Phil Woolas, the Labour MP for Oldham, a town that has been targetted by the racist British National Party and which is suffering from racial tension, has put forward the perfectly reasonable view that racial attacks on whites are not being condemned strongly enough by politicians and not being taken seriously enough by the authorities.
I don’t know about the situation in Oldham but this lack of concern is certainly the case in the part of Lancashire that I hail from. Asian youths attacking white people remains a taboo topic for too many politicians and that does nothing but help the BNP.
But step forward Shahid Malik, a members of the Labour Party national executive, to condemn Woolas and claim his remarks would be misused by extremist groups. Why? Can’t he see that by giving the impression of indifference to black on white violence, politicians merely feed the sense of abandonment and unfairness that the disgusting BNP exploit?
How can it possibly serve race relations to attack a politician who is criticising racial violence?
To be honest I am amazed that the careerist Malik is anywhere near the NEC of the Labour Party. His family have a lot of power in the party in Burnley – scene of race riots last summer (which Malik managed to somehow get himself arrested in) and I am told there are a lot of local people who are far from happy about the way his family operates in the local party – to say the least.
But more importantly I cannot understand how someone who is prepared to take such a stand against a Labour MP fighting to keep a community together, in extremely difficult circumstances, can be given a place in a top body of the party.
Those towns in the North of England that have suffered from strained community relations, Oldham, Burnley, Bradford etc, need a good dose of straight talking and honesty and they need politicians like Phil Woolas who are prepared to deal head-on with real problems affecting both communities.
And it is precisely people like Shahid Malik, so quick to silence any criticism of his own community, that help create an atmosphere of distrust which can only help the real racists.
Woolas has responded to the criticism here
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent understands why what Woolas says important and makes some excellent broader points.
Blogger Iain Murray seems to miss the point I’m afraid.