Friday, October 06, 2006

Thinly veiled

Hadn't been to the Respect website in simply ages so thought I'd pop in and this caught my eye Jack Straw: resign now or be driven out at the election

Straw insists on a very specific dress code for his female constituents (apparently)The effervescent Mr Galloway is quoted as saying "Who does Jack Straw think he is to tell his female constituents that he would prefer they disrobe before they meet him... When put like that, [my emphasis] there's no one who would be considered part of the civilised political spectrum who would have anything but contempt for Straw.

"Yet, because this is about Muslims, we are seriously being told this is about breaking down the "barriers to community cohesion". It is not women choosing to wear what they want that is sowing division in our society. It is poverty, racism and the despicable competition between the Tory and New Labour front benches over who can grab the headlines as the hammer of the Muslims.

The ever present Mr Rees adds "He must resign now and let the people of his constituency choose someone who will stand up for them rather than attack them."

Oi! Straw! No!I have every sympathy with their irritation at Straw's crass, insensitive and pointless comments, which were published in Blackburn's local paper of all places, where 1 in 5 are Muslim, but I wish they'd stop throwing loads of rubbish into the argument, undermining what they have to say.

The title of the piece threatening to drive Straw out at the election, well I'm sorry but that's been tried not that long ago, and whilst the vote for the anti-war opposition was respectable it was well short of that required to make someone like Straw too worried for his job, particularly when so much effort was put in to trying to unseat him.

Iranian champion racer Laleh SeddighStop it with the macho posturing. Say he's wrong, don't threaten to do something you not capable of backing up. He should be unseated but it's incredibly unlikely because the mass base of the Labour Party isn't something that can be blown away with wishful thinking and hard work alone.

And Galloway's comments about disrobing are over the top and stupid. Pull yourself together man, you've got a valid point, don't spoil it!

Anyway, there's some much sounder comment out there on the subject. Comment is Free regulars Vikram Dodd and Mike Marqusee have weighed into the fray, as one might expect Lenin's Tomb has a take on this, and over at Pickled Politics the debate rages like no other. Also John MacDonnell has written about this on his blog.

I discussed this at more length a little while ago here so I wont add much more, but I will say, in my view, it isn't Muslims that need to integrate into wider society and become 'normal' but politicians that need to get in touch with the real lives of their constituents.

If they did that then they'd understand that the main barriers between people are not made of cloth, but ignorance and intolerance.


Liz said...

Jim - it seems the mass base of the Labour party is already eroding. They can no longer feel assured they will have the Muslim vote, for starters.

Jim Jay said...

The base of the LP has certainly eroded over the last 15 years, but it is still substantial - which is frustrating.

I'd say my experience is that it's much easier to pursuade people not to vote Labour than it is to support a left alternative - and one without the other is, of course, of very limited value.

On the "Muslim vote" although there has been a correlation in the past between areas with high density of Muslims and the Labour vote, and it's certainly true that most (not all) areas that Respect did well have well above average numbers of Muslims I don't think anyone can be assured of the "Muslim vote"

Partly because it never existed in the sense of being a large homogenous block and partly now because many Muslims are now political actors in their own right and they choose the whole spectrum of political allegences available to them.

Large numbers of Muslims voted for Jack Straw just last year when he was foreign sec. (although god knows if they will again) that's well after the war - I just think there is a tendency to extrapolate from one or two examples and stretch the evidence further than it will go to fit what people want to be the case.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Susan Blackmore on this one.