Pakistani community leaders in Dewsbury have been left stunned after the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) imposed this week an all-women shortlist for the parliamentary election of 2015. This decision means that only women will be able to put their names forward to become the Labour MPs for Dewsbury – a constituency where more than 20,000 Muslims, most of Pakistani origin, reside.
Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees Council, and his fellow cabinet member councillor Shabir Pandor had already started campaign to become a candidate. This also means that the former Dewsbury MP and Britain’s first Muslim minister Shahid Malik, who despite not indicating he would run for Dewsbury will now have no choice and would not be allowed to contest the seat in 2015.
Many in the local Labour party had hoped that Sadiq Khan MP would be supportive but sadly he failed to help and this has led to anger among local Labour supporters and Muslims who have traditionally supported the Labour. The decision has dismayed Muslims across Britain who think that a section within the party is conspiring to stop more Muslims from entering the parliament. It is believed that George Galloway’s Respect Party will now target the local seat.
Local campaigners told The News that this now represents real friction between the Labour Party and Muslims across the country and especially if the large Muslim enclave of Bradford East also becomes an all-women shortlist as is possible.
Dewsbury was the only seat in the Yorkshire region, which was almost certain to have a Muslim Labour Prospective parliamentary candidate and had an all women shortlist not been imposed.
Currently Labour has 31 MPs in the Yorkshire region. As a percentage of the population Labour should have at least 5 ethnic minority MPs yet it has none, including Muslims.
In the British parliament, there are total of 650 MPs of which 6 are Muslim but as a percentage of the population there should be 30 Muslim MPs in Parliament. The blocking of leading Muslim/Pakistani politicians in Dewsbury will mean that a Pakistani origin politician will lose the opportunity to make it to the parliament on what is considered a seat Labour should win in 2015 with the right candidate.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour is committed to increasing the proportion of women in parliament, and all women shortlists are an important part of achieving this. All women shortlists are in no way whatsoever about stopping any community group – they are about promoting women, regardless of their background. We hope as broad a spectrum of women candidates will put themselves forward for Dewsbury, and for all our all-women-shortlist seats, as possible. They exist to increase diversity in parliament, not to restrict it.” This response, however, will do little to ease anger and the campaigners have started a petition in the hope the party will see sense.