Picking apart Miliband's shadow appointments

Caroline Flint

Caroline Flint

It's tempting to play "spot the Zionist", "spot the Islamist appeaser" or even "spot the closet antisemite", whenever a new list of political appointments is released. The list of Shadow Ministers published this week is an open invitation to do just this. There is no doubt thata Labour front bench with John Denham as Home Secretary and Sadiq Khan as Foreign Secretary would be
a very different prospect from a team with Jim Murphy and Ivan Lewis in the same positions. However, all parties are coalitions and it would seem that Ed Miliband's appointments are a genuine attempt to reach out across Blair v Brown and even Miliband v Miliband lines.

Jim Murphy, who ran David Miliband's campaign, will be a strong voice for Israel in Shadow Cabinet discussions as defence spokesman. Ed Balls will not be soft on security issues at the Home Office and worked hard with Gordon Brown on economic regeneration in the Palestinian territories when he was at the Treasury.

Sadiq Khan is joined by pro-Palestinian human rights campaigner Andy Slaughter at the Justice Department. Neither will welcome new coalition legislation to change the law on universal jurisdiction.

The other key appointment is Caroline Flint at Communities and Local Government, who will take charge of Labour's policy on social cohesion. Although she is not quite in the hard-line mould of her good friend Hazel Blears, she is seen as a tough, no-nonsense operator, unlikely to advocate a policy of accommodation with UK-based Islamists. One of her first jobs will be to respond to the review of the £60 million Prevent counter-terrorism programme, presently being carried out across government. Eric Pickles is keen to pass responsibility for counter-terrorism to the Home Office, but it may return to him via the back door if duties for countering radicalism pass to local councils.

Asim Hafeez

Asim Hafeez

Meanwhile, the new government is having to deal with the legacy of some of the Labour government's more bizarre appointments in the fight against extremism. Mr Pickles has been bequeathed Senior Muslim Adviser Mohammad Abdul Aziz, who has argued within the DCLG for closer links with Islamist organisations such Islamic Federation Europe. Questions have been raised about Mr Aziz's company Faithwise, which has received funding from the department. According to the Centre for Social Cohesion, Mr Aziz has charged £725 a day.

Over at the Home Office, Asim Hafeez continues his work as head of intervention at the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). As the JC revealed last year, Mr Hafeez built his reputation on a series of hardline lectures arguing that Muslims need to return to stricter adherence to Koranic teachings. Mr Hafeez has been arguing for some time that the government should concentrate on hardcore terrorist violence rather than tackling sectarian Islamist ideology.

The OSCT is headed by Charles Farr, a former Foreign Office mandarin who has long argued for closer dialogue with radical Islam. Last summer he clashed with Home Secretary Theresa May when she banned TV preacher Zakir Naik. May said Mr Naik had expressed support for Osama bin Laden and said every Muslim should become a terrorist. Documents filed by Mr Naik suggest Mr Farr believed the preacher had an important role to play in the fight against extremism as he had renounced violence.

    Last updated: 5:26pm, November 8 2010