CST sledge-hammer, MPAC nut
The claims of this pressure group — and the aggrieved reaction to them — are both highly exaggerated
The Community Security Trust seems to be seriously exercised by the antics of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. Why?
It transpires that, earlier this year - well before the general election - the CST held a meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission raising concerns about MPAC.
The CST was particularly concerned about MPAC's propaganda activities against certain serving MPs whom it perceived as being either sympathetic to Zionism or Islamophobic.
Mark Gardner, communications director of the CST, said of this meeting: "MPAC are notorious for viciously abusing and intimidating candidates whom they dislike. Knowing their track record, prior to the election campaign we raised our concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which assured us that it would deal firmly with such behaviour."
Now that the election is over, the CST has announced that it is minded to take its concerns further, perhaps by asking the relevant law-enforcement agencies to intervene.
Is vicious election literature such a terrible thing?
On the face of it, the CST is right to be concerned, even though most of the politicians MPAC had in its sights were non-Jewish. These included Phil Woolas, immigration minister in the Brown government, who had incurred MPAC's displeasure by supporting the Iraq war. Another target was Andrew Dismore, whom MPAC accused of harbouring Zionist sympathies - at Hendon mosques, in the run-up to the May 6 poll, MPAC distributed leaflets drawing attention to these sympathies and exhorting the faithful to punish Dismore by voting for any other candidate simply to ensure his defeat. Other MPAC targets included Denis MacShane at Rotherham, Claire Ward at Watford (a "washed up New Labour automaton and warmonger"), Terry Rooney at Bradford East and the Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood in Birmingham, whom MPAC accused of "demonising Muslims" by voting with the Labour government both on the Iraq war and on other security issues.
As the JC reported on its May 7 front page, the CST claims that the propaganda offensive launched by MPAC against these candidates was vicious, abusive and intimidatory. I have not seen every leaflet and poster MPAC produced but those I have seen do not strike me that way at all.
Typically, MPAC election literature reminded the faithful of the voting records and public pronouncements of certain candidates, and then called upon the faithful to cast their votes in accordance with that publicly available information.
The language used was certainly strong and blunt. This was ethnic politics in the raw, a far cry from the spirited but genteel exchange of views to which the British electorate has become accustomed. And suppose some of the MPAC election literature was "vicious." Is that so terrible? I can think of a number of outstanding British politicians who made their names by being brilliantly vicious with their opponents.
That said, MPAC doesn't strike me as a particularly sophisticated organisation. I would imagine that it is an embarrassment to many British Muslims. Its claims to have unseated the incumbent Labour MPs at Watford, Hendon and Bradford East seems to me to be greatly exaggerated.
The defeat of Claire Ward has brought into parliament the Tory Richard Harrington, who is - by the frank admission of MPAC's founder, Zulfi Bukhari - "an open Zionist". The LibDems snatched Bradford East by 365 votes and Andrew Dismore lost Hendon by a mere 106. At Bradford, there might well have been some tactical voting by MPAC devotees, but in Hendon it is just as likely that a few dozen Jewish voters, angered by Labour policy towards Israel, decided to switch their allegiance to the pro-Israel Tory Matthew Offord.
MPAC's claim to have "destroyed" Phil Woolas's majority at Oldham East (he scraped home by 103 votes) seems to me childish in the extreme, since there is nothing to suggest that factors other than national ones influenced the result.
Denis MacShane romped home at Rotherham, his majority scarcely dented. And, at Birmingham Perry Barr, notwithstanding MPAC's best efforts, Khalid Mahmood increased his majority from 7,948 to 11,908, and his share of the total vote from 47 per cent to over 50 per cent.
So, while we cannot discount MPAC's efforts entirely, these seem to have been peripheral at best, and in several instances to have backfired spectacularly, reinforcing the unfortunate stereotype of Muslims as implacably vengeful. Surely the CST has better things to do than bother itself with such a body.