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March 27, 2001

Main parties field record 25 Muslim candidates

Britain's three main political parties are so far fielding 25 Muslims out of a record 61 ethnic minority candidates in the forthcoming General Election, according to details obtained by The Muslim News.
The number of Muslims is almost double the 13 that stood for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in 1997, but The Muslim News says that the overwhelming majority are in 'unwinnable' seats. "As it stands, maybe two or three Muslim candidates at the most, instead of up to 30, stand any realistic chance of being elected to the 659 member House of Commons."
Mohammad Sarwar became the first Muslim MP to be elected for Labour in Glasgow Govan in 1997. Apart from Sarwar, the only other candidate in a safe seat is Khaled Mahmood, who was selected to replace Social Security Minister Jeff Rooker in Birmingham Perry Barr. The third possibility is Conservative candidate Mohammad Riaz, who is said to be "cautiously confident" of overturning the 3,877 majority held by Labour MP Marsha Singh in Bradford West. Vice-chairman of the Conservatives, Steven Norris told The Muslim News that he has "no doubt" that Riaz, who has been appointed an adviser on ethnic affairs to William Hague, would be elected.
Labour so far has named 23 ethnic minority candidates, including 8 Muslims. It currently has 10 MPs with an ethnic background, which will be boosted if Mahmood is elected. The number could rise to 12 if Parmjit Dhanda, a Sikh successfully defends a 8,259 majority in Gloucester and providing Singh or the other MPs are all returned.
The Tories, the only party to have completed its election list, have also selected 8 Muslims among their 15 ethnic candidates. According to Norris, at least two, if not more, will be elected. Apart from Riaz, the other favourite is Shailesh Vara, a Hindu, who has been placed in the party's ninth target seat at Northampton South, needing a swing of only 0.65 per cent. The LibDems are fielding the most ethnic minorities, 24, including nine Muslims, but all have been selected in 'development' seats, where the party is currently placed third or in a poor second position.
In its analysis, The Muslim News found that out of 171 new candidates selected for winnable or potential target seats by the three main parties, only four are from ethnic backgrounds, including two with majorities to overturn. It suggests that many have been ignored or overlooked in the selection process, including in replacing some 55 MPs standing down.
The situation in marginal seats, the paper says, is "no better". It also found that Black or Asian candidates lost out in the selection process in winnable or marginal constituencies, "even where there are sizeable ethnic minority voters that could prove crucial in deciding the result." In the case of Muslim candidates, "several are standing against ministers and well-established MPs and in one instance, two are pitted against one another for what is likely to be the consolation prize."
In its editorial, The Muslim News says that the number of ethnic candidates selected would only be representative of country's 10 per cent minorities' population, if all were elected. Apart from four or five new candidates "all the rest are standing to make up the numbers." The paper called on Labour, the Tories and LibDems to look at the internal workings of their party machinery, saying "such tokenism cannot be accepted."
Notes to the editor. The mainstream parties are wooing the Muslim votes as they can influence change in many marginal seats. The Prime Minister attended The Muslim News Awards for Excellence prestigious event on 21 March and Opposition Leader William Hague attended the Muslim Council of Britain reception on 20 March.
Detailed analysis of the Muslim candidates.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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