British Muslims and the UK General Elections 2015

Dr. Mozammel Haque

UK’s 2015 General elections is historic in so many respects. A number of histories has been made in this election, particularly with respect to Britain’s Muslim politics. Britain’s political landscape was transformed as David Cameron won the landslide victory by securing the first Conservative working majority since 1992 and forcing three of his rival party leaders to resign in the space of two hours. With the Conservatives winning an overall majority – confounding all the opinion poll predictions – Labour’s Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage of Ukip all announced their resignations in quick succession on Friday morning, the 8th of May 2015.

A Record Number of Muslim MPs elected in 2015 Elections A record number of Muslims was elected as Member of the House of Commons in the General Elections of 2015. 13 Muslim MPs, up from 8 in 2010, have been elected in one of the most unpredictable and extraordinary general elections in Britain. “It is great news that there are more Muslim MPs elected than ever before. However, the House of Commons still does not reflect the diversity of the population,” said Editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi. He added that it was a welcome sign that more Muslim women have been elected this year. Eight of the Muslim MPs are women, six Labour, one Conservative and one SNP. The election included the first Muslim SNP MP, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, elected in the landslide by the nationalist party in Scotland. Four Muslim candidates won seats for the first time for the opposition party; thy are Rupa Huq, Tulip Rizwana Siddiq, Naz Shah and Imran Hussein and five who were re-elected are Khalid Mahmood, Shabana Mahmood, Rushanara Ali, Yasmin Qureshi and Sadiq Khan. Anas Sarwar in Glasgow was the only sitting Muslim MP not re-elected after falling victim of the sweeping SNP victories. On party numbers, Labour has nine Muslim MPs, the Tories three and the SNP one.

Despite fielding 24 Muslim candidates all in unwinnable seats, the Lib Dems have yet to have a Muslim MP. Of the total of 13 Muslim MPs, eight are women. There are six fresh newly elected Muslim MPs; out of which five are women and one male. All of them are born in Britain in the early 70s except one who was born in the early 80’s. On party members, out of these six newly elected MPs, four are from Labour, one from SNP and one from Conservatives. So far as their academic qualifications are concerned, all of them are university educated and professionally – solicitor-1, academic/lecturer-1, journalist-1, politics-1 and social worker-2. First British Muslim woman MP from SNP Firstly, for the first time British Muslim woman is elected to the House of Commons from the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in this election. This election included the first Muslim SNP MP, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh elected in the landslide by the nationalist party in Scotland. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE (born 5 October 1970) is a Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) politician. She has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Ochil and South Perthshire since May 2015. With a string of polls indicating a potential near-wipe out of Labour by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the nationalist party’s sole Muslim PPC Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is projected to swing Ochil & South Perthshire from Labour’s Gordon Banks. The area, which has seen several boundary changes over the years, is characterised as a fight between the SNP and Labour. Banks won the seat in 2005, holding it at the last election by 5,187 votes.

Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh won the election by 26,620 votes against Labour candidate Gordon Banks who got 16,452 votes. Ahmed Sheikh secured the SNP majority of 17.57% Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh was born in Chelsea in 1970, and raised in Edinburgh. Her mother is half-Welsh and half-Czech, and her father was a Pakistani. Her father was also the first Asian councillor elected in Scotland in 1986 for the New Town/Stockbridge ward on Lothian Regional Council, representing the Conservative Party. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is a solicitor, practising Muslim, leading businessperson, former actress and mother-of-four. She is National Women’s and Equalities Officer for the SNP and won an OBE for “services to Business and to the Asian community in Scotland.” She is the founder and chair of the Scottish Asian Women’s Association. First British Conservative Muslim woman MP Secondly, for the first time British Muslim woman is elected to the House of Commons from the Conservative Party in this election. Nusrat Ghani was the Conservative’s only one new Muslim PPC with a good chance of winning. Ghani is expected to be the Party’s first Muslim female MP. She was elected in an open primary to represent the Conservative Party in Wealden, a safe Conservative seat since its creation in 1983. Ghani was expected to take over from Tory MP Charles Hendry who won the seat in 2010 with a large majority – 17,179 votes ahead of his nearest rivals, the Liberal Democrats. Nusrat “Nus” Ghani is a British Conservative Party politician who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for Wealden.

Ghani first stood for Parliament at the 2010 General Election, when she was the candidate for Birmingham Ladywood. Ghani, the daughter of Kashmiri immigrants, was elected in the 2015 General Election as one of thirteen Muslims to become Members of Parliament following the retirement of Charles Hendry. Ghani was born in Birmingham on 1 September 1972. She was educated in state schools before going onto Birmingham City University and gaining a Master’s degree from the University of Leeds. Ghani is a journalist for the BBC World Service and was posted to various trouble spots, including Burma, Russia, and Afghanistan. She previously stood against Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham Ladywood and lost. First British-born Bangladeshi Muslim woman MP Thirdly, for the first time, British-born Bangladeshi Muslim woman is elected to the House of Commons from the Labour Party in this election. Tulip Rizwana Siddiq is a British Labour Party politician. She was elected as Member of Parliament for Hamstead and Kilburn at the 2015 General Election. Prior to becoming an MP, she was a member of Camden Borough Council.

At the age of 16, Siddiq joined the Labour Party. In May 2010, Siddiq became the first Bengali female councillor in Camden Council, where she held a cabinet position with responsibility for culture and communities until May 2014. In July 2013, she became the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Hamstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 General Election. In May 2015, Siddiq won the Hamstead and Kilburn seat with 22,002 votes, with a turnout of 44.4%. Siddiq became Camden’s first new MP in 23 years as the seat was previously held by Glenda Jackson from 1992 to 2015. The seat had previously been the second tightest in the country when Jackson won by just 42 votes in 2010 and it was billed as the country’s most marginal general election contest. Tulip Siddiq was born in Mitcham, London on 16 September 1982.

She completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature at University College London and then a Master’s degree at King’s College, London and in Septemper 2011, she completed a second Master’s degree in Politics, Policy and Government, writing her dissertation on Local Government. Naz Shah won Bradford West for Labour Fourthly, one of the most surprising was mental health campaigner Naz Shah winning Bradford West back for Labour with a majority of 11,420 against Respect party leader George Galloway who had won the seat in a landslide bi-election in 2012. Naz Shah Naseem was born on 13 November 1973 in Bradford is a Labour politician in the United Kingdom and a Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bradford West since gaining the seat at the 2015 General Election from George Galloway of the Respect Party. Before being elected as an MP, Shah was the chair of mental health charity. Sharing Voices Bradford, and had previously worked as a carer for disabled people, as an NHS Commissioner and a director within Local Government. Shah won the Bradford West constituency with a majority of 11,420 over George Galloway in May 2015. She was chosen to stand for the Labour party in March 2015 after the original candidate had stood down. Muslim Progression in Political Participation Muslim has made a great progression in political participation in Britain.

In 1992 General Elections, there were 11 Muslim PPCs, 4 from the Conservatives, 1 from Liberal Democrats and 6 from Other but none was elected. In 1997, there were 24 Muslim PPCs, 3 from Labour, 6 from the Conservatives, 4 from Liberal Democrats and 11 from Other but only 1 was elected from Labour, the first Muslim male, Mohammad Sarwar from Glasgow Central, elected into British Parliament in 1997 election as Labour MP. In 2001 General Elections, there were 53 Muslim PPCs, 7 from Labour, 8 from the Conservatives, 11 from Liberal Democrats and 27 from Other but only 2 were elected from Labour; Mohammad Sarwar was re-elected and Khalid Mahmood was elected from Birmingham Perry Bar in 2001 election. In 2005 General Elections, there were 79 Muslim PPCs, 13 from Labour, 16 from the Conservatives, 21 from Liberal Democrats and 29 from Other but 4 were elected from Labour. Mohammad Sarwar re-elected, Khalid Mahmood re-elected, Shahid Malik from Dewsbury and Sadiq Khan from Tooting were elected as Labour MPs in 2005 election. In 2010 General Elections, there were 80 Muslim PPCs, 16 from Labour, 15 from Conservatives, 21 from Liberal Democrats and 28 from Other but 6 were elected from Labour and 2 from Conservatives.

In 2015 General Elections, there were 96 Muslim PPCs, 22 from Labour, 19 from Conservatives, 24 from Liberal Democrats, 10 from UKIP, 7 from Green Party and 14 Muslim PPCs from Others but 9 were elected from Labour: (4 were newly elected and 5 were re-elected); 3 were elected from Conservatives: (one newly elected and 2 re-elected) and one newly elected from Scottish Nationalist Party. There were 96 Muslim Prospective Parliamentary candidates in the 2015 General elections, up by 16 in 2010 elections; Out of these 96 candidates, 24 from Lib-Democrat Party, up by 3 from 2010; 22 were from Labour party, up by 6 from 2010, 19 Muslim Conservative Party, up by 4 from 2010; 10 Muslim Parliamentary candidates from UKIP; 7 Muslim Parliamentary candidates from Green party and 14 Muslim Parliamentary candidates from other parties.

Muslim Females PPCs Among these there were following females Muslim Prospective Parliamentary candidates. 9 from Labour (3 winnable seats); 7 from Conservatives (1 winnable seat) and 5 from Liberal Democrat 0 winnable seat). The SNP is expected to have its first Muslim female MP before the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives. Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh is expected to make history and take orchid and south Parkshire. Humiliating Defeat of Labour in Scotland Another feature of this election is the humiliating defeat of Labour Party in Scotland. Scotland, what had once been its heartland, labour found its citadel sacked. The SNP took 56 of the 59 seats north of the border. Miliband saw his shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, and in West Yorkshire the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, cast into the wilderness in their prime. Cameron’s victory was all the more stunning because polls had suggested Labour and the Conservatives were neck and neck, and that Britain was heading for a nervy constitutional stalemate. Landslide victory of the Conservative Party The Tories won 331 seats, eight more than the 323 required for an overall majority, while Labour collapsed to 232, equivalent to its disastrous 1987 General Elections result.

The Liberal Democrats were devastated across Britain, collapsing from 57 seats to eight, reminiscent of the Liberal party in the era of Jo Grimond. Its most senior ministerial figures – including Ed Davey, Danny Alexander, Simon Hughes, Vince Cable and David Laws – were ejected by an electorate that had lost trust in Clegg’s party. First elected Muslim in Conservative only Government In a bid to show continuity at the start of his second five-year term, David Cameron immediately announced his senior cabinet team would be left unchanged, with George Osborne reappointed chancellor, Philip Hammond the foreign secretary and Theresa May still home secretary. Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove since 2010 and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills since 11 May 2015. Javid previously served as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from 2014 to 2015, Minister for Equalities in 2014, Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 2013 to 2014 and Economic Secretary from 2012 to 2013.

Tory MP for Bromsgrove, Sajid Javid, is the highest ranked Muslim MP. Javid took over Bromsgrove in 2010 after Julie Kirkbride stood down following an expenses scandal. Sajid Javid was born on 5 December 1969 in Rochdale, Lancashire, to a bus driver of Pakistani descent. Javid was educated at Downend School, a state comprehensive school near Bristol, from 1981 to 1986, followed by Filton Technical College, also near Bristol, from 1986 to 1988, before the University of Exeter, Devon, from 1988 to 1991, where he studied economics and politics, and became a member of the Conservative Party. Bangladeshi Muslim MPs Three Muslims of Bangladeshi heritage were elected as Members of the House of Commons in the General Elections in 2015. They are: Tulip Rizwana Siddiq. Tulip was elected from the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency. Rupa Huq was elected from Ealing Central and Acton, a north-west London seat. Rushanara Ali was re-elected from her Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in east London, by a massive 25,000 majority. The three Muslims of Bangladeshi origin had contested from Labour party, which suffered shocking defeat in most of the constituencies.

List of new Muslim MPs:

1. Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh (SNP, Ochil_and_South_Perthshire)

2. Rupa Huq (Labour, Ealing Central and Acton)

3. Tulip Rizwana Siddiq (Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn)

4. Nusrat Ghani (Conservatives, Wealden)

5. Naz Shah (Labour, Bradford West)

6. Imran Hussein (Labour, Bradford East)

Incumbent Muslim MPs re-elected:

Khalid Mahmood [Labour]

Shabana Mahmood [Labour]

Rushanara Ali [Labour]

Yasmin Qureshi [Labour]

Sadiq Khan [Labour]

Sajid Javid [Conservative]

Rehman Chisti [Conservative]