I campaigned for John Denham twice, in Southampton. Therefore, I have a particular interest in seeing how he measures up as Communities Secretary.
Here’s Paul Richards, the special adviser to his predecessor, Hazel Blears. He explains well the policy choice that John Denham has to make:
Within Labour, as in all parties, there is a debate about how to tackle radical Islamic politics. Some, schooled in 1960s and ’70s student politics which saw the PLO, IRA, ETA, etc, as “freedom fighters”, view today’s Islamist groups as a legitimate part of the political scene, to be debated with, as though politics is just an extension of the Oxford Union or LSE students’ union. Some Cabinet ministers seem to believe they can appear on public platforms with Jew-haters, misogynists, or people who believe 9/11 was a CIA/Mossad plot, and win the audience over with their debating skills.
Others see the rise of political Islam as a major threat to our democracy; to the UK Jewish community; and to Britain’s interests abroad. Some enlightened ministers, such as Ms Blears, recognised that young Muslims were coming into contact in colleges, youth clubs and cafés with the “Al-Qaeda narrative”, which seeks to explain the world through the simple lens of “the West versus Islam”, Muslim victimhood, and through a “Zionist conspiracy” — and sought to counter it in practical ways. Tens of thousands of young British Muslims hear these messages. But it takes only a tiny minority to become radicalised to the extent that they want to support or even commit acts of atrocity.
The way to tackle this strand of political Islam, which creates the environment for terrorists to brainwash and recruit potential bombers is not to debate with it, nor to invite it for tea at the Department for Communities or Number Ten. It is to expose it, disrupt it, and make it clear such views are repulsive and unacceptable. The new Secretary of State, John Denham, and the new Communities Minister, Shahid Malik, arrived at their desks this week. All eyes will be on them.
Read the rest.
I have spoken to Labour Ministers and MPs about precisely this divide in strategy. The dichotomy that Paul Richards maps out above is clear. There are some Ministers who get it. There are others who do not.
In a sense, it doesn’t matter. We are in the dog-days of Labour in power. It will, I’m afraid, be a long time before Labour sees No 10. again.
But I do care about the Labour Party. I don’t want to see my party making damaging errors, pursuing the modern-day equivalent of the sort of zany policies that made Labour a joke all the way through the 1980s and the first part of the 1990s. I also don’t want to see a Labour Party that tolerates clerical fascists, supporters of terrorism, antisemites, homophobes and misogynists – or worse still – regards such people as partners.
There is going to be a battle over these issues. Those who advocate chumming up to Islamists are inclined to regard them as the most “authentic” Muslims or Asians. They will also be tempted by the false promise of deliverable bloc votes, cast in their constituencies.
If that becomes the dominant view within the Labour Party, in opposition, the party will have betrayed British citizens, including those who are Muslim. They will also have given a filip to the politics of hate, represented by the BNP, and by the Islamists.
But we’ve been here before, and we’re better prepared now than we were a decade ago.