London is a great multicultural city. But a whirlwind of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Hindu comments have come back to haunt the current Tory for London Mayor immediately following the launch of his campaign. Justifiably so.
It has emerged that a pamphlet he wrote in 2005 is replete with the worst type of explicitly anti-Muslim and anti-Hindu prejudices. It is a completely false assertion that religious communities ‘destroy our collective sense of community’ as Shaun Bailey claims. Instead, they reinforce and add to our community cohesion as well our diversity.
It is also an outrageous slur that that the growth in multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious communities could lead to a “crime-riddled cesspool”. On the contrary, our various faith communities, including Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians are among the most law-abiding of all, and are themselves more frequently the victims of crime, especially hate crime.
In reality, the rise in serious and violent crime across the country, not just in London, has coincided with the decimation of the police workforce because of Tory cuts. The Tory government is in denial about the effects of their cuts of more than 21,000 officers and thousands more of support staff. But police chiefs and crime commissioners are increasingly vocal about the damage these cuts have caused.
Political forecasting is a fraught business. But we should be confident that Londoners will reject this garbage. They have done so once before, when Zac Goldmith ran as Tory candidate against Sadiq Khan in 2012. In a preview of what Donald Trump would later say about London’s Labour mayor, Goldsmith sought to paint Sadiq Khan as ‘soft on terrorism’, claiming that a Labour victory would “have handed control of the Met, and with it control over national counter-terrorism policy, to a party whose candidate and current leadership have, whether intentionally or not, repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views.”
This was not nudge, nudge, wink, wink prejudice. It was an explicitly anti-Muslim and racist appeal, so blatant that even some Tories and Goldsmith family members appeared to be shocked by it. It was roundly rejected by London’s voters.
It seems that the Tories are determined to double down on this contemptible, failed strategy. Bailey’s stated prejudices are drawn even wider, not solely focusing on Muslims, but also include even more outlandish claims, scapegoating our faith communities for all types of crime.
It is telling that this pamphlet was written in 2005, but Shaun Bailey was later appointed as an adviser by David Cameron and worked closely with Boris Johnson when he was Mayor. Clearly, these are not unacceptable views in the modern Conservative party.
Recently the Prime Minister told the United Nations that, “we must call out hate speech, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of prejudice and discrimination against minorities wherever we find it.” Yet it is doubtful that the Theresa May will be calling out her own party’s candidate for Mayor. It will be a big surprise too if the Evening Standard interrupts its long history of scurrilous attacks on Labour Mayoral candidates. It is doubtful too whether the Standard editor George Osborne will be authorising a full-on attack ‘dossier’ on Shaun Bailey, as he did with Sadiq.
But Londoners will have a clear choice at the next Mayoral election. They can have a Mayor seeking to unite Londoners like Sadiq Khan. Or they can have a Mayor seeking to sow divisions and create disunity in Shaun Bailey. The choice is a simple one.
Diane Abbott is the shadow home secretary and Labour MP for Hackney North