Monday, 4 June 2012

Baroness Warsi's full title is Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury. There are some interesting revelations about her in Danny Lockwood's book "The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury". Especially noteworthy is the fact that she isn't really a Conservative. At one stage, she was apparently being wooed by both Labour and the Tories and wasn't sure which one to pick.
Now it’s the town of Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury. Small, sweet, smiling, witty Sayeeda, who just a few years ago was sitting in a hairdresser’s chair unwittingly alongside one of my former members of staff. She was wondering aloud whether to accept the political courting of Labour or Conservative, both astutely aware of the value of an educated, articulate and politically ambitious Muslim woman. She certainly backed the right horse.
At times I’ve fondly imagined I played some meaningful role in putting Sayeeda there, and then I think I can still detect the dainty, metaphorical footprints on my back and shoulders where my ‘friend’ manipulated my media usefulness on her cynical climb to fame – and power.
Lockwood also describes Warsi's standard tactic of flirting with sad, middle-aged journalists to get them to help her career. She played this trick on Lockwood himself, a local Dewsbury journalist, before letting him drop when she was elevated to the national stage. Anyone who reads Peter Oborne's pieces about Warsi in the Telegraph can be in no doubt that he has fallen under the same spell. To me this is mystifying as I find her repulsive even to look at.
Standing vanquished in the public shadows in our sports centre that night, but not for long in the national psyche, was Sayeeda Hussain-Warsi. As it worked out, losing that election was the best possible thing that could have happened for Sayeeda, soon to be Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury, a title and name she still uses out of convenience, though she has since divorced her cousin/husband and remarried.

If Malik had partly charmed me when he rolled into Dewsbury, the far more cunning and flirtatious ‘modest’ Muslim mum had me eating out of her hands.

On the morning that David Cameron announced his first coalition cabinet, the beaming Sayeeda waltzed along Downing Street in her traditional shalwar kameez Muslim garb, draping her coat over the railings of No.10 to pose like a Hollywood /Bollywood siren for the adoring cameras. Star attraction. Attagirl (I almost reached behind my back upon witnessing that, to see if I could still feel the scars from the Tories’ stiletto I’d had slipped between my ribs).

It was a mercurial journey for the former immigration solicitor and seemingly left-wing member of the Rowntree Trust. Her election efforts having ended in comprehensive defeat, Michael Howard, the then Tory leader, needed a presentable Muslim and was blessed in finding one who also ticked the boxes of being a woman, very clever, extremely ambitious, and attractive.

The cameras tend to put a few pounds on Sayeeda, but she possesses a charming, attractive and flirtatious nature when she wants to switch it on.

Michael Howard phoned Sayeeda and offered her the job of Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party. She was a relative party newcomer but you don’t have to be either brown or from the sub-continent to play ‘Paki Politics’ as Howard proved on that occasion and David Cameron hammered home when his turn came, spiking a Labour government reshuffle by announcing Warsi’s elevation to the House of Lords on the same day.

One of the very first people Sayeeda contacted upon receiving Howard’s offer to move to London was me. It was a rainy late afternoon in West Yorkshire and my car was winding down the hillside between Dewsbury and Batley.

I was doing the school run. I pulled into the car park of an old mill as she told me excitedly of Michael Howard’s offer – party vice-chairman.

Why had she rung me? To understand that, you have to understand the opportunism of our new political brethren. We first crossed firmaments when she rang me to take exception to an editorial piece I’d written in 2003. I invited a rebuttal and Sayeeda wrote an exceptional piece of political/social analysis.

From thereon I encouraged her, offered advice, counsel, and when she suddenly ‘turned’ party political just the year before taking on Malik in the 2005 General Election, I was, I believe, a valued media foil. I was probably also a bloody fool, easily flattered as a middle aged journalist, in the presence of an artful, attractive and calculating woman.

Sayeeda plumped for the Conservatives ultimately but I’m reasonably content that that was only because it was where the immediate local career openings lay.

Her history in typical ‘New Labour’ human rights fields had her marked bang to rights as a typical liberal leftie, but even now, five years on, I don’t think I’ve fathomed the depth of Baroness Warsi’s ‘small p’ political philosophies – if indeed there are any.

She really could be the first Muslim Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, although it’s equally clear she’s made her share of enemies at the Tories’ top table.

But that afternoon, when she was catapulted from failed Dewsbury candidate into the frontline of international politics, I was honoured that Sayeeda trusted my judgment sufficiently to ask advice. I’d met her husband – an arranged marriage from Pakistan, a man removed by far, far more than those mere miles from his attractive wife and their young daughter.

“What about Aamna?” (her daughter) was my first observation. “You’ll be in London almost full-time and I don’t think Westminster is for her.”

But the Hussains have a very strong family. Sayeeda’s mum and dad are lovely people. Her four sisters are just as impressive as she is, on every level. There would be no lack of strong support at home.

“And your marriage?”

There wasn’t a hope in hell the culturally contrived marriage would endure this pressure although Sayeeda had previously espoused the virtues of these arranged relationships in print and on a national stage too, saying they worked for her and husband Naeem.

But ultimately it didn’t. For Sayeeda I suspect the bindings of that marriage were as much an incentive for the career jump as anything, though she would never admit as much. The girl was off and running.

Later, when she was made Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury, she rang just as I was walking into my mum’s council flat just outside Dewsbury town centre. It was raining again. This time she confessed she’d rung to tell her dad first, but that I was the second person to know (I have subsequently learned that there was at least one other ‘second person to know’ – there are probably others).
Source: The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury by Danny Lockwood


Anonymous said...

Warsi, attractive?

If he thought that then perhaps he deserved to get conned.

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