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'Dear Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi…'

PLAN: Baroness Warsi

DEAR SAYEEDA,

So the penny has finally dropped: you need to appeal to ethnic minorities in order to win a Conservative majority. Well, you’re in luck, because the penny has also dropped for many ethnic minority communities: slavishly voting for Labour is not, to coin a phrase, working… for us. Given the ideological merger between the current incarnations of the three main parties, it no longer seems to matter which one you vote for.

I welcome this phenomenon, as it is likely to have one of two knock-on effects – either ethnic votes will finally open up to real competition (which could help smash the ideological gridlock), or refreshingly dynamic parties (like Respect) will emerge to provide a real alternative.

It has been reported in the press recently that your party intends to follow the example set by Jason Kenney, a fellow conservative in Canada, and George Galloway in Bradford West. Apparently you have instructed your ministers to ‘attend ethnic events such as Diwali festivals, Eid celebrations’.

You’re certainly on to something good. But I would advise you to ignore Kenney’s ideas (attending ethnic events) and embrace Galloway’s more sincere approach (i.e. championing the interests). It pays much greater dividends in the long term. Allow me to explain.

LESSONS

The political establishment and its echo chamber in the mainstream media seem to have refused to learn the lessons of Galloway’s victory. If some of your peers are to be believed, Galloway snatched a safe Labour seat with a 10,000 majority by campaigning in a ‘sectarian manner’. This is a veiled version of what you described as ‘dinner table Islamophobia’, given Galloway’s fantastic popularity with Muslims and other communities. The fact that it wasn’t true – he won right across the city, right across the spectrum – didn’t stop the relentless attacks on both Galloway and, by extension, Bradford’s Muslim community.

Within those attacks lies the first lesson of why Galloway appeals to minorities: when they are under siege, defend them robustly. When people disparagingly refer to the ‘Muslim/black/brown/ Jewish/gay vote’, tell them that there is no shame in asking minority groups for support, they are not second-class citizens. This is what Galloway did.

Your party desperately needs to rid itself of the perception of being the party of xenophobia. A tip: grandly bashing ‘multiculturalism’ from a pulpit in Munich is certainly not the way to go about this.

Most ethnic minorities have family outside the UK, therefore foreign policy – especially in developing nations – often means more to us than whether George Osborne or Theresa May will be doing the Electric Slide dance at our next big party. A trip down memory lane: whilst a young David Cameron was an all expenses paid guest of the government of apartheid South Africa, Galloway was a friend and agent of the African National Congress. But that was a long time ago.

Or was it? Our Prime Minister’s misplaced priorities and double standards continue till today. Whilst actively bombing for human rights in Libya, Cameron welcomed the dictator of Bahrain to Number 10.

If a parliamentary majority is what you seek, here is what you should offer:
No to austerity, austerity-lite, austerity in slow motion and austerity postponed. No to these counter-productive wars. No to racism and selective-anti bigotry (i.e. Islamaphobia: good – anti-Semitism: bad). No to crippling education costs. No to the mass privatisation of public goods and services. No to media barons corrupting and debasing our nation.

Ethnic minorities want the same things as the majority: a party that offers collective betterment, radically progressive ideas and policies. And no more welfare and affirmative action for the real tiny minority: the rich.

Indeed come celebrate and party with us, but do not underestimate our sophistication. We will empower people who represent our interests. Not those willing to attend our dances. It is democracy we seek, not stupidity.

Regards,
Nelson

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