Posts Tagged ‘Lord Nazir Ahmed’

What Lord Ahmed’s suspension reveals about Labour’s relationship with minorities

17/04/2012, 11:36:15 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Lord Ahmed affair neatly encapsulates Labour’s problem with minority communities. It illustrates the dangers of a decades old neo-colonial deal that the central party has concluded with several so-called community leaders.

This isn’t just an issue for the Muslim community, a trip to Leicester, Southall or Harrow would reveal similar arrangements with the Hindu and Sikh communities.

The key to the deal is votes. This is what the community leader brings to the table.

Ahmed has long been one of Labour’s gatekeepers to the Pakistani community in the north. His position in the early 1990s as one of Labour’s leading Muslim councillors combined with his links to Mirpur in Pakistan (where the vast majority of Pakistani migrants to the northern mill towns originally came from) made him a kingmaker across northern parliamentary seats with large Pakistani communities, particularly when it came to Labour candidate selections.

He sat atop the pyramid of biraderi or clan based community politics which traditionally delivered result-swinging vote banks, happily doing the bidding of the central machine for several years.

In return for these votes, the party bestows two privileges on the community leader: establishment legitimacy that distinguishes them from other local leaders and a free hand within their community to do what they will – as long as nothing bad leaks out into the national news.

In Ahmed’s case, Tony Blair elevated him to the peerage. Lord Ahmed was the nation’s first Muslim peer. The party coddled and respected him and asked few questions about what he said or did within the community.

Until of course news of his offer of a “bounty” on President Obama’s head surfaced. Within hours of the story hitting the news, as per the deal, he was in trouble.

But the reality is that Ahmed has held and espoused similar views for several years. In this particular instance, whether he did or did not say what is claimed about Obama is irrelevant. He should have been suspended and potentially expelled because he was sharing a platform with and supporting Hafeez Saeed: an international terrorist who heads Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group which killed over 150 people in the terror attack on Mumbai.


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