FRIDAY lunchtime, hungover and exhausted, climbing into the back of an Uber, I asked the driver what he thought of the election result. In the run-up, my view was that the more the Labour party was attacked for anti-Semitism, the more likely that the Muslim vote would veer to Labour. I was totally wrong.
My Uber driver introduced himself as Anjum from Lahore, a leading light in the Pakistani community here. I found it hard to hear what he was saying; he was driving and speaking very fast with a strong accent. He was describing how he had spent the past few weeks out canvassing in the Asian community. I was confused: for whom? The Conservatives, and specifically for Boris.
There are more than 2,660,000 Muslims in the UK, most of them from Pakistan or Bangladesh. A list of 31 constituencies where their votes could swing the result was released in November as mosques launched a voter registration drive. According to Anjum they voted Conservative. But what about Boris’s Islamophobia? ‘Nonsense,’ said Anjum, ‘Boris is a friend of Imran Khan.’
At this point in the conversation I begin to understand the strategic intelligence of our Prime Minister. Anjum explains that when the Prime Minister of Pakistan comes to London he often meets up with his sons’ UK family. You will remember that Imran Khan was married for nine years to Jemima Goldsmith, and he remains good friends with her brother Zac, an old Etonian who had a place in the cabinet. Anjum tells me that Zac introduces Boris to Imran – they get on really well, Imran has a word with his old friend Anjum . . . Anjum and his friends do a massive amount of canvassing . . . and the Asian community vote for the Conservatives.
So all that Islamophobia nonsense didn’t stick. I have read the article Boris wrote in the Telegraph that included the ‘women looking like letterboxes’ line: it was a defence of women’s rights to wear what they want. It was used against him, but who cares? Far more British Pakistani Muslims voted Conservative than the Left might like to think – and they are happy with Boris’s victory.