BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Warsi slams 'patronising' Labour
Baroness Warsi
Lady Warsi wants a voluntary support network for British Muslims
Labour's "patronising" attitude to ethnic minorities has come under attack from Conservative community cohesion spokesman Lady Warsi.

She said Labour treated minority communities as a "faceless homogenous block" and relied too much on "self-appointed community leaders".

She urged Muslims to set up a voluntary support network to prevent young people being influenced by extremists.

She issued the call for a "safety net" at the Tory conference in Blackpool.

And she warned: "To suggest, as some do, by simply pointing the finger at British Muslims and saying sort it out - cannot be the way forward."

Earlier this week, the Muslim peer came under fire after telling the Independent on Sunday immigration had been out of control and was making people "uneasy".

'Extremist beliefs'

On Tuesday, she told party activists that political correctness must not be allowed to "stifle legitimate" debate.

I was brought up to believe that being British meant you didn't go on about it
Sayeeda Warsi, shadow social cohesion minister

"I do have a challenge today for British Muslims. A challenge to create a safety net for young minds that may be being influenced by extremist beliefs.

"By coming forward with a voluntary support network, a national foundation, a place for help, support and guidance to whom families and individuals can turn when they pick up on the signs of disenchantment with our country and its democratic ways and institutions.

"Something that comes from the community, with an understanding of its culture and beliefs but as professional and dedicated as any charity."

Lady Warsi mocked Prime Minister Gordon Brown's 80 references to "Britishness" in his Labour conference speech last week, insisting this did not mean he had solutions to problems of cohesion.

"In fact I was brought up to believe that being British meant you didn't go on about it," she said.

She accused Labour of an "appalling use of patronage politics," and a "patronising approach to our minority communities by treating them as faceless homogenous block".

Labour's "reliance on self-appointed community leaders, mainly men, has left many in our communities unheard," she added.

Government 'chaos'

She said the Tories would "reject that creed of multiculturalism that is peddled by the government, where the focus is on what divides us rather than what unites us.

"We must have a pride in what we stand for and we will start by ensuring the teaching of history in our schools gives a proper sense of the origins of our great democratic institutions."

She added: "We must have these difficult debates, and must not allow political correctness to stifle legitimate discussion and fundamentally we must ensure that all are included in our vision of community cohesion."

Shadow minister for communities and local government, Paul Goodman, has meanwhile accused the government of "chaos" in its engagement with British Muslims.

Muslim Council

He was speaking at a fringe meeting called Islamist Radicalism, which was addressed by a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Shiraz Maher, and an ex-IRA member, Sean O'Callaghan.

Asked by a member of the audience if the government was appeasing Islamists, Mr Goodman replied "The government isn't consistent enough to appease anyone. They're all over the place on this.

"There was a huge panic after 7/7. Then Tony Blair came up with an 11 point plan that Charles Clarke (the then home secretary) knew nothing about.

"Then Ruth Kelly cast out the Muslim Council of Britain. Now, eight to nine months on there is a turnabout on the MCB."

Speaking after the meeting he conceded the government could not have foreseen events since 2001.

But he said looking back over the past two or three years there has not been any consistency in the government's approach.

He added that it was hard to see how any future Conservative government would treat the MCB as partners, but said "you have to talk to everyone".

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific