused of attempting to “stereotype a whole community” after he suggested that some Pakistani men in Britain see white girls as “easy meat”. He was also criticised for not speaking out on the issue when his party was in power. – Independent on Sunday

Straw suggested young Pakistanis deliberately look for white girls and urged the Pakistani community to be “more open” about the issue. The Blackburn Labour MP said: “Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders. But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani-heritage men … who target vulnerable young white girls. He claimed there is a “specific problem” after two Asians were jailed for targeting vulnerable teenagers. The issue of Pakistani men in the north of England allegedly grooming underage girls for sex also dominated headlines throughout the week. – Sunday Herald

However, Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said Mr Straw was wrong to accuse British Pakistani men of targeting white girls. “To generalise in this stereotypical manner and castigate a whole community is not becoming of him,” said Mr Mahmood. Mr Mahmood’s criticism was echoed by Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, who said: “I don’t think this is a cultural problem … I don’t think you can stereotype an entire community.” Mr Vaz added: “Why didn’t Jack Straw say something about this? He has represented Blackburn for 31 years, he has been the home secretary.” However, Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP for Keighley, West Yorkshire, said Mr Straw should be commended for highlighting a problem that, she said, Muslim MPs were not prepared to confront. “The vast majority of young Asian men are fine, but there’s a minority who do not behave properly towards white women and sweeping it under the carpet will only make matters worse,” she said. – Sunday Telegraph

Polls point to Labour win

Labour is on course for a thumping win in next week’s Oldham East and Saddleworth byelection, according to opinion polls, in what would be a devastating blow to the Liberal Democrats. Despite losing the seat by just 103 votes at last year’s general election and although the Tories are allegedly holding back their campaign at David Cameron’s request, Nick Clegg’s party trails by 17 points in two separate surveys of voters in the key marginal. It will be seen as a resounding thumbs-down to the Lib Dems’ role in the Conservative-led coalition government. Labour blitzed the constituency with 500 campaigners yesterday as Ed Miliband made a new overture to disgruntled Lib Dems. The Labour leader urged people to “send a message about the betrayal on fees”. Portraying the Lib Dems as locked into a Tory agenda that many do not support, he added: “For the first time since this Conservative-led government was formed, voters will have their chance to pass judgment on David Cameron and Nick Clegg. They can show the government what they feel about police cuts both here and across the country. And they can make clear their anger about a VAT rise that is the wrong tax at the wrong time.” – Observer

The first out of the stocks (with changes from the General Election) are the ICM and Populus polls
ICM have CON 18%(-8), LAB 44%(+12), LDEM 27%(-5)
Populus have CON 15%(-11), LAB 46%(+14), LDEM 29(-3)
So both have Labour substantially up on their general election support and the Lib Dems dropping less than the third placed Conservatives. Rumour has it that the third poll, from Survation, has a bigger squeeze on the Conservative vote with them pushed down to single figures. The Labour and Lib Dem campaigns seem broadly equal – just over 70% recall getting leaflets from the two parties, about 20% have been doorstepped by them, about 20% have been phoned by them. In comparison only 57% have had a Conservative leaflet, 7% had them on their doorstep and 5% been phoned by them. Populus also asked how people would have voted had there been a joint Con-LD candidate – I make the repercentaged figures for that Lab 47%, Con/LD 38% – so it would have been a little closer – UK Polling Report

David Miliband to do a Portillo?

David Miliband is considering a role in television, in a surprise move that appears to dash his brother Ed’s hopes that he can be persuaded to join the shadow cabinet. The Labour leadership candidate has approached the BBC with a number of programme ideas. It is unclear whether Miliband wants to front one-off documentaries or a series of shows, but it is thought all his proposals would involve him taking a starring role on screen. In a statement, a spokesman for Miliband said: “David is talking to a range of organisations about his interest in foreign and environmental policy.” A BBC spokesman confirmed: “David Miliband has approached the BBC with some programme ideas. The BBC receives suggestions from a wide variety of sources and these will be considered in the same way as any others.” Industry sources believe he has held informal talks with executives at the corporation, however. – Observer

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