Decent Tories must speak out against their party’s Islamophobic London mayoral campaign

Owen Jones writes: peak out now, decent Tories, or forever be damned for your complicity. Zac Goldsmith is gratuitously exploiting anti-Muslim prejudice in order to win this Thursday’s London mayoral election. His campaign has secured its place in the history books, joining a political hall of shame along with the Tories’ infamous racist 1964 Smethwick byelection and the homophobic Liberal Bermondsey byelection campaign in 1983. There are no excuses. Lifelong Conservative Peter Oborne has described Goldsmith’s campaign as “the most repulsive I have ever seen as a political reporter”. Former Conservative candidate Shazia Awan has denounced the campaign as “racist”. “This is not the Zac Goldsmith I know,” says Tory Baroness Warsi. “Are we Conservatives fighting to destroy Zac or fighting to win this election?” A number of erstwhile Conservative voters have contacted me to share their revulsion. For other Tories not to follow their lead leaves them sharing the blame.

Confronting those on your own side is not easy, but it is sometimes necessary. For the last few days I have been pilloried as an establishment lackey, a stooge of the Israeli government, a rightwing careerist and a sell-out. Why? Because I condemned what Jeremy Corbyn rightly described as Ken Livingstone’s “unacceptable” comments, backed the leadership’s suspension of the former London mayor, and supported their commendable decision to launch an inquiry into antisemitism. I do not turn a blind eye to allegations of antisemitism because they involve my own political tribe. The vast majority of leftwing activists I know are violently opposed to antisemitism, but the left can have no complacency when it comes to the menace of racism.

Racism is not an issue of point-scoring to me. It is deadly serious. I do not look at Goldsmith’s poisonous campaign and feel any pleasure, any excitement that its bigotry can be used for political advantage. I am left deeply frightened by it. Frightened because the Tories wouldn’t be doing it unless focus groups and polling suggests it works. Frightened because it’s happening in 2016. Frightened because of the hurt it is causing to Muslims, the damage it is inflicting to community cohesion, and that a horrible lesson is being taught about what happens when a Muslim stands for prominent public office – which will undoubtedly only aid recruitment efforts by extremists. [Continue reading…]

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