Baroness Warsi is no symbol of Tory progress
Joanna Whitehead // 28 February 2010
For the uninitiated, today is the last day of LGBT month; a time of the year for celebrating, highlighting and reflecting upon issues affecting the LGBT community. Ironically, this coincides with a profile in today’s Independent newspaper of Baroness Warsi and her unique position within the Conservative party. As the first Muslim member of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, British-Asian and Yorkshire born Warsi is being heralded as symbolic of Cameron’s new ‘classless’ party. Warsi is as far away from the stereotypical, blue-blooded Tories of yore and her place in the party is a major coup in terms of representation and diversity.
Harold Wilson’s statement that “A week is a long time in politics” could not be more poignant, however. Have we become so stirred up with post-election fervour that we have forgotten the delights of Ms Warsi’s 2005 election campaign literature, as per the Guardian’s 2005 article?
“Labour has scrapped section 28 which was introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old… now schools are allowed and do promote homosexuality and other alternative sexual lifestyles to your children.”
“Labour reduced the age of consent for homosexuality from 18 to 16 allowing school children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.”
“I will campaign strongly for an end to sex education at seven years and the promotion of homosexuality that undermines family life.”
In addition to the sensationalist and wildly problematic content of the literature, Warsi went further by allegedly distributing the aforementioned material to the Muslim community in the district, whilst campaign literature circulated to the white community allegedly focused on issues of immigration. In an interview in The Times newspaper of February 2008, she insisted that her campaign was “not about homosexuality” but “sex education generally”.
A non-male figure with authority and visibility in a major political party is usually ample cause for celebration, party politics aside. A British-Asian Muslim woman in a politically powerful position is reason enough for a full-blown fiesta, in my opinion. Representation is essential in any democratic society. For me, political parties wishing to attain any semblance of credibility and authenticity need to ensure that the make-up of their candidates is reflective of wider society.
Despite David’s impassioned polemics, Attitude front cover and protestations that they’re now “the party for change”, while they continue to wheel out Warsi as a symbol of their progress, the Conservatives will never convince me that their party is a group concerned with equality for all.