What do parenting classes, Muslim women-targeted English lessons and radicalism-preventing measures have in common?
It’s all right, stop scratching your heads. I’ll tell you the answer: London’s mayoral election.
In May this year, voters in the British capital will elect a new mayor. The incumbent, Tory “blond menace”, Boris Johnson, will step down after eight years in power. The same length of time his predecessor, Labour’s Ken Livingstone, spent in City Hall.
Already the first salvoes have been fired. But it was only this week as I listened to Radio 4 that the penny dropped. The presenter made a reference to a new initiative by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to fund English classes. These will be aimed mainly at Muslim women. A couple of days before that, Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, was on the Today programme explaining how radicalism amongst young people, especially of the Muslim variety, could be tackled in schools. Last week the main item up for discussion was the government’s idea to introduce parenting workshops.
It does not take a genius to put two and two together. The main contenders in the mayoral election are: Zac Goldsmith, on the blue corner, and Sadiq Khan on the red one. Polls at the moment put the Labour candidate ahead of his Tory rival slightly, but if there was a lesson to be learnt from the 2015 general election was that you could never trust polls. Still, Conservatives seem to be treating the London race as a litmus test for their own confrontation with Labour in four years’ time.
The mud-throwing in the London contest began early with Zac Goldsmith accusing Sadiq Khan of being a Corbynite. That mud, unfortunately for the Conservatives, has failed to stick and that is why I think that tactics have changed somewhat.
The three pieces of news I mentioned before did not come out randomly, or innocently. The three were put out by the Tory party with a two- or three-day gap in between. That was enough time for the items to sink in the minds of the electorate. The three were linked by a common theme: Islam and Muslims. You could even add that the first shot had been fired around Christmas when the Prime Minister declared that the UK was a Christian country. No surprise, then, that the headline-grabbing press release on the planned government-funded parenting classes was followed a few days after by the education-targeted, alarm-sounding news item about the…