Was Sayeeda Warsi’s resignation about principle, or about her?

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August 7, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

For a while yesterday I admired Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s decision to resign from her position on the government yesterday on a principle of not being able to stand by their “morally defensible” position on Gaza. Then, thanks to the incisive analysis of Sun Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn and Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Magnus Djaba on the Press Preview on Sky News I realised that her resignation was not as much about principle as being about Sayeeda Warsi.

Warsi has had four week to resign, but instead has apparently chosen to argue her case from within Government. That is fair enough. But she then had many ways in which she could resign and times as well. Both Djaba and Newton Dunn felt that to have left it until the morning after she has taken a prominent role in the commemorations of the First World War at Westminster Abbey is one thing. To have done it the way she did, which was a few hours after David Cameron had left for holiday in Portugal, without consulting him first, and over twitter as well, was particularly odd. Djaba commented that it was like someone resigning their job at Saatchis by emailing all their clients rather than speaking to him. Newton Dunn noted that she could have simply resigned her position as a Foreign Office Minister but kept her position as Minister for Faith and Communities if the problem was just about foreign policy. He also pointed out that it seemed odd for her to give her first interview after her resignation to Mehdi Hasan, a left-wing (and Muslim, although that may not be relevant here) journalist. The two commentators concluded that this wasn’t a resignation on principle, but was about Warsi herself.

Let’s consider Baroness Warsi’s position during these last four weeks of the Gaza Crisis in the context of who her “clients” were. She didn’t have any constituents, because she has never been elected to a seat in Parliament. She did try in her home town of Dewsbury in 2005, but lost (along with many other Conservatives in that election). Whether she likes it or not, she owed her position in the Government to who she was, a Muslim woman. However bright she might be, however effective many of her campaigns have been in the past 7 years since she was ennobled and appointed to the shadow cabinet, someone with her talent and ability would never have been in her position if she were called John Smith. Critics such as Douglas Murray have accused her of only representing Muslims and not the rest of the country, but a look at her a Parliamentary record suggests that isn’t so. Furthermore, she was often attacked by Islamist fundamentalists for supporting government foreign policies, even being told by radical preacher Anjem Choudhry that she might be in danger if she visited Muslim communities. I wonder how much pressure was being put on her.

During the last month, this pressure must have become intolerable. During a period when the almost pathological need for simple certainties left many people gasping at the cruelty of Israel’s behaviour without stopping for a moment to think about why they might be behaving like it, Warsi’s twitter feed contains stronger and stronger rhetoric on Gaza. Strangely, for a Foreign a Minister for a neutral government, there was no mention of the existential threat to Israel, nor of what she thought of Hamas using millions of pounds of concrete and other items that could have built schools and hospitals to build tunnels to enter Israel to fight instead, or any other alleged behaviour. Then 5 days ago, she posted the following: “If there is a community meeting or protest in relation to #Gaza happening near you I’d like to know, please tweet me the details. It seems that Warsi needed more and more as time went on not just to show she was against Israel, but also to do it in a way that hurt the Conservative Party and it’s leader as much as possible. Well, she did that, and I hope that her final words “I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decision I took or the decisions I supported,” really do hold true for all the decisions she took, and the way she communicated them.

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