The conventional Westminster bubble accounts of Sayeeda Warsi quitting the government rely on unpleasant Tory spin questioning her motives.
In fact there is a much richer Warsi story to be written about the multiple complexities of the British Muslim communities – the plural is important – which cannot be reduced to the horrors of the Gaza conflict. In 2010 David Cameron described Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’ This week President Hollande of France, Europe’s most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel leader, described what was happening in Gaza as “massacres.”
Cameron dropped his critique swiftly while Hollande spoke for European public opinion. But for the British Kashmiri Muslim community, the Palestinian cause is second to the cause of Kashmir where more than 70,000 Muslims have been killed in the past 25 years since India imposed military rule on the divided, contested nation which is to both India and Pakistan what Kurdistan is to Turkey, Iraq, Syria and now the Islamic State.
Warsi’s mentor and very close friend in her years trying to make her way up the West Yorkshire political ladder was Nazir Ahmed who was made a Labour peer by Tony Blair soon after 1997. Blair’s people did not bother to contact a single Labour person in Yorkshire about the nomination. Ahmed was a local businessman and Labour councillor because in his Labour-run town only Labour could help with planning permission or getting settlement rights for poor people in Kashmir who came to the UK for cousin marriage or for old age family care thus maintaining the stronghold a few men had over the community and its voting behaviour.
A little further into Yorkshire the Kashmiri community was too big to be a one-party show. Bradford threw up Tory council majorities and so Warsi was one of the ambitious wannabees who opted for a Conservative career. Nazir Ahmed, by now a Labour peer, encouraged her and spoke for her in elections to the fury of her Labour opponents. Community always trumps party affiliation.
Cameron like Labour has any number of ageing Muslim businessmen who have done well in Britain to put in the Lords but they are not much use in doing political business. He promoted Warsi even though she told a meeting in Rotherham in the May 2010 election that most Muslims in parliament were without ‘azool’, the Urdu word for honour and they were in politics to promote personal, family or community interests.
She was a feisty peer and made strong speeches against anti-semitism. Unlike Sajid David, Cameron’s hastily promoted Culture Secretary, who turned his back on his religious and communal identity as he went off to New York to work for global finance capital, married outside his faith, and offered himself as a grandson of Thatcher contemptuous of the north, Warsi had always stayed close through marriage, family and presence to her Kashmiri background.
Cameron’s patronizing decision to send her to the dysfunctional Foreign Office under William Hague made matters worse. The FCO has become the graveyard department under Cameron. The UK has managed to alienate Washington and has no friends in Europe where most expect Britain to leave the EU if Cameron’s In-Out referendum is held.
China and Russia ignore the UK and India prefers to buy its military hardware from France and has not supported London at the UN on any major issue since Cameron became PM.
Cameron has fired respected FCO ministers like Alistair Birt and Jeremy Brown to offer ministerial slots to Tory MPs to keep them loyal. Now Caneron has replaced the at least fluent and intellectually able Eurosceptic William Hague, by the overtly anti-EU managerialist Philip Hammond.
The anti-European Treasury has replaced FCO people as Cameron’s principal advisors in No 10 and in Brussels with its own trusties and since 80 per cent of Cameron’s foreign policy time is managing Tory policy on the EU, the FCO, which prefers to work for Britain not a party faction, is sidelined.
But for Warsi, as for all British Kashmiri Muslim citizens, the Kashmir question is uppermost. Like Ireland for Bostonians, or Israel for New York Jews, Kashmir burns up every single British Muslim from the region who now has a UK passport. Unfortunately for her Cameron, Osborne and Hague has put all their eggs in India’s basket, hoping to create a 21st century axis between an old European power and a rising Asian one.
In this process, there is no room for human rights abuses in Kashmir, let alone any consideration of democratic rights for the Kashmiri people and their families who are now British voters.
Labour has expelled its two most prominent spokesmen on Kashmir, namely the peer, Nazir Ahmed and the MP, George Galloway because of the stridency of their anti-Israel views which easily cross the line into old language about Zionists or Jews. Now Cameron has forced out of his cabinet the one Tory high-profile minister who really understands and can speak to Kashmiri Brits. At a stroke Cameron has lost a vital voting block in may key constituencies in the North and the Midlands where Kashmiri Muslim politics is well-organized and can deliver votes.
But the real problem is that after decades of treating Kashmiri Brits as voting fodder, the Westminster political-journalist elite does not grasp that they matter, they are real people, and will affect the future foreign policy of Britain as British voters who are fed up being patronized by out-of-touch political leaders and journalists.