Friday 12 August 2016

Sensitivities about ethnicity and religion

When I heard the following interview with Mishal Husain and Sir Eric Pickles  this morning two thoughts struck me.
Number one thought was that it was a little ironic that an item concerning political correctness and intimidation should itself display a perfect example of both. I mean, Husain’s tone positively brimmed with ‘intimidating school-teacher’, a mode she often adopts when challenging an interviewee. 
She gives the impression that she’s taking the devil's advocate role a bit further than absolutely necessary. 

Sir Eric Pickles was not his usual confident, nay, assertive self. The subject was handled as if the dreaded word ‘Islamophobia’ was hanging over them both like a black cloud, ready to burst at the slightest infringement of political correctness. That’s the irony.

Now for the second thought, which was that Mishal Husain seems to get lumbered with all the items concerning Muslims. Does she request them, seeing herself as an in-house advocate on behalf of the Muslim community, or are they foisted upon her by the producers in the eternal quest for impartiality and protection against accusations of inadvertent Islamophobia? 

While I was transcribing it, a not inconsiderable effort on my part, I began to wonder if I was being a bit over sensitive about ethnicity and religion myself. The funny thing is, well, it’s not funny really ….that the written word can suck the life out of it. I put in some of the ‘ums' and ‘aahs’ but for best effect, do listen to it here.

The first time I heard it there were several bits that made me gasp - but when I listened again I wasn’t so sure. 
Is it just because a) I don’t like Mishal Husain (because of her history*) b) I don’t like that intimidating school-teacher voice and c) I don’t like the BBC trying to obscure outrageous habits/demands by Muslims by bringing in  ‘other ethnicities’ and ‘all forms of racism’ every time a Muslim is criticised.

Or is the BBC being…….. biased?

Mishal Husain:
The time is now 25 to 8. We may have the mother of all parliaments, but our democratic foundation is being systematically undermined because of electoral fraud. That’s what Sir Eric Pickles, former communities and local government secretary and the government’s anti-corruption champion has said after looking into the issue following the scandal in east London last year where the mayor of Tower Hamlets was found to have bought votes.Sir Eric says politically correct over sensitivities about ethnicity and religion had meant state institutions had turned a blind eye to concerns about influence and intimidation of voters. He’s with us in the studio now. Good Morning. 

Good morning. 

You said that evidence was presented to you of pressure being put on women and young people in some Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to vote according to the will of the elders. What was the evidence? 

We received written, we received ah verbal evidence and one of the things we’re recommending is of landlords demanding to see the proof that someone’s voted a particular way  - by taking a photograph of the ballot paper, and that kind of intimidation was also reported, um in the various court cases that are taking place, and indeed the electoral commission did a survey in um January 2015 ah looking at precisely this. 

But the evidence was put in front of you - how many cases were there - how many different parts of the country - I’m just trying to get a sense of how widespread this evidence was and how strong it was? 

I wouldn’t want to suggest that this is endemic of all communities, I wouldn’t want to suggest that this is….. 

…..just the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities..the ones you mentioned.

I’m not…I’m not suggesting that this just relates to Pakistan and Bangladesh communities though it does have that effect - other political parties have been involved um in this kind of um intimidation and collection of..of ballot papers and in my report I have an index listing all the various cases. 

But you’re convinced it was more than anecdotal. - you’re convinced… 

oohyes of course….. 


Well entrenched is probably too strong a word but what the electoral commission found when they did the survey that within those communities there was a greater sense of a collective action rather than an individual making a decision, and as somebody who was brought up in Bradford, wants to see Muslim communities enter into politics and public life to a greater degree I want to encourage this, but I want to encourage it on a basis of um, of fairness. 

So at the moment are Muslims more likely to commit electoral fraud than other groups? 

Aahm, I think that if you look at the aahm, if you look at the schedule at the back of my report you’ll find that it does deal with other ethnic groups, ahm, ahm…..  

Such as… 

Whites….white people..but it is fair to say that we’ve seen it probably at its most extreme with aaaahm.. voting warehouses, um with personation, than anywhere else. 

You also say in your report that state institutions have turned a blind eye to concerns about influence and intimidation of voters and that there was political correct over sensitivity about ethnicity and religion — which state institutions? 

Well I think the most obvious would be the electoral commission who gave Tower Hamlets a five-star um - a five-star score against a background of inspections that they had.. 

When did they do that? 

Ah two years before um the court case… 
So they might not know that the…. 

Excuse me they most certainly did because I’m aware that those allegations have been made and the police have been reluctant to prosecute. 

Well indeed, well following the Tower Hamlets case there was a lengthy criminal investigation, the Metropolitan Police say, you know, at the end of it decided that there were no charges. Are they politically co… are they one of the state institutions that have turned a blind eye to this, because of political correctness? 

I was very surprised that a prosecution didn’t take place, and the reason for that is, in the court case, which is the same standard of proof, which is beyond reasonable doubt they’ve laid a whole catalogue of corruption, and I would have thought a police force should have followed those things through. 

So they should look at it again, should they? 

Yeah. Absolutely. 

Is there a broader problem with postal voting in general, because after the scandal in Birmingham in particular, far back as 2005, you know - a judge said the government had been complacent in the face of fraud, which would disgrace a banana republic and that particular scandal was all about postal voting 

Yes bu…. 

Now, you in government, you made recommendations  but you haven’t changed anything about the postal voting system when you had the chance 

i think that’s  a fair and reasonable criticism that all political parties should take, and I think basically in the number of places we expanded postal voting, in some places the whole of the electorate was on a postal vote and we didn’t give any considerations to safeguarding the privacy of the voter and ensuring that people who were applying actually existed. i saw evidence, convincing evidence of people suddenly appearing on the electoral roll for a particular address a few weeks before election and then disappearing immediately afterwards. 

Some might say it’s all bit rich you know, you talking about electoral fraud when your own party has been targeted, is being investigated, by the police over expenses incurred in the run-up to last year’s election. 

We’ll have to see where that goes, I’m not aware of anyone being charged.. 

Well you’ve already admitted that there were £38,00 of costs that were not  properly declared from the battle-bus tour 

that’s not terribly unusual in the case of elections, most legal parties have made the odd mistake, but I couldn’t really look at that because it was an ongoing investigation, that’s why it was not referred to in the report. 

Sir Eric Pickles, thank you.

Thank you.

*"Mostly homemade contraptions.."


  1. Well, Pickles was doomed from the start, wasn't he? Musain managed to quickly move from discussing a specific, local problem in Tower Hamlets to accusing him of accusing all Muslim communities as being corrupt in this way.

    He should have just said it was a problem with Labour votes, full stop, which it ultimately is.

    1. Maybe he should have asked her if there were not enough dead relatives still voting by post?

  2. Misahl Husain is of Pakistani family origin and lived for many years in Saudi Arabia. She has never seen fit to criticise the corrupt and oppressive governmental and judicial systems in those countries, based as they are on Sharia. She always seems eager to defend Islam from criticism. I wouldn't trust her an inch.

  3. I missed BBC TV News this morning & at 1pm but, unless the Olympics lulled me into a coma, there was no mention of Pickles' report on the later editions. Yet another blatant example of suppressio veri by the BBC.


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