The Warsi Resignation

The resignation of the Senior Foreign Office Minister, Sayeeda Warsi has understandably led to a torrent of media coverage and speculation.

I do not know her well. I have questioned her on two occasions when she appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in her capacity as Minister for Human Rights. On the first appearance in 2013 I thought she was very poor, nervous and unable to move away from the FCO official lines to take, and clearly out of her depth when asked about human rights in countries like Russia.

This year she was much better, interested , animated at times and convincing when arguing for protection of Christian and other religious minorities in Syria, Iraq and some Muslim countries, talking about the Rohingya Muslims facing attack by Buddhist extremists in Burma, or the repressive Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka.

She may have originally been over promoted by David Cameron to provide him with a media savvy Muslim woman Tory Party Chair, but I think she was subsequently doing an important job on human rights issues under William Hague at the FCO.

As her resignation letter to Cameron implies Hague’s demotion and replacement by the more right wing Philip Hammond and the sackings of Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve in the recent reshuffle were clearly factors in her resignation, alongside her now public disagreement with the Cameron/Hammond line on Gaza.

I tweeted about this earlier when I said: "Suspect Warsi would not have resigned if Hague was still For Sec and Clarke and Grieve still in Cabinet. Did she fall out with Hammond?“

However one aspect of her resignation struck me as worthy of consideration and comment. That was the suggestion by some commentators that she had only resigned because she was a Muslim.

Indeed Warsi herself had appeared to express her own frustration with her critics and that simplistic view of the world when she said in a tweet to Louise Mensch three days ago: “If I have a view on the economy I’m a Tory, on the NHS I’m a Tory but on foreign policy it’s bcos I’m Muslim!”

I am sure that she resigned for a variety of personal and political reasons but above all because she felt strongly about the direction of UK Foreign policy. Other Ministers have resigned over Foreign policy in the past including Robin Cook and John Denham , and belatedly and chaotically Clare Short, eleven years ago over Iraq. No one then attempted to say this was for any other than for personal political reasons.

In any government there can only one collective policy and it should be irrelevant which Minister espouses it. In Foreign policy it is particularly important that our country speaks with one voice and Ministers who are in disagreement have a choice to sign up to the policy or resign.

I tried to express this in 140 characters in the following tweet: “UK foreign policy should reflect Values Alliances and interests of country not the particular background or faith of individual ministers”.

Then much to my surprise and some dismay two conspiracy theorist “journalists” got completely the wrong end of the stick.

I then as a result received a series of hostile tweets from trolling trots. I was accused of being anti Muslim, a racist, a child murder supporter, a bigoted pig, and worse.

For the record - I did not suggest that Gaza only matters to Muslims. It matters to all of us who are anguished by the deaths there. As a human being I am also anguished by the even greater number of deaths in Syria and Iraq, and the deaths in Ukraine and Nigeria too. Large numbers of my constituents of all faiths are too.

I did not say that Sayeeda Warsi only cares about Gaza because she is a Muslim. I did not say Muslims should not be Ministers. Etc Etc.

I know passions are running high on this issue but to Mehdi and Owen and everyone else following me on twitter for God’s sake read what I said not what you think I said or would like me to have said and grow up!

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