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Ali is an economist and political analyst, working at a private UK-based company. He worked previously at the World Health Organisation and has an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS. You can follow him on Twitter (@alialsaffar).

As British Iraqis, why should we vote Conservatives?

David Cameron is insufferable; his floppy hair and his relentless endeavour to pass himself off as a hardworking average Joe must annoy even the most hardcore Tory. But that is not enough to dismiss considering voting for him.

Contrary to popular belief, Tories don’t want to banish anyone who doesn’t have a double-barrelled name and doesn’t own a pair of corduroy trousers from the shores of this great country. They are not feudal, and don’t want to tax the poor to reward the rich.

Many of our parents came to this country at the height of Tory power in the 80s, they were given every opportunity to settle, assimilate and prosper. The conservative party then, and now, shares some key ideals with our émigré Iraqi community; it stresses the importance of family, community cohesion, and society. These have all been neglected for the last 13 years of Labour government that has seen the rate of teenage pregnancies sky rocket, hoisting with them the number of divorces and broken marriages. Drugs and alcohol now fuel antisocial behaviour like never before, with 10,000 cases reported every day. I thought Cameron’s enlightened plan to place 5,000 community organisers at the forefront of his strategies was refreshing, and could lead to some real change.

Some Muslims take exception to the Conservatives neo-liberal (yes…) economic policies. Their indefatigable defence of the free-market does get somewhat tedious. But I would like to remind all that Islam is in no way opposed to entering the market and prospering from it. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul has a wonderful calligraphic piece hanging at its entrance declaring “الكاسب حبيب الله” (A merchant is the beloved of God), while the noble Quran says

Seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah has given you, and neglect not your portion of the world”

This is not to say that in seeking our “portion of the world” we can neglect our duties towards others; but this is not what the Tories are suggesting at all, and I would hope that when we consider our choices for next month’s election, we do so without paying too much heed to the stigma surrounding any of the political parties.

11 Comments on “As British Iraqis, why should we vote Conservatives?”

  1. yearightAli April 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    Yet I ask u ali whether under the tory government of the 80s u speak of so fondly we would see the sane number of blacks, asians and other ethnic minorities in parliament…the Tories now have a few of these only because it was Labour that catalysed the whole ‘ethnicity is an asset’ culture, you’ve got something similar in the US where the republicans are trying to find their answer to Obama.

    The Tories are all for equal opportunities but within boundaries, ie know ur place, don’t expect to get too far, ie assimilate in society set up shop but that’s about it mate.

  2. Ali Rashid April 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi yearightAli,
    I am not sure whether we would have the same number of blacks, Asians and other ethinic minorities, we can speculate. In my opinion, minorities are still under represented in politics in general, let alone parliament. However, the Conservative Baroness, Sayeeda Warsi is a breath of fresh air, and a thumb in the eye of the more extreme segments of our society.

  3. yearightali April 13, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    Baroness Warsi? You must be kidding – is that the best you could do? Not that it’s your fault though, it’s rather telling of the Tories.

    Take one look at Warsi’s upbringing and background and you’ll find that she’s just another one of your typical Tory “minorities” – rich and privately educated. The asian community she most certainly does NOT represent. Let’s not kid ourselves Ali, the vast majority of Tories represent what they want to be the archaic/imperialistic Britain. Do you really think with a name like Ali you’d be honestly and genuinely welcomed by the House of Tory? I dont think so.

  4. Ali Rashid April 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Hi yearightali, thanks for the reply.
    I am honestly not too sure whether I would be accepted into the realm of the Tory. But, given that I have no intention of getting into politics (much less the Conservative Party), its not too much of an issue for me. Rather, the things that affect my day-to-day well being, like taxation, like the way communities are run, like the size of government are the sorts of things that will decide where my vote goes. And on these matters, the Tories aren’t as abhorrent as people make them out to be. Britain has a massive deficit that is unsustainable and a party in government that doesn’t have the will to address it; we had a taxpayer bailout of the private sector, but without the regulation to ensure it happening again (RBS bonuses comes to mind), and in the meanwhile, I haven’t heard any real concerted effort by Labour to propel community and society into fold of decision-making, at least not the kinds of messages being given out by Cameron and Co who seem to be putting this issue above all else.

    As an aside, though this is not the primary topic, Baroness Warsi went to Birkdale High School (http://www.birkdalehigh.org.uk/school.html) , so I believe you are somewhat misinformed about her upbringing.

  5. Ali April 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    One of their main commitments (and manifesto pledges) is to cut inheritance tax for the richest 7% of estates and in the proces removing a billion pounds from the exchequer. How does that show a will to address the ‘massive deficit’? All it reveals is a natural tendency to act in the interest of their toff upper-class supporters.

  6. Ali Rashid April 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Hi Ali,
    I don’t quite understand why you put massive deficit in parenthesise, there is one.
    A deficit can be cut in two ways, you can either increase revenue or decrease expenditure. Yes, an inheritance tax cut will decrease revenue, but their other pledges, which have conveniently been ignored, will more than offset this by decreasing expenditure. Things like stopping tax credits to families earning over £50,000 a year and freezing public sector pay for all those apart from the lowest paid million.

    Let us not forget, we have a gargantuan deficit despite just coming out of one the most prosperous periods in modern history. That is not a great legacy for Mr Brown to be proud of.

  7. Ahmed Al-Saeed April 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Allah yesadak ya Ali, I am surprised no one asked you yet how much did the Tories pay you for this?! 🙂

  8. Ali April 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    When you are speaking of a deficit of such huge proportions, a few hundred million pounds saved here and there in the proposals you mention won’t make much of a difference, especially when they come alongside ideologically-motivated plans to cut inheritance tax, lower the 50p in the pound top rate of tax for the richest people, and offer a worthless £3 a week tax relief to married couples in the name of family values ignoring the millions of divorced and single parents, and unmarried couples.

    Therefore, the Conservatives will immediately take to swinging a proverbial axe to public spending (including hospitals, police and schools) and start cutting as soon as they are in power. This, whenever it has been tried be it in 1930s America or by the current government of the Republic of Ireland, will result in a second, much deeper recession. It is the Labour government which stresses the importance of the right and tested strategy of waiting until the economy starts growing steadily again before proceeding with any cuts so as not to cause a double-dip recession and jeopardising the recovery.

    Sorry if it seemed confusing, I put massive deficit in parenthesis because it was meant to be a quote. It is true that it is vital to deal with the budget deficit, but bear in mind the level of government debt as a % of GDP has been pretty consistent over the course of modern British history, and the same is true for other countries, so it is useless to apportion blame to Mr Brown.

    • Ali Rashid April 14, 2010 at 9:09 am #

      Hi Ali,
      Thanks for some good points well made. I am actually quite Keynesian-leaning, and so I agree with what you say about public spending. But I think there are a few issues.

      Firstly, I disagree with what you say about blaming Mr Brown for the level of government debt. The fiscal deficit as a % of GDP hasn’t been consistent at all. In 1997, it was 2.2%, in 2009 it was an estimated 11.4%, and it’s forecast this year to be 13.5%. The last decade was exceptional in terms of economic growth, if ever there was a time to cut the deficit, it was then.

      Secondly, the Tories have said they won’t abolish the 50p in the pound top rate. And as for inheritance tax, according to them, “only millionaires will pay inheritance tax”. That doesn’t seem as evil as its being made out to be.

  9. Ali April 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Ali, as it stands 93% of the population don’t pay a penny in inheritance tax. Only estates worth over £400,000 pay around 50% of what’s inherited above that threshold. The Tories will increase the threshold to £1 million, so 97% are exempt from it. This will only benefit themselves and their backers, such as David Cameron himself, whose wife is expected to inherit millions. When such elitist policies are coming from a man who said that his wife “isn’t blue-blooded because afterall, she went to a day school” and didn’t know how many houses he owned when asked in an interview with the Times, one cannot help but ask how he would work for and relate to the poorer sections of society, who will be hurt first by his cuts.

    The increase in the fiscal deficit is a result of increased government spending that was required to end the recession. The same procedure was tried in China, USA, France, Germany, Japan and most economically developed countries, all of whom now have similar or higher levels of government debt than the UK. I was making the point that for most of British history excluding the period from the 1970s until recently, and the period preceding the start of the 20th century, government debt was over 75% of GDP. However, the country never went bankrupt and there was never a need to immediately start cutting, which the Conservatives propose.

    I re-read your article and you mentioned how the Tories stress the values of society etc. It was Margaret Thatcher who famously said there is no such thing as society. People remember the 1980s as a time of increasing poverty, decreased social mobility and the breakdown of society. For Iraqis who settled here then, they remember government ambivalence if not acquiescence towards Saddam, a sentiment that has continued until today. Whereas Labour under Tony Blair freed Iraq from the clutches of oppression and gave them the gift of freedom and democracy, and Labour MPs like Ann Clwyd have been protesting against Saddam’s regime for decades, most Conservative MPs couldn’t care less about the welfare of the Iraqi people (or any other oppressed people for that matter)

    Islam is in no way opposed to entering the market and prospering from it but I don’t know why you make this point. This isn’t a contest between the Conservatives and the Socialist Workers Party.

    You said, ‘we had a taxpayer bailout of the private sector, but without the regulation to ensure it happening again’, even though it was under the Tory governments of the 80s and 90s we saw the vigorous and dogmatic deregulation of the banking sector, policies which were unfortunately not reversed by the Labour government when they first came to power, and there are no signs the Tories have learnt from their mistakes.

  10. Ali Rashid April 15, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Hi Ali,
    Good points once again.
    I actually agree with about 100% of what you have said. But lets carry on further for the sake of argument. (This is, after all, an exercise to have a more informed British Iraqi voter).

    Public debt is at dangerous levels, it has more than doubled under labour (from £413bn in 1997 to £945bn in 2009). Our economic well-being is now built on debt, which is buffering us from the grim reality that the economy is not sustainable in its current form.

    About society and the community. Cameron diverged from the Thatcherite line on society back in 2005, in fact, it was his very first speech after winning the leadership contest in which he said “there is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state”. The Conservative manifesto mentions it dozens of times and has turned it into a central theme in its view of Britain.

    One of the most vocal anti-Saddam activists, who was also one of his earliest critics, is Baroness Emma Nicholson. Yes she defected and is now a LibDem, but she was a member of the Tory party for years, during which she worked tirelessly for the Iraqi cause.

    On deregulation. The point I was trying to make was that there was no conditionality in the bailout. Yes the Tories deregulated in the 80s, but the circumstances are entirely different, taxpayer weren’t footing the bill for banks.

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