Tory Party chairman Baroness Warsi was accused of fuelling Islamophobia after she claimed electoral fraud in Asian communities had cost the Conservatives at least three seats in the general election. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said he did not believe it was possible to commit fraud on such a scale in Westminster elections and he challenged her to produce the evidence to support her claims.
Lady Warsi told the New Statesman magazine there were “at least three seats where we lost, where we didn’t gain the seat, based on electoral fraud”. She refused to identify the seats concerned but said the problems were “predominantly within the Asian community” and that Labour had been the beneficiary. “I have to look back and say we didn’t do well in those communities, but was there something over and above that we could have done? Well, actually not, if there is going to be voter fraud,” she said.
In the same interview, Lady Warsi, who is herself a Muslim, attacked Islamophobia in the media, saying it was “the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in Briton today”.
Mr Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said in accusing Asian communities of fraud, she was simply adding to the anti-Islamic sentiment. “If you read the article, what she is talking about in terms of Islamophobia, and I think that she is doing exactly the same thing,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “What she has done is open the door to which people can assume certain things, particularly about minority communities and the Muslim community.”
Update: See also Mehdi Hasan, “Sayeeda Warsi says media is ‘anti-Islamic’…”, New Statesman blog, 1 October 2010
Further update: Read the interview with Baroness Warsi here.