After a couple of terms, a government has generally spotted the obvious charlatans. But newcomers can be all too easily susceptible. An interesting example of this has come up recently. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which used to presume to speak for Muslims in Britain, has for some time been sidelined by the Labour government. Successive ministers were bitten too many times by the MCB’s U-turns, double-speak and dodgy associations. But now we learn that, having spotted the possibility of official resurrection under a Conservative government, the MCB has been returning through the Conservative back door. Dominic Grieve, the new Shadow Home Secretary, has had two meetings with representatives of the organisation, including a deeply problematic figure called Said Ferjani, co-founder of the Muslim Brotherhood-oriented Tunisian Nahda Party. Grieve was apparently asked whether he would appear on an MCB platform and said that in principle, yes, he would.
This sort of thing should cause concern to more than just security issue voters. The fear that a Conservative administration might not just make the same mistakes as the Labour government, but make them in the same order, should worry any voter. Welfare, education, the handling of the apocalyptically anticipated credit crunch may demand more of the Conservative Party’s time when it eventually gets into office than security issues. But when a party has the luxury of opposition to observe its opponents’ mistakes, it’s a bad sign if it doesn’t learn from them.
I suspect that at the next election we’ll be bombarded with a whole new set of linchpin groups. We can probably expect “credit crunch man”, “negative equity woman” and a lot more categories for the parties to chase after. Remembering security moms won’t get the Conservatives into office, but forgetting about them would be more than a political mistake.