15 May 2011
The Tory Reform Group (TRG) consists of members and supporters of the British Conservative Party, and it promotes One Nation Conservatism. I joined in the early 1980s, shortly after joining the Conservative Party, because I share its values. However until recently I had little time to take part in activities.
"Reformer" is the TRG's in-house magazine and is published twice a year. It can be downloaded free from the TRG website. My first article has just appeared in the Spring 2011 issue on page 22, and is reproduced below with the permission of the editor. It was written in October 2010.
In particular, it sets out my views on where Britain should make reasonable accommodation for minorities and where it should not.
Mohammed Amin, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and a TRG member for over 25 years, writes about the need for the Conservative Party to engage with and attract support from ethnic minority communities
Michael Ashcroft’s analysis of the 2010 election “Minority Verdict” points out that we did less well in constituencies with a higher ethnic minority population. Muslims are a significant component of the ethnic minorities that we fail to attract sufficiently strongly. I regularly meet Muslim business owners and professionals who, if they were white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) would be expected to vote Conservative but who actually vote Labour despite their wealth and socially conservative attitudes.
In my opinion, the reasons for our under-performance are rooted in individual and collective memory. As someone who has lived in the UK for over 50 years, I still remember the Labour Party as the promoter of the Race Relations Act while the Conservative Party had Enoch Powell making speeches about “Rivers of blood.” While I have not assembled a list of other rogues, sadly Enoch Powell was not the only Tory in the last 50 years telling Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities that they were not welcome here.
One of David Cameron’s greatest achievements has been to make the Conservatives a party where all Britons are welcome, including those who are gay or members of ethnic or religious minorities.
The sad thing is that, as Michael Ashcroft points out in his book, to a significant extent this has been “accomplished in the teeth of furious opposition from supposedly Conservative-supporting bloggers, commentators, newspapers and even some Tory MPs.” Even now in 2010 we have Conservative MPs alienating Muslim voters with private members bills to ban the burka (Philip Hollobone MP quoted in the Daily Telegraph web edition on 1 July 2010) or implying that some communities have imported barbaric and medieval views about women into Britain (David Davies MP quoted or possibly misquoted in the Daily Telegraph web edition on 28 January 2010.) Every such story gets passed around within the Muslim community, often with the vigorous support of our opponents, and costs us Muslim votes.
What we need within the Conservative Party is a clear vision of what we want our country to be and what it stands for. We need to make it clear where we are happy to make accommodations for minorities and where we are not. For example, in my view:
The above short list can of course be expanded. The key point is that such strategic principles should underlie our policy statements and day to day pronouncements. The principles need to have hard edges, to avoid ending up as the sort of mush that everyone agrees with but which means nothing.
Once the vision is clear, we need to emphasise recruitment into the Party. Most British Muslims are natural Conservatives; they just don’t know it yet! We need to emphasise the overlap between Conservative values and Muslim values, values such as self reliance, the importance of the family, belief in bettering oneself and the importance of striving for education, understanding the importance of religion in the lives of individuals and communities, support for private business and belief in low taxes.
The easiest place to start is with those groups who support us most strongly amongst the WASP community; small and large business owners and professionals such as doctors, dentists, accountants and pharmacists. Once each constituency party has recruited such “low hanging fruit”, it can move on to the rest of the Muslim community.
Mohammed Amin is writing in a personal capacity.