Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

She's Anti-War and against Tuition Fees. and She's the PM's Best Bet; ONE CANDIDATE DENOUNCES GOVERNMENT'S POLICIES

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

She's Anti-War and against Tuition Fees. and She's the PM's Best Bet; ONE CANDIDATE DENOUNCES GOVERNMENT'S POLICIES

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW GILLIGAN

IN A key London target seat, a high-profile challenger is running a vigorous campaign against the Labour Party's stance on the Iraq war, terror laws, tuition fees, the privatisation of public services and the PPP for the Tube.

Nothing wrong with any of that, of course - except that she's the official Labour Party candidate.

In line with age-old traditions in this part of north London, the battle of Brent East has developed into an ideological purity contest about who can reject Labour party policy most effectively.

You might think the Labour candidate would be at a disadvantage in this. You haven't met Yasmin Qureshi.

As the publication of the Attorney General's legal advice turns new heat on the Iraq issue, Ms Qureshi insists: "I'm the most effective antiwar vote here.

If you want a peace campaigner, I'm that person."

The contest is so hard-fought it has even led to the development of new verbs.

"She can't outanti-war me, she can't out-civil liberty me," says the Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, who won Brent East in a by-election at the height of the Hutton Inquiry.

Ms Qureshi has enlisted the help of a Labour politician called Tony. Tony Benn, that is, not Tony Blair. The first Tony was the star of a campaign event in Queen's Park. The second Tony appears only on Lib-Dem leaflets, standing next to George Bush and looking shifty.

This is an ethnic majority constituency: fifty-two per cent of voters are not white. Qureshi's stand is partly a matter of longheld conviction. But it's also a matter of political survival.

She is a first-generation immigrant and a former human rights lawyer for the UN in postwar Kosovo. She wears a pashmina, not a headscarf. If elected, she will be Britain's first Muslim woman MP. She condemns the Home Office minister Hazel Blears for saying Muslims would be singled out for police attention. "It reminds me saying you support or oppose of how the Irish were treated 20 years ago. Nobody should be subjected to those kinds of things."

Ms Qureshi's campaign could be seen as an example of the extent to which New Labour control freaks have lost control. At the event in Queen's Park, she promises to be a "thorn in the side" of the Government.

Yet to her opponents it is nothing more than New Labour slipperiness. "It's an extraordinary way to campaign," says Ms Teather. "People already have an MP who stands up against Blair - me."

It seems an entirely reasonable point. Surely, I put it to Ms Qureshi, a Lib-Dem MP will always be a more effective "thorn in the side" of New Labour?

"There are aspects of Labour policy I disagree with but there are others I agree with," she replies. "The investment in public services, the antipoverty agenda. …

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