Warsi: Thuggish 80s racism better than current ‘respectable racism’

Former Tory chair warns that far-right campaign methods are seeping into mainstream politics


Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative peer and former party chair, has condemned the rise of ‘respectable xenophobia’ in an interview with the Guardian.

Pointing to the Leave campaign in the EU referendum, and Zac Goldsmith’s campaign in London, Warsi suggested that ‘the concept of the enemy within’ is spreading into mainstream politics, having originated with UKIP and the far right.

She told political editor Anushka Asthana:

“I was still disgusted but more comfortable with the racism of the 70s and 80s that was overt and thuggish, than this new form of respectable xenophobia where it is done in political circles, journalism and academia.”

This week, Warsi wrote to Sun editor Tony Gallagher, objecting to Kevin McKenzie’s article suggesting that Channel 4 reporter Fatima Manji, who wears a hijab, should not have been covering last Thursday’s attacks in Nice.

‘This divisive column which once again is an attempt to ‘other’ the Muslim community may sell a few papers,’ Warsi wrote, ‘but the consequences are felt by ordinary people in Britain who are the victims of daily tragic incidents of hate crime.’

Pointing to the 300 per cent increase in attacks against Muslim women in the last year, Warsi wrote that ‘journalists should be held accountable for “shock jock” writing.’

She continued:

“I’m writing to you not because as a white man I hold you responsible for all the stupid actions of other white men but because I urge you to exercise your role as editor with responsibility.”

Warsi, who resigned from David Cameron’s cabinet in 2014 over the government’s response to the bombing of Gaza, has been criticised for her own campaigning, in particular her use of homophobic leaflets during a 2005 campaign.

In today’s interview she said she was ‘ashamed’ of those leaflets, saying she had confused ‘this commitment to family values with a dismissal of alternative sexual lifestyles.’

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