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

  • Featured Five reasons why Labour is likely to win the next general election

    Five reasons why Labour is likely to win the next general election

    On Monday this week, YouGov President Peter Kellner wrote about the ‘fundamentals that favour Cameron’ being re-elected PM in 2015. He lists some fair points, though I’ve argued before that Mr Kellner can be a bit selective in how he presents public opinion. So let me offer you a counter-point: the fundamental factors that favour Ed Miliband and the Labour party in 2015. These are the reasons why I think Labour will emerge as the largest party after the General Election […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Nearly one million people forced to use food banks in the last year

    Nearly one million people forced to use food banks in the last year

    David Cameron and his party may be claiming that the cost of living crisis is over – but perhaps they should speak to the nearly one million people who were forced to rely on emergency food aid from food banks in the past year. 913,138 adults and children received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust food banks in the last 12 months – that’s a rise of 163% on the number who were helped in the previous financial year. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Going for the student vote: Postgraduates matter more

    Going for the student vote: Postgraduates matter more

    In a politics dominated by efforts to chase the grey vote it is nice to see a bit of electoral competition at the other end of the generational divide. As Labour weighs up what to do about tuition fees it might seem that a big offer to students could yield important gains next year at the general election, as well as shoring up any post-2010 support tempted to return to the Lib Dem fold. 40.5% of students voted Lib Dem […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Independence won’t deliver for Scottish women

    Independence won’t deliver for Scottish women

    As the referendum debate in Scotland picks up pace, there is an increased focus on how women will vote. So far, it would seem that women in Scotland are steadfastly resisting Salmond’s overtures. It’s no surprise, given that his central offer for more childcare has been dismissed by the experts, and women are starting to understand that the SNP are being led by polls and not principles. Women are asking why, if the SNP’s commitment to equal representation is real, […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly survey: Cost of living, elections and devolution

    Weekly survey: Cost of living, elections and devolution

    Average wages are set to rise faster than prices – so is there still a cost of living crisis? Ed Balls says there is, the Tories are arguing that there isn’t. What do you think? And with the European and local elections coming up next month – how much campaigning is going on in your area? And when were you last out on the doorstep? Also in our survey – Ed Miliband has pledged to devolve at least £20 billion to be […]

    Read more →