Don’t be fooled about the Tories’ “values”

A polling station in a hall at the back of an English church; an old lady is walking through the door. A plastic chair sits in front of a sign saying "polling station".

Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) there is a general election in the UK. We have a prime minister who is a notorious dilettante, a racist, a serial liar and a man whose diplomatic performance has been so miserable that it has led to a British national having an Iranian prison term extended, who proposes himself to negotiate a trade agreement with not only the EU but also the rest of the world following a departure from the EU next month and whose party and its supportive press seems to see no wrong in him. In the past I’ve been hugely critical of Jeremy Corbyn, the main opposition leader, particularly because he was weak on Brexit before the party adopted the policy of supporting a further referendum on Brexit and on any withdrawal deal, and partly because of the cowardice the party as a whole have shown in the face of witch hunts against long-standing members, including Muslims, but right now I am supporting tactical voting for the best-placed candidate to deny Boris Johnson a majority in the Commons.

I’ve come across Muslims who put an undue faith in Corbyn and others who say they will not support him no matter what, in some cases because Labour are against Muslims’ values and in others because he and some of his front bench are pro-Assad. In my opinion it would be a huge folly to trust the Tories because of these two issues. Boris Johnson is no friend of the Syrian people or of freedom or democracy anywhere, and if British citizens are in trouble in Syria, he will drop them in it with his loose tongue while Corbyn might use his contacts to help them. Tories and their allies have been talking for years about the importance of ‘stability’ and suggesting that Assad might be the “least worst option”, although this talk has died down a bit since ISIS were largely defeated. We saw how international support for the “Arab Spring” has given way to acceptance of the dictators that took over after the initial flowering, particularly in Egypt.

As for the ‘values’ question: the Tories are a majoritarian party whose power base is the white suburban and provincial middle class. Their culture comes from the Tory think-tanks that emerged during Blair’s years in power, such as Policy Exchange, which regard Islam, active Muslims or anything that sets Muslims apart as threats and this appeals to the provincial tabloid reader who does not know any Muslims and anything they ‘know’ about us, they read in the papers or saw it on the news. They don’t give a stuff what you think of homosexuality, gender identity or any issue along those lines. Tories stopped campaigning on “family values” in the 1990s when the sex scandals of the Major years, as well as changing times and values (slurs on single mothers are less of a vote winner when everyone knows at least one), made the slogan a political liability. Nowadays, they lecture about “British values” and every school and childcare facility has to teach children about these mythical values which nobody talks about except politicians.

Twice in recent history, Muslims in a western country have voted for the political Right (in the US with GW Bush and in France with Jacques Chirac) and both times we were knifed in the back once the election was over and we were no longer politically convenient. The same will happen if Boris Johnson wins this election, with or without Muslim support. If Brexit goes wrong, which there is a strong chance that it will, stories involving Muslims will make an easy distraction when people are angry about losing jobs or when food becomes scarce or expensive. On Unherd this week, Mutaz Ahmed advises the Tories to appeal to the older immigrant Labour voter, the African and Caribbean grandmothers, yet these are the voters that bore the brunt of the “hostile environment” policy and best remember the 60s and 70s when a Tory could win an election on the slogan that if people want one of them for a neighbour, they should vote Labour. Generations of socially conservative ethnic minority voters have voted Labour because they knew the Tories wanted to keep Britain white more than they cared about “the family”. Muslims should not forget this, least of all at a time like this.

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