About 30 years ago, Perrier discovered that it was selling mineral water contaminated with benzene. The way the company successfully dealt with this problem has become a business school case study in crisis management.
Conversely, when Arthur Andersen encountered problems from its audit of Enron, it handled the issue so badly that the firm was destroyed. A textbook example of how not to do it.
In Britain, over the last three years, we have seen the Labour Party engulfed by accusations of anti-semitism. For a detailed explanation and analysis, I recommend reading the second edition of Dave Rich’s book “The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism.” In my view, Labour has been unable to shake off the problem because the attitudes involved go right to the top.
Like society as a whole, the Conservative Party has always contained some members who are xenophobic generally, or anti-Muslim in particular. However, I have never believed that this extended to the Party’s leadership. Otherwise I would not have been a Party member for 36 years. Nevertheless, we have seen a growing problem with significant numbers of Conservative Party members making anti-Muslim comments. Occasionally, this has extended higher up, for example with Boris Johnson denigrating Muslim women who wear the burqa by comparing them to letterboxes and bank robbers.
I have some specific advice.
Get serious about transparency
I recommend watching Brandon Lewis being interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show on 28 April 2019. At 43:57 Mishal Husain asks him some very straightforward questions about cases of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Despite claiming to be transparent, the only demonstrated transparency in Lewis’s replies is that the Conservative Party has a code of conduct visible to the world on its website.
The Party should:
- Publish monthly on its website the number of Islamophobia complaints that Conservative Campaign Headquarters are dealing with.
- Publish the tariff of sanctions that are applied, with some illustrations of what types of violation qualify for different levels of sanction. At present we get vilified because people are suspended and then unsuspended. Making it clear that temporary suspension is a normal sanction, and setting out what needs to happen before unsuspension is the only way for the Party to stop looking as if it is guilty when it is actually acting perfectly reasonably.
- When people are found guilty by the disciplinary process, their names should be published with details of their offense and the sanctions applied.
- Publish details of the diversity training which needs to be undergone before qualifying for unsuspension. (I am available pro-bono if the Party wants me to talk 1-1 with any suspended Conservatives as part of their re-education. Talking to someone as boring as me might also be seen as a severe penalty!)
Commission an independent enquiry into anti-Muslim bigotry and how the Party has dealt with it
In 2018 a former Party Chairman who is a Muslim, alongside the Party’s longest serving Muslim Peer, and also the Conservative Muslim Forum, all called for such an enquiry. The refusal to respond positively to these requests from senior Muslims within the Party has not been well received by British Muslims generally.
In the context of Islamist extremism, Michael Gove has pointed out that you cannot manage by shooting the crocodiles one by one as you spot them. You have to drain the swamp. That is why an enquiry is essential.
More active celebration of Islam’s contribution to Britain
In 2007 David Cameron wrote a Guardian column called “What I learnt from my stay with a Muslim family.” While I am happy to be corrected, I cannot remember a single speech since then from either him or Theresa May focusing entirely on the positive contribution of Muslims to Britain. I do not count positive comments which may have been included speeches focusing primarily on radicalisation.
What is needed is not just a single speech, but a series of speeches to celebrate the contribution to our country of Muslims who are by now five per cent of Britain’s population, and highlighting individual role models. In particular, all Britons need to hear repeatedly about the very large and vital contribution Muslims made to Britain’s armed forces in both World Wars.
Respond to calls for the adoption of a definition of Islamophobia
Many leading British Muslims and Muslim organisations have called on the Government to formally adopt the definition of Islamophobia published in November 2018 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.
The Government has ignored these calls.
In my view, the Government is right not to adopt the definition. As I explained on this site in February, “It is time to abandon the word “Islamophobia””
However I cannot find anywhere an actual statement from the Government saying why it is not adopting the definition. Silence is not a good strategy in this case. It simply makes the Government, and therefore the Conservative Party, look as if it does not care about anti-Muslim hatred.
What is needed is a clear explanation of why the definition is not a good one, and that adopting any definition of Islamophobia would add nothing to the existing protections in hate crime and equalities legislation. At the same time, the Government should outline what it is doing to combat anti-Muslim discrimination and anti-Muslim hatred.
Problems don’t go away unless you tackle them. At present, the Conservative Party’s only perceived strategy for this problem is dealing with cases one by one, as quietly as possible. It is not working.