SHAFAQNA – Up to 15 Muslim candidates are expected to become MPs in the upcoming general elections, eight of them for the first time. While one Muslim incumbent MP may lose his seat.
Overall this will be an increase from the eight Muslims who were MPs from 2010-2015. The increase in Muslim parliamentarians is still some way short of the 29 needed for Commons to reflect the UK’s demography.
Of the 15 Muslim candidates most likely to be elected 11 are standing for Labour, three for the Conservatives and one for the SNP.
The 2010 intake of Muslim MPs have impressively moved swiftly up the ranks of their respective parties.
Tory MP for Bromsgrove, Sajid Javid, is the highest ranked Muslim MP hoping to return to the Commons. Javid, who took over Bromsgrove in 2010 after Julie Kirkbride stood down following an expenses scandal, is expected to defend his 21.9% majority.
Javid was promoted three times in a rapid and rare rise, within 18-months of his election he become the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. He has previously served as Economic Secretary (2012- 2013) and as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (2013-2014).
Shadow Treasury Minister, Shabana Mahmood, is certain to return as MP for Birmingham Ladywood. The seat has been solidly Labour since 1945, with the exception for a brief period when the Liberal Party won a 1969 by-election. Labour MP Clare Short held it from 1983 until she stepped down in 2010 when Mahmood took the baton, extending Labour’s majority from 20.5% to 28.2% going against the national trend.
Like Javid, Mahmood also rose quickly to the shadow front benches. In 2010 Mahmood became the Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) and from 2011 to 2013 she was the Shadow Minister (Business, innovation and skills). She has become part of Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls’, close team and is working on some of Labour’s economic policies. Balls said of her: “Shabana has been doing a brilliant job on corporate tax reform. I think she will be a member of a future Labour cabinet.” Mahmood has taken principled actions on many issues.
Against the orders of her party she famously protested against a local Sainsbury’s that was selling products from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine. Mahmood also took a strong stance against OFSTED’s “Trojan Horse” allegations of radicalisation in schools in Birmingham.
Two other Labour Muslim MPs who have risen up the ranks are Sadiq Khan (Tooting, elected in 2005) and Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow, elected in 2010).
Khan, who is Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Lord Chancellor, is expected to fight off the Conservative’s in Tooting for the third time. Tooting is the most Labour prone of the three seats that make up the Conservative’s “flagship borough” of Wandsworth. While Wandsworth is a solidly blue borough at a local level, all three seats fell to Labour in 1997. Putney was regained by the Conservatives in 2005, Battersea in 2010, Tooting remained Labour. Demographic changes mean the seat is one of very few that the Conservatives did not manage to win throughout the 1980s but Khan’s 5% majority is now a viable target, if at the upper-middle end of Conservative ambition.
Khan was promoted to Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Lord Chancellor, one of the top six jobs in Government in 2010, and in 2013 was also appointed as Shadow Minster for London.
Under Gordon Brown Khan, was appointed Communities Minister in 2008 and in 2009 rose to become Transport Minister and was the first Muslim to attend the Cabinet. Khan then went on to become one of the key figures behind Ed Miliband’s nomination to become the leader of the Labour Party, securing the trade union vote for Miliband. Khan is rumoured to stand for the Mayor of London, one of the most powerful positions in Europe.
With the fading of the Respect Party in the East End of London and a predict slum in votes for the Lib-Dems nationwide Rushanara Ali is expected to comfortably defend her 42.9% majority in Bethnal Green and Bow.
In 2010 Ali became the first person of Bangladeshi origin to have been elected to the House of Commons and along with Shabana Mahmood and Yasmin Qureshi, became one of the UK’s first female Muslim MPs.
Ali was appointed Shadow International Development Minister and in 2013 Labour reshuffle, Ali joined the Shadow Education team. She resigned from the post in protest over Labour decision to support air strikes in Iraq in September 2014. In a letter to Miliband she said, “[T]here is a genuine belief in Muslim and non-Muslim communities that military action will only create further bloodshed and further pain for the people of Iraq.”
Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi (elected in 2010) is predicted to return as Bolton South East MP.
Bolton South East has elected Labour candidates to be MP since its creation in 1983, with majorities of more than 15%, so to date it has been a safe seat. Unlike the other two Bolton seats, it has remained safely Labour.
In 2010 Qureshi held the seat for Labour with 47.4% of the votes; Conservatives got 25.6%, Liberal Democrats 15.9% and BNP 5.1%.
Qureshi is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Justice and the Secretary of the All party Parliamentary Group on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
The longest serving Muslim MP, Labour’s Khalid Mahmood, is expected to easily defend his Birmingham Perry Barr seat which he has held since 2001. Up until the 1970s Perry Barr was a marginal seat, the inclusion of non-white wards like Handsworth in various rounds of boundary changes though have made it into a solid Labour seat.
The 53 year-old served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Home Office Minister Tony McNulty from 2005 until 2006.
Rehman Chisti (Tory, elected in 2010) is a Member of the Justice Select Committee and is leading David Cameron’s outreach to Muslims. His Gillingham and Rainham seat was newly created in the last election, replacing Gillingham, with the Conservatives wrestling back control after 13 years of Labour rule. Chisti won for the Tories with 46.2% of the vote, with Labour on 27.7%, Liberal Democrats 18.1% and UKIP 3.2%. Chisti had stood against Francis Maude in 2005 as a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in Horsham. He later joined the Tory Party.
Of all the defending Muslim MPs Labour’s Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central, Labour, elected in 2010) political future remains the most uncertain. Devastating Scottish polling for Labour indicates the Party could be reduced to as few as four seats losing to the rising SNP.
According to an Ashcroft poll in February Glasgow Central is likely to see a 22% swing from Labour to SNP, however more recent polling predicts a tighter fight in Glasgow.
Sarwar was elected as the Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party with 51% of the vote, resigning earlier this year. He served on the International Development Select Committee. Sarwar is also Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption and was a member of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee.
New kids on the block
Of the eight potential new MPs six are Labour, one is Tory and one is SNP.
In the North West Labour’s Azhar Ali is hoping to regain Pendle from the Conservatives, a seat the reds have held from 1992. The Conservative Andrew Stephenson won by 3,585 votes. The seat has a large Asian population, making up more than 18% of residents – most of whom are of Pakistani origin.
Fellow Labour candidate Amina Lone is also expected to swing a Lancashire seat from the Conservatives.
The latest Lord Ashcroft poll on Morecambe and Lunesdale shows Labour out in front by six points. Lone’s seat is Labour’s target seat number 14 (out of 106).
Lone is the founder of Social Action and Research Foundation, a think tank that wants to tackle poverty and inequality by actually engaging with the communities living in poverty. To highlight what she hopes to achieve she points to her life, “I was pregnant at 18, a mother of two by 20 and a single mother by 30. I’m a brown, dyslexic woman and under the Conservatives I am Broken Britain. Under Labour, I am a parliamentary candidate,” she told The Muslim News.
In Yorkshire, Imran Hussain is expected to mount a strong challenge for Labour against Bradford East Lib Dem MP David Ward who was elected with the smallest majority in West Yorkshire – just 365 votes and a 33.7% share of the votes; Labour got 32.8%, Conservatives 26.8% and BNP 4.6%.
Also in Yorkshire Naz Shah, a women’s rights campaigner, will stand against the Respect Party’s George Galloway, who took the seat from Labour in a by-election in 2012.
And in London Labour PPC Rupa Huq is predicted to swing Ealing Central and Acton (7%) from the Conservatives (Source: January Ashcroft poll).
Also in London, Tulip Rizwana Siddiq is taking over from Labour’s retiring Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn, a key Tory target seat and England’s most marginal seat. Siddiq is expected to defend a Labour majority of just 42 votes. However, according to the latest Ashcroft poll Siddiq is expected to win the three-way marginal seat, with a lead of 17 per cent.
Nusrat Ghani is the Conservative’s only one new Muslim PPC with a good chance of winning. Ghani is expected to be the Party’s first Muslim female MP. She was elected in an open primary to represent the Conservatives in Wealden, a safe Conservative seat since its creation in 1983.
Ghani is expected to take over from Tory MP Charles Hendry who won the seat in 2010 with a large majority – 17,179 votes ahead of his nearest rivals, the Liberal Democrats.
Ghani is a journalist for the BBC World Service and was posted to various trouble spots, including Burma, Russia, and Afghanistan. She previously stood against Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham Ladywood and lost.
With a string of polls indicating a potential near-wipe out of Labour by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the nationalist party’s sole Muslim PPC Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is projected to swing Ochil & South Perthshire from Labour’s Gordon Banks.
The area, which has seen several boundary changes over the years, is characterised as a fight between the SNP and Labour. Banks won the seat in 2005, holding it at the last election by 5,187 votes.
Ahmed-Sheikh is a leading business women, screen actress and mother-of-four. She is National Women’s and Equalities Officer for the SNP and won an OBE for “services to Business and to the Asian community in Scotland.”
There are a record number of Muslim candidates overall, an increase from 80 in 2010 to 94.
24 of 96 candidates are Lib Dems, while 22 are standing for Labour, 19 for the Conservatives, 10 UKIP, seven Green, one SNP and 14 for other parties.