Tariq Mahmood will burn in Hell. The text message was directed not at him personally, but to all Muslims in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, where a keenly contested by-election will be held on Thursday. According to a Labour activist, if Muslims neglect to vote for Gareth Snell, they will be faced with a difficult question on judgment day, when they must explain: ‘I helped the enemies of Islam because…’ As a Ukip campaigner, Mahmood was very troubled by this intimidation, and passed the message to The Sun.
Religious threatening of voters is a criminal offence, and the Liberal Democrat candidate Dr Zulfiqar Ali reported it to police. The local Labour Party was hardly apologetic, merely stating that they ‘do not condone the content’. But the sender, Navid Hussain, has been at Snell’s side throughout the campaign, and has been photographed with Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour is determined not to lose here, for it would have enormous implications. Having given up on the simultaneous by-election in Cumbria, likely to be snatched by the Tories, all hands are at the pumps in Stoke Central. The main target of the text was people thinking of voting for their only coreligionist on the stump, as a large vote for the Lib Dems could be costly. Victory for Ukip would be sensational, and raise prospects of the decimation of Labour in the North, as happened in Scotland.
However, fighting Ukip is a little easier than holding back the SNP tide. British or English nationalism has been successfully tainted by the Left and the liberal metropolitan media as xenophobic proto-fascism. Agitators came in coachloads to Margate at the last general election to defy Nigel Farage’s quest for the parliamentary seat. A ‘man of the people’ image is difficult to convey when surrounded by security men on walkabout, with eggs and obscenities hurled by charming ‘anti-fascists’. Despite stepping down as Ukip leader, Farage continues to be targeted by left-wing celebrities and media: in the latest New Statesman he’s ‘a nasty piece of shit’, while the opening gambit in the awful giveaway NME calls him a ‘prick’.
New leader Paul Nuttall, standing in Stoke, was yet to be demonised. So The Guardian has been at work. An inaccuracy on his CV about losing a close friend at the Hillsborough disaster was pursued by the house journal of the BBC (who focused on this story, rather than offensive tweets by the Labour candidate). As a Scouser, Nuttall knows how sensitive Hillsborough is to Liverpudlians. Nuttall insists that he was there and knew someone who had died, but the Guardian saw an opportunity to put him in a hole in which he would dig himself deeper.
The efforts to vilify Paul Nuttall and the sounding of the Muslim call to the ballot box show the desperation of the Left. The rapidly expanding Muslim population is seen as a growing political force, and Labour is working with so-called ‘community leaders’ to nurture a block vote. This phenomenon is real and worrying, because it thwarts individual freedom and democracy. At university, students are sometimes told it is their duty to sign petitions – ‘Cos you’re Muslim, innit?’ For electoral advantage, Labour is alienating the traditional white working class, who already feel ignored by a party run by cosmopolitan middle-class progressives in north London. Moreover, it is provoking community tension.
Yet Muslim voters have similar concerns to their fellow citizens on public services, crime and immigration, as revealed by John Harris’s video documentary of Stoke in the EU referendum campaign. Tariq Mahmood is a baffling anomaly to the Left, but it’s the likes of him who rebut the lazy assumptions of Muslim uniformity. We must hope that this stoking of fire in the Potteries is not the thin end of the wedge.
(Image: Dave Collier)