The British Tory government is solidly backing Israel in its current war with Hamas. As it should, since Hamas is a terrorist group, Israel is a British ally, and Hamas started the war in the first place.
Britain’s first ever Minister of Faith, Sayeeda Warsi, has resigned to protest Britain’s backing of Israel. That happened Tuesday morning.
She wrote a letter of resignation to PM David Cameron outlining why she was quitting:
“For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it,” she wrote in her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, which she posted on Twitter. “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”
Some Tories started talking to the press off the record, which is hardly ever a good idea for members of a conservative government to do. The media are only too happy to stick a shiv in you.
Enter Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman. Newman gets a few quotes for the Telegraph, packages them, and then blames the Tories’ ire on sexism. And racism, of course. Don’t forget that.
One Minister told me how “stupid” Warsi’s decision to quit was – a sentiment that was echoed in the Chancellor George Osborne’s clip about her “frankly unnecessary” resignation. He tried to conceal his contempt for the cameras but couldn’t quite manage it. Off the record, his colleagues didn’t need to bother reining in the bile.
Another “senior Tory” – an “infuriated” one no less – told the Daily Mailthat “Warsi is an egomaniac; not a team player. Good riddance. The feeling in the parliamentary party is that this probably has as much to do with her own lack of promotion (as with Gaza).”
Working class, Northern, a “girl” – those are labels that a vast swathe of voters can identify with. But they apply to depressingly few Tory MPs, and I’m amazed so many of her colleagues seem so pleased to see the back of the sort of politician they can ill afford to lose.
Like the playground bullies, they hit out at the kid whose face doesn’t quite fit. And the media establishment connives in that. Would the Daily Mail have accused a male minister of “flouncing” out? Highly unlikely.
The Guardian’s Rafael Bahr plays a similar game. Warsi’s resignation isn’t really about Gaza at all, he says, but about Cameron. Even though Warsi comes off as “abrasive” and “outspoken,” to the point that Cameron felt that he had to invent a cabinet position for her just to keep her from becoming an enemy within his own party.
There were advantages to having an outspoken, state-schooled Asian woman from the north of England speaking for a party widely judged to be stuffed with privately educated, southern white men. Warsi always despised the way her role was depicted as ornamental, not least because she had strong views on the scale of change required if the Tories were to be serious about recruitment outside their demographic comfort zone. As party chair, she made enemies of MPs who found her manner abrasive and who doubted her grasp of the party machine. Warsi was thought insufficiently clubbable, which was inevitable when her agenda was to change the club culture. But Cameron’s instincts tend towards the status quo.
There is, it should be stressed, no evidence that Warsi’s status as a woman or a Muslim ever soured relations with the prime minister. If there was a problematic trait connected to her background it was, say insiders, her Yorkshireness – a habit of bluntness with criticism, to which Cameron is allergic. Only the inner circle is permitted dissent, and even then it should be politely dressed. The prime minister is sensitive to lese-majesty; Warsi doesn’t do deference.
Both of these stories are obviously written to prop up Warsi and tear down the Cameron government — which is what Cameron feared would happen eventually with Warsi around. Now it has, she has resigned over Gaza, and will start going after Cameron on that and a whole lot else before long, one supposes.
Despite himself, Behr almost stumbles onto the real reason that Warsi resigned from the cabinet. Notice this sentence:
There is, it should be stressed, no evidence that Warsi’s status as a woman or a Muslim ever soured relations with the prime minister.
She’s a Muslim. Muslim attitudes toward Jews and Israel tend to be disapproving, to say the least. The fact that she has resigned over Gaza is pretty strong indication that she’s on Hamas’ side, not Israel’s.
That’s a story, or it would be to a genuinely curious reporter. A genuinely curious reporter would ask her what her specific problems are with the Cameron government siding with its ally against a group that is launching rockets at Israel’s civilians. A real reporter might ask her if she believes Israel ought to accept that threat, and if the British would be obliged to as well.
It’s clear from the two stories above that the authors did speak directly with Warsi. But neither of them asked her even the most rudimentary questions about her own position on the war. In fact, they both applaud her.