The pessimism of Baroness Warsi

October 3, 2010 2:42 pm

Baroness WarsiBy Tulip Siddiq / @TulipSiddiq

Just days after the new Labour leader Ed Milliband called for an optimistic approach to politics, Sayeeda Warsi sinks to negative mudslinging and the best example of pessimistic politics we could hope for.

Pessimistic politics preaches that things can’t be better, and that things can’t change. This breed of politics plays on fear and manipulates opinions to achieve its own negative goals.

It is pessimistic because it attacks groups in our society who need to be engaged, not alienated. It is pessimistic because it panders to people outside those groups who need to be challenged, not have their prejudices reinforced. It is pessimistic because it states that British society is irreversibly divided and offers no hope of improvement.

It is our duty to challenge this kind of pessimism.

At a time of fragile relations between the political class and the voting public, making unsubstantiated allegations about certain groups in our society and accusations of disrespect for democracy is hugely irresponsible especially from someone in a position of such responsibility. Our approach should be to challenge fraud wherever it exists, and not to make it an ‘ethnic problem’.

Yes, I acknowledge that problems do indeed exist in some communities, but by singling it out as a purely ‘Asian issue’ rather than an issue for all of us, Warsi risks alienating huge numbers of people. Of course we need to fight voting fraud, but let’s do it together.

Warsi has been around long enough to know that the way to engage with different groups in our society is not to accuse them needlessly of fraud and corruption, but to engage with them, open those societies up and bring them fully into the political mainstream. We must expect and support everyone to do the right thing, not condemn communities as incapable of playing by the rules. Corruption, wherever it exists, can only be defeated with optimism, not Warsi’s pessimism.

Her rhetoric is particularly damaging because of her position as a cabinet member, a baroness and chairman of the Conservative Party – not to mention as the most senior British politician of Asian origin. What she says carries enormous weight, and her lead is taken by others and it is essential that she understands that she is a link to a community which desperately needs engaging.

Don’t get me wrong, of course she has every right to critique communities and, in fact, it is her duty to do so when there is clear proof of wrongdoing but it is imperative that she is reasonable and rational in her critiques.

Furthermore, without her providing clear evidence there is no way to respond to these attacks. Why is she not identifying which constituencies she alludes to? The lack of clarity means that everyone in this community gets tarnished with the same brush and no one has a chance to defend themselves.

More disappointingly, I feel that Warsi is making this a partisan issue. If voting fraud does exist, and it may well do, we need to tackle this across communities and across parties. This problem will not be solved through political point scoring.

In his acceptance speech, Ed Miliband said that we have to face facts and realise that people have lost faith in politics and politicians. Ed was absolutely right when he said that our politics is broken – ‘its practice, its reputation and its institutions’. Ed went on to speak about turning the page but unfortunately, in contrast, Warsi seems to be engaging in the same old pessimistic politics that prevents real work from being done and real outcomes from being achieved.

Most regretfully, she does not seek to balance out her accusations by reminding the public of the countless hardworking and honest members of the Asian community who performed their civic duty and voted.

The politics of engaging with minority communities can be challenging. It will involve being critical at times, but this must be done in the correct way, a way which will not cause alienation and encourage the pessimists. It is only by balancing these competing demands that Warsi will help more British Asians enter the mainstream and prove that she is indeed the optimist our communities need.

Sadly she is yet to show she can provide the optimistic, inspirational leadership that is needed.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Reaching new communities

    Reaching new communities

    This article is from Our Labour, Our Communities – a pamphlet of 10 essays by Labour PPCs, published by LabourList in partnership with Lisa Nandy MP. I am proud to be standing as the candidate for my hometown of Hastings & Rye, but I am equally proud to stand as a parliamentary candidate who is also half Chinese and half British. My mother is Chinese Malaysian and came to this country 41 years ago to be a nurse in Hastings and continues to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Cutting Trident will be the price of support in a hung parliament. That’s the news reported from a meeting of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green leaders this week. With Labour’s slim lead and the SNP and Green vote threatening to impact on its share, this is a serious issue. Labour’s policy clearly states, ‘Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Lord Ashcroft has told him he shouldn’t have done it in 2010. Lynton Crosby has told him not to do it in 2015. It’s no surprise that David Cameron is trying to wriggle out of televised leader debates during the General Election – even though he has said he is willing to take part “in principle”. Time perhaps to dust off one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite barbs “He’s frit.” Neil Kinnock tried it in 1992 to try to goad John Major into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    By Stephen Timms MP and Ian Murray MP The Christmas period reminds us that modern life can be busy, hurried and demanding. The pressures of work, demands of family life and hectic Christmas schedules can prove stretching as we juggle competing demands. Increasingly the need for flexible work is driven by the complex shape of people’s lives; as parents go to work, struggle to make ends meet, perform career roles, take their children to school and activities and try and carve […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    As the start of the long campaign begins today, curbing the amount of money parties can spend between now and May 7th, Labour MP Jon Ashworth has sought to clarify what precautions are being taken to ensure publicly-funded government advisers are not using their time campaigning. Ashworth has sent a letter to senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood, asking him to answer a number of questions about what kind of campaigning activity was permitted and undertaken by special advisers (SpAds) in […]

    Read more →