On Chishti defection and Sands sacking

Via Pickled Politics, with their memorable headline “Labour lose brown person to Tories”, someone I knew as a union activist at Aberystwyth has joined the Conservative party just months after standing against the party chairman, Francis Maude, in his home seat of Horsham in Sussex. I have to say I didn’t know Mr Chishti that well at Aber, to the extent that I can’t quite remember what position he held in the union, but I do remember him being around. I also remember that people misspelled his surname as “Christi” even back then, and the same mistake has been repeated now that he’s made the news. Chishti refers to a town in Afghanistan (called Chisht) from which the Chishti Sufi order originated. The order has many followers in both India and Pakistan, and he may be descended from the order’s originator Khwaja Moinuddeen Chishti, or maybe not. Anyway, his name’s definitely not Christi.

Noticeably he cites the Labour party’s more authoritarian turn even since 2005:

Mr Chishti says since standing as a Labour candidate in 2005, the party “has become far more authoritarian”, particularly with its attempts to introduce a crime of glorifying terrorism.

“Being a practising barrister myself, I don’t even know what that means, actually,” he said.

Also at PP it’s noted that a blogger claims he received a personal email from the sacked Sunday Telegraph Editor Sarah Sands claiming that she was fired because she published an article by Patrick Sookhdeo. The sacking is blamed on a campaign by bloggers, notably Islamophobia Watch, something on which they elaborate here. I can’t imagine that this is the only reason she was sacked; as Peter Wilby points out in this week’s New Statesman:

[Dominic] Lawson’s Sunday Telegraph was at the heart of right-wing thinking. He was replaced by Sarah Sands, who presumably with management support, made it jollier and girlier - though she also signed Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor who is almost the only right-wing columnist now worth reading. After less than nine months, Sands was fired. Her replacement, Patience Wheatcroft, the former Times business editor, is a serious Tory. The transformation is instant. Gone are the light headline typefaces that Sands favoured, the italicised standfirsts, the ragged setting on news stories. Gone, too, are the readers’ letters on spanking which I have highlighted previously, and any frivolity in the news pages.

In other words, Sands wasn’t seen as serious enough to edit a “serious Tory” paper. The redesign, by the way, was no great success either; I heard of it being mistaken on newsstands for a regional paper because of the new banner typeface. I can’t imagine that Sands was fired just for the Sookhdeo piece because Dominic Lawson was not fired after publishing four far more inflammatory articles by “Will Cummins” in July 2004. In fact, Lawson has since become a columnist on the Independent! The Sookhdeo article that caused the controversy, anyway, was inaccurate, libellous even, but even if Lawson didn’t get the push over Cummins, perhaps the Telegraph company no longer wanted to be seen as a natural home for madmen, bigots and ignoramuses?

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