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A Dangerous Demagogue?


Took our visiting Spanish political scientist to the local constituency hustings in Moseley. It surprised him greatly that there were opportunities for ordinary folk to put questions to the hopeful candidates up close and personal like this.

We all enjoyed the question put to the soon-to-be former MP Roger Godsiff, who turned the colour of his Labour-red tie when asked to discuss his £183K expenses claim for 08/09. Pretty good for someone who only turned-up for half the debates!

What struck me most of all, though, was the popularity of the Respect party candidate Salma Yaqoob: a presentable young radical who peddles a heady mix of rabble-rousing populism and misquoted statistics. Spectacularly inaccurate in her use of stats, the audience applauded nonetheless.

What a contrast with the measured reasoning of the speakers from the other parties? They referred to evidence and manifestos, policy documents and actual experience. Not Salma. It was like listening to angry adolescence arguing with the grown-ups.

Popular with some young people and many local muslims, she has stitched-up backing from the Green Party, whose candidate has withdrawn in her favour. There was not a single question she answered directly nor an opportunity to press the applause button that she missed.

So, does she stand for anything more than Salma Yaqoob Ltd?

It is hard to discern any coherent body of policy either on her website or that of Respect, the party she established with Guardian journalist George Monbiot and Labour reject George Galloway in 2004.

Initially a single issue party arising from the Stop the War Coalition, it has struggled to define a broad, inclusive identity. This is perhaps due to the fact that it draws its membership from the Muslim Association of Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain, The Socialist Unity Network, Socialist Resistance, and The Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

Salma has been a prominent local councillor in Birmingham, where Respect has seen no little success. Of course, it is easy for a local politician to promise the moon, the stars and the sky, when there is no chance of being elected, and that is what she has been used to. Now, however,  she has not put flesh on the bones of those promises and, under rational scrutiny, falls well short of the mark.

She and her Respect colleagues appear to have no understanding of the economy, defence, education or health, if today is anything to go by. Their principal policy planks appear to be attacking this government, America, the West, capitalism in general and Jewish interests, in particular. Not surprisingly, as this is the Muslim Socialist Party of Great Britain in all but name.

Clearly, if the far right can get airtime, so too must other shallow, factionalist and dangerous demagogues. But we must remember: this party will pose a real and present danger to the interests of liberal democracy if they get even close to power.

From → Communities, Policy

One Comment
  1. Kinana permalink

    From her website

    “The EDL mobilised at least 1,000 people in support of a hate-filled agenda of attacks on Islam and Muslims. They carried Islamaphobic placards and chanted “If they build a f**g mosque, burn it down”. This is a direct call for racist violence.

    I am quite sure that if gangs of Muslims were maurading through our town centres threatening to burn down churches that special laws would be passed, task forces established, and people prosecuted.”

    Salma Yaqoob speaks as if there are no laws in this country against incitement, threatening behaviour or breach of the peace. In Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries mobs of Muslims burn down churches with impunity – lets hear her condemn this.

    Her previous statements that the EDL should be ignored and that Muslims had more freedom in the UK than most Muslim countries were more measured.

    But as we get closer to the election she feels the need to appeal to and whip-up a Muslim sense of persecution and paranoia.

    She is playing a dangerous race/religion card.

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