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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 22:45 GMT
Profile: Lord Nazir Ahmed
Lord Ahmed
Lord Ahmed has criticised the Afghan campaign
It was not long ago that Lord Nazir Ahmed, the peer at the centre of the bugging allegations, was still being described as a New Labour loyalist.

Now, while he apparently still backs Tony Blair's premiership, the Muslim Labour peer has shown he is not afraid to court controversy even when it means making a stance against his own party.

Lord Ahmed's opposition to the war in Afghanistan is not the first time he has pitched himself against the government.

He was one of 18 Labour rebels who helped to defeat the government comprehensively in the House of Lords last year when ministers wanted to drop Section 28, which stops local councils promoting homosexuality.

Support for government

Since being made a peer in 1998, he has been fully onside with the government on other issues, such as his pro-European outlook.

The Home Office tapped into his skills when it enlisted him to write a joint report on the issue of forced marriages.

Lord Ahmed and his co-author Baroness Uddin concluded that the practice should be treated in the same way as child abuse or domestic violence and urged the police to do more against it.

Foreign Office minister Denis Macshane:
Denis MacShane: Allegedly implied he had transcripts of conversations
While he has been on the national political stage as a peer for only two years, Lord Ahmed has run his politics alongside a business career for much longer.

The 44-year-old married father-of-three was born and educated in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and read public administration at Sheffield University.

Later, Lord Ahmed went on to build a career as a business development manager while keeping actively involved in his local community.

Yorkshire politics

He was a local councillor during the 1990s, as well as serving as a JP on the magistrates' bench, chairing the South Yorkshire Labour Party for four years and acting as a non-executive director of Rotherham Health Authority.

It was his Rotherham background that brought him into frequent contact with Denis Macshane, the town's MP and the Foreign Office minister who denies saying the peer's private conversations were being circulated in Whitehall.

Race relations took Lord Ahmed's political activity beyond South Yorkshire, such as when he founded the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992.

Unrest claims

But his strong advocacy of the right of determination of the people of Kashmir has stirred controversy among some other ethnic minority groups.

Earlier this year the Indian Overseas Congress accused him of trying to incite unrest among British Asians when he backed a plan for a "peace bus" to publicise the issues behind the conflict in India-administered Kashmir.

Lord Ahmed also called for an investigation into the alleged recruitment of British Muslims to fight in so-called "holy wars".

He argued the facts behind such claims had to be established for the "British Muslims' sakes".

That illustrated his concern that whole communities were wrongly being blamed for being part of jihad activity.

Such fears over damaging labels were displayed too when he led calls for a new law against religious discrimination in 1999.

The bugging claims are, therefore, only the latest example of Lord Ahmed hitting the political limelight.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Lord Ahmed's concerns will only raise more questions"
Labour peer Lord Ahmed
"I cannot understand why this has happened to me"
Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane
"I'm afraid all of this is complete and utter rubbish"
See also:

17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Bugging claim denied by minister
05 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
MP repeats bugging allegation
06 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Bugging your keyboard
15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Row over Kashmir 'peace bus'
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