Baroness Warsi is a product of her own failed analysis

I value any principled stand, but I worry when the principles don’t stand up to scrutiny.

I value any principled stand, but I worry when the principles don’t stand up to scrutiny

Sayeeda Warsi has today resigned from the coalition cabinet, in which she held senior roles in both the Foreign Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government, claiming that she can “no longer support government policy on Gaza”.

If we can put to one side the other possible reasons for her resignation – such as her being overlooked for more senior positions in the recent reshuffle or her anticipated demotion at future reshuffles – and take her error-strewn statement at face value, we are left with a principled political resignation grounded in foreign policy grievances.

Alongside Warsi’s FCO role, in which she was responsible for portfolios including Pakistan, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and Human Rights, she was senior minister of state for Faith and Communities in DCLG and, crucially, responsible for developing a strategy to tackle extremism.

This strategy was first promised three years ago, following the government’s separation of counter-extremism and counter-terrorism policy.

We are yet to hear anything substantial or of merit.

While David Cameron is very strong on the need to challenge non-violent Islamist extremism as a social ill (its relationship with terrorism notwithstanding), it is clear from Warsi’s inaction that she isn’t in the least bit concerned with it.

Warsi claimed in her resignation letter that the current crisis in Gaza and the British government’s response to it is becoming a basis for radicalisation. I would agree that extremist manipulation of foreign policy grievances, of which Gaza is a prime example, is one key element in radicalisation.

However, the Baroness is being naïve (or perhaps nefarious) in suggesting that it is the only element.

Interestingly, Warsi’s outspokenness on this issue contrasted with her silence on elements such as ideology, extremist narratives, identity politics or Islamist groups shows the absolute problem with giving her the counter-extremism portfolio.

In essence, she was in charge of a policy that she fundamentally disagreed with, something that has held national counter-extremism policy back for the whole of the three years that she has been in place.

I value any principled stand, but I worry when the principles don’t stand up to scrutiny. Did Warsi not feel the need to oppose British governmental aid to a Pakistan, whose indiscriminate shelling of North Waziristan and Baluchistan has led to more than 870,000 internally displaced people?

Apparently not, as she recently increased the aid package to £446 million.

Her unelected and tokenistic entry into British politics, then the Cabinet, then to look after a portfolio she had no clue about, likely gave her delusions of grandeur.

Certainly, it gave her delusions of representation. It must have been clear in her head that she didn’t represent the people of Dewsbury, but it was perhaps less clear to her, as the first Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet, that she didn’t represent Muslims.

The support she did have came from certain Muslim community groups. It was likely this that convinced her to avoid confronting Islamism head on and may also have convinced her to resign over Gaza.

Several politicians have spoken out against Israel’s actions and against British policy towards the conflict; they realise that they can contribute to the debate from their current positions in a way that Warsi thinks impossible. If anything, Warsi is now not only less representative of Muslims up and down the land, but also less capable to do anything about their grievances.

In this, there is indeed tragedy.

Likewise, there is tragedy in the ingrained notion that a politician who happens to be Muslim must speak as a ‘community leader’ for Muslims and react dramatically when humanitarian grievances, framed by Islamists as Muslim ones, become an issue for policy-makers.

The holes Warsi has left in the FCO and the DCLG both need filling, and I am sure the Prime Minister will manage this when he returns from his summer holiday. But perhaps he should reconsider who looks after counter-extremism strategy.

It is right that it is separate from counter-terrorism, but given that it will eventually be delivered in schools, universities, prisons and communities alike, it requires co-ordination from above the DfE, BIS, MOJ and DCLG respectively. A counter-extremism tsar operating out of Number 10 looks to be the most effective way of doing this.

The headaches that Warsi has caused for Cameron over the last three years may have been rounded off by a very big holiday headache, but with the above solution, he can return from Portugal headache-free.

Jonathan Russell is political liaison officer for Quilliam

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11 Responses to “Baroness Warsi is a product of her own failed analysis”

  1. David Lindsay

    If Baroness Warsi becomes a member of George Galloway’s public inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of Gaza, then thank or blame me.

    I tweeted the suggestion a little over an hour ago, George retweeted it, and his followers are retweeting it again with some enthusiasm.

    Don’t ask, don’t get.

    Strong endorsement of her stand has come from Sir Nicholas Soames MP (another one for George?), grandson of Churchill, friend of Prince Charles, and as complete an aristocratic Tory as could possibly be imagined, including in the sense of never criticising the Leader.

    Until now.

    By far the most telling aspect in Lady Warsi’s resignation letter was the view that the loss of Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve, and of William Hague from the Foreign Office, was not merely regrettable, but had positively weakened the Government.

    Oh, and that that was the view of other Foreign Office Ministers.

    Give that a moment to sink in.

    Give all of the above a moment to sink in.

  2. Arturaski

    George Galloway.

    Give that a moment to sink in.

  3. MikeHomfray

    I think the writer has missed the point.
    What is wrong is the Government’s unwillingness to make it clear that Israel’s behaviour is totally unacceptable.
    Sometimes Quilliam needs to remember that extreme Zionist behaviour is the problem. Its not always just about Islamists!

  4. Guest

    Unacceptable to fight terrorism. It’s always the Jews who are the problem in your view, etc.

  5. Guest

    Yes, the vultures gather.

    No surprise there’s horror that Hamas are – for example – not praised from them.

  6. David Lindsay

    No one else is bothering, even though his view of the BBC and Gaza is Labour Party policy.

    There are plenty of Old Right journalists and politicians (expect to hear a lot more from them now) for George to ask, plenty of old Forces and intelligence hands, plenty of rabbis, and plenty of Evangelical clergy and theologians.

    He needs at least one of each. Plus Warsi.

    It’ll be quite something if he pulls this off: “What, so you are more Tory than a former Chairman of the Tory Party, more Tory than Churchill’s grandson who has been a Tory MP forever, more Tory than a columnist on the Telegraph or the Mail, more Tory than the Forces, more Tory than the spooks, and more Tory than a Conservative Evangelical minister?”

    Of course, the addresses are no such thing. They are something else entirely. There is very little real history of diehard, if any, Zionism in the Tory Party. It has come in with everything to which what is now the Tory Right is usually opposed.

  7. Barry Curtis – she doesn’t seem very reliable or principled to me.

  8. Upasana

    I so identify with this piece ….even in India we have these notions and such politicians

  9. anon

    But if some foreign folks beat seven bells out of each other, why do we have to “have a position” and wring our hands?
    No one on the left is is getting in a state about the Tibetans or the Moslems in Western China?
    As long as they all pay cash for the arms we sell and restrain themselves from bringing their petty squabbles here why would we feel we have to tell htem all what to do?

    Equally if some youngsters decide to go off and fight in foreign wars it’s their decision and nothing to do with the Nanny State. Equally they can’t expect any help when they get into trouble in foreign parts

  10. Guest

    No, supporting Hamas and wanting to destroy Israel is not Labour Party policy.

    And nice revisionism there.

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    Er, plenty of us do condemn China, thanks. The *mainstream press* is not interested, which is not the same thing at all.

    And a lovely isolationist view from you – we shouldn’t care elsewhere. But then again, many on the right don’t care *here*, so…

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