Warsi warning on ethnic vote

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THERE will be some Conservatives who will quickly dismiss Sayeeda Warsi’s pre-election pessimism as the embittered comments of a former Minister who resigned in high dudgeon after being overlooked for the post of Foreign Secretary when William Hague stepped aside.

They are mistaken. The West Yorkshire peer’s candour about the Tory party’s continuing neglect of ethnic minority voters should be exercising the minds of Ministers if they’re serious about David Cameron securing an outright Parliamentary majority next May.

The odds are still stacked against Mr Cameron’s party, despite Ed Miliband’s lack of credibility. When John Major won the 1992 election with a slender majority, the last time that the Tories triumphed nationally, it required 14 million votes.

In the subsequent two decades, the electorate has become far more splintered. Labour has tried to ‘buy’ public sector workers; the Eurosceptic vote is now increasingly divided between Conservatives and Ukip and the Tories are being ignored by ethnic minority families. It does not bode well, given that Mr Cameron only secured 10.7 million votes in 2010 at the height of the recession.

In this regard, Baroness Warsi’s analysis is correct. The Conservatives are guilty of complacency, not least in Yorkshire where the party is only now beginning to select candidates for the next election. She is also right when she says that many Muslims share Tory instincts on work ethic.

Yet the quandary for the Prime Minister is that the escalating bloodshed in the Middle East will be divisive from a domestic standpoint. If Britain ignores the persecution of refugees fleeing Islamic extremists in Iraq, he will be accused of weakness. However, if this country’s involvement extends beyond the airdrops of humanitarian aid, there will be claims of mission creep and that Mr Cameron has not learned from Tony Blair’s mistakes. Though many do not concur with Baroness Warsi’s claim that Israeli air strikes against Gaza have been disproportionate, her latest intervention will give credence to the view that Mr Cameron is being dictated by events rather than allowing Britain to shape the diplomatic response to the turmoil in the Middle East which has profound repercussions for the rest of the watching world.

Pulling together

THE rise in rural crime in Yorkshire offers another reminder that the police and farming fraternity must work together on a daily basis to bring to justice those organised gangs who are stealing high-valued machinery to ship abroad.

With police simply not having enough manpower to patrol agricultural premises on a regular basis, farmers need to be vigilant at all times and ensure that valuable equipment is fitted with tracking devices that will at least, help officers to locate stolen items.

That said, today’s report is a reminder that the police do still have obligations to countryside communities despite their funding cutbacks – rural residents are also taxpayers – and they need to demonstrate to criminal gangs and so on that farms are not perceived to be a ‘soft touch’.

As such, it is welcome that North Yorkshire Police is extending the scope of automatic number plate recognition technology to track the movements of suspected criminals. However, many will contend that this is no substitute for police patrols acting as a deterrent, and that these have been compromised by the six-figure sum frittered away on a new HQ for the force at South Kilvington which has just been aborted by crime commissioner Julia Mulligan.

Message in bottle

IF YOU thought ‘last orders’ was called on the ubiquitous ‘nanny state’ when Labour was voted out of Downing Street in 2010, you’d be sadly mistaken.

A Parliamentary group on Alcohol Misuse wants health warnings to be printed on wine bottles as part of a worthy new effort to curtail problem drinking.

What next? Supermarkets being compelled to lock wine, beer and spirits away behind specially padlocked cabinets, just like tobacco products, because MPs cannot differentiate between responsible and irresponsible drinkers?

Most people are acutely aware of the health dangers of drinking to excess – or above the Government’s prescribed limits. They do not need further reminders. The challenge is spreading this manta’s importance to those individuals who are most at risk of developing liver disease in later life. The problem is that a label on a wine bottle is unlikely to make a jot of difference to their weekly, daily or hourly alcohol intake.