On 14 April 2018, at the request of my friend Dr Ghulam Abbas I gave a talk to about 30 people of Pakistani origin in Huddersfield. They ranged in age from mid-teens to mid-40's. I covered three separate topics:
Below you can listen to the 7-minute recording, or if you wish read a transcript.
I also have some other pages on the same theme:
"Muslim voters and the Conservative Party" — my address to Oxford University Conservative Association.
"Talk to Richmond Conservatives on appealing to Muslim voters"
“What I feel and a lot of Muslims feel is that this [the Conservative Party] is not the party for us. What is your take on that?”
Abbas, that is a good challenge. Let me take these points one at a time and I will be happy afterwards to take more questions from the floor.
There are some young conservatives around! But it is quite true. Most Conservatives are older. I am aged 67.
When I was at university, I was a Trotskyist. In my 30s, I learned better.
When I joined the Conservative Party in 1983, it was much whiter than it is now. If you think it is too white now, go back to 1983 and have a look at it then.
Attitudes to ethnic minorities were far less positive than they are today when we have 19 Conservative MPs from black and minority ethnic community backgrounds.
I joined the Conservative Party for only one reason. Because I believed in its economic policies. And no white racists were going to keep me out. I knew that when I was sitting in the room with them, they couldn’t say things to each other that they would have been saying if I had not been there.
The best way to get rid of any remaining unpleasant old white racists is for more ethnic minority people to join the Party and drive them out.
You may feel that the Government talks too much about terrorism. The first duty of any government is to keep all of its people, white and brown, Christian, atheist or Muslim, safe. That is why the Labour government of Tony Blair reacted the way it did after the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
Remember it was the Conservative Party in 2010 when we came into government that reduced the period of detention without charge that Tony Blair had introduced.
But let’s be frank. I am as concerned about radicalisation as any other person you will meet. The first victim of radicalisation is the person who is radicalised. They may go on to get themselves killed, for example if they go to Syria. Even if they do not do that, they can waste their lives being consumed by hatred of British society instead of getting on with their careers.
That is before you consider any harm to other people that a radicalised person might do. Quite apart from the 4 bombers, I never forget that there were 4 other innocent Muslims who were killed in the London 7/7 bombings. Terrorism is a direct threat to you and me.
It is an even worse indirect threat because it makes our fellow citizens distrust and fear Muslims. Terrorism poisons our society. That is why every Muslim should be as concerned about terrorism as every non-Muslim.
There is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is simply “No.”
Let me say a few words about the long answer. People regularly ask me “What is the Conservative party going to do for Muslims?”
When I am feeling provocative, I give them the answer “Nothing. The Conservative party is going to do nothing for Muslims.”
The reason is that I believe the issues that really matter for Muslim voters are the same as the issues that matter for other voters: education, health, the economy, taxation, and so on. There are no Muslim issues as I said before apart from things like freedom to practice halal slaughter where all the parties are agreed. They’re not a reason for voting Labour compared to voting Conservative.
But there is something quite subtle I’ve learned after many years in politics, about the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. They see the country in fundamentally different ways.
The Labour Party sees Britain as made up of lots of separate groups. Religious groups, ethnic groups, union members... And the Labour Party tries to find policies that appeal to particular groups, and hope that those groups add up to a majority.
The Conservative Party is different. It sees Britain as being made up of millions of individuals, or millions of families. It wants policies that work for all of them. It assesses individual people on individual merit.
The best way of You proving that is to look at the 19 Conservative MPs from BME [black and minority ethnic] backgrounds and the 32 Labour MPs from BME backgrounds. [See my page "UK black and minority ethnic MPs after the 2017 general election."]
Almost all, certainly an enormous proportion, of the 19 Conservative ethnic minority MPs represent seats that are overwhelmingly white. Overwhelmingly white local Conservative party associations chose an ethnic minority candidate from a choice of 3 candidates where the other candidates were white. They chose the ethnic minority person to be the candidate because they wanted the best candidate. And white Conservative voters in that constituency voted for that person to become an MP.
I could give you a long list of names like Kwasi Kwarteng [MP for Spelthorne], Rishi Sunak [MP for Richmond], Sajid Javid [MP for Bromsgrove], but I won’t go on forever. That is the 19 Conservative BME MPs.
When you look at the 32 Labour MPs from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, you see something very different. Almost all of them, 29 out of the 32, represent seats with very high numbers of ethnic minority voters. That is where the Labour Party chooses candidates for winnable seats who are from ethnic minorities.
Very white local Labour parties in very white safe Labour seats, because there are very white safe Labour seats as well, in general do not choose ethnic minority candidates.
Because the Labour Party’s view is “If it’s an ethnic minority seat, let’s go and find an ethnic minority candidate. If it’s a white seat, let’s go and find a white candidate.” That isn’t how the Conservative Party thinks. The Conservative Party sees individuals on merit regardless of colour.
That is the key difference as far as I am concerned between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party when it comes to ethnic minorities.
And with that, I’m going to finish, but I am happy to take questions.
I have selected some questions of continuing interest, and tidied up both the questions and the answers from the oral interaction.
I have lived in the UK since 1952. Governments between then and now have been roughly as follows:
The Conservative Government ran the economy well, and everyone in Britain became much better off.
I was 14 in 1964 when Labour leader Harold Wilson was running against the incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Wilson, an Oxford don, was much younger and more charismatic. His consistent message of "13 wasted years of Conservative Government" resonated with me and many others, even though it was inaccurate, and Labour won the general election.
Throughout his government the economy had problems, including the devaluation of the pound.
The Conservative government of Edward Heath was not particularly successful, and was brought down by the miners' strike.
The Labour government ran the economy particularly badly.
Margaret Thatcher came to power and transformed the UK economy.
The New Labour government under Tony Blair as Prime Minister ran the economy pretty well at first, because it had promised to stick to the Conservative Party's overall spending and taxation plans. However once the promised period had elapsed, the government spent increasingly more money, financed by borrowing. When the global financial crisis hit, the UK was unprepared.
The coalition government led by David Cameron had to come in and clean up the mess.
The overall historical message is that Labour Governments always mess up the economy, which then has to be fixed by the Conservative Party.
Many of you [the audience] are running your own businesses. You know that if a business is losing money, with its costs exceeding its revenues, you have to do something. That may involve job cuts.
The Labour Party's problem is that it does not understand business or industry at all. That is why it always messes up the economy.
Similarly, when Education Secretary Michael Gove realised that in the UK, as in many foreign countries such as Mexico, the teachers' unions are an impediment to running good schools, as indeed are local education authorities. That is why he struggled so hard against what he called "the blob" and pushed for self-governing schools.
The Conservative Party is a radical transforming party, which is why I joined it. What made me a Conservative was watching "Free to Choose" [see below] and reading the book of the same title. They key message that only the Conservative Party understands is that free market capitalism is the best way to organise the economy for everyone.