On Saturday 23 November 2013, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported an interview with the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve, MP for Beaconsfield and Attorney General. The story can be read on the internet at this link. When the story was reported on radio and television, the media gave enormous emphasis to a passing remark that Mr Grieve had made in response to a question from the interviewer about electoral corruption, which specifically mentioned members of the Pakistani community. This understandably led to many Britons of Pakistani origin expressing concern very publicly. They contended that Mr Grieve’s remarks demonised the Pakistani community.
Many of the members of the Executive of the Conservative Muslim Forum, including the Deputy Chairman Mohammed Amin, are of Pakistani origin. They know Dominic Grieve as a friend of the CMF, and as a tireless campaigner for the greater integration and for the rights of all citizens.
Instead of going to the media, Lord Sheikh, the Chairman of the CMF, spoke directly with Dominic Grieve after which Dominic wrote to Lord Sheikh.
Lord Sheikh’s letter to CMF Members and Supporters
6th December 2013
Dear Members and Supporters
Interview reported in the Daily Telegraph
When the article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 23rd November 2013 I was very surprised to read the headline in the newspaper and felt that the reporting was perhaps not accurate.
I say this because I have known Dominic for 10 years and shared the platform with him on numerous occasions when we have discussed issues relating to BME Communities. I have been and am constantly in touch with him and have found his contributions to be pertinent and positive.
When I originally conceived the idea of Conservative Muslim Forum, Dominic rendered me support and in fact he became a member of the Executive of the Forum. He has since then remained our friend.
Subsequent to the article in the newspaper I have spoken to Dominic Grieve several times, he was rather concerned that Daily Telegraph has published a headline which suggested that corruption was rife in the Pakistani community. In view of his concern he has written me a letter which is attached.
I also attach a transcript of parts of the interview which I would ask that you kindly read to appreciate what Dominic has said in answer to points raised in the interview.
In addition I would like to refer to the comments made by Grant Shapps (Co-chairman of the Conservative Party) on 23rd November to ITV and Channel 4. These comments are as follows:
Grant Shapps: Dominic Grieve has got a very long history of reaching out to communities, minority communities in this country. I think the most important thing is we don’t pinpoint any particular communities. Wherever corruption exists of course we want to make sure that is rooted out we will do that.
Grant Shapps: The government is absolutely clear we never want to pinpoint individual communities. Of course corruption needs to be rooted out wherever it is in this country. But we think that is something that needs to be tackled everywhere not in a specific community.
I hope that the above will clarify the situation and people will have a better understanding of the true situation.
The Lord Sheikh
Transcript from the interview mentioned in Lord Sheikh’s above letter:
DG: “…and we also have to make people confident that there’s a bright future and I happen to be very optimistic about the future of the UK. We have managed integration of minority communities better than most countries in Europe. As long as we maintain the rule of law, as long as we maintain institutions that are democratic, as long as we prevent the growth of corruption, which is actually quite a big challenge, and actually a growing one in this country, which has been underestimated…”
BB: Why is that?
DG: “Because we have minority communities in this country which come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic and I think it is something we as politicians have to wake to up to and have to make absolutely make clear there is absolutely no requirement… I mean I have quite a big south Asian community in my constituency and I can see many of them have come because of the opportunities that they get. But they also come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture. One of the things you have to make absolutely clear is that that is not the case and it’s not acceptable but also it’s not necessary. Which is why for example what the UK has done over the Bribery Act is actually very important internationally but I have to say to you it is also rather important domestically as well.”
BB: Is scale of corruption is increasing?
DG: “I note that electoral corruption has increased I think you only have to look at Slough which is on my borders where I have seen a number of instances of corruption creep in at election time and this is rooted in certain minority communities who consider that is an acceptable way to behave.”
BB: Do you have in mind the Pakistani community?
DG: “Yes it’s mainly the Pakistani community, not the Indian community. I wouldn’t draw it down to one. I’d be wary of saying it’s just a Pakistani problem. It’s also ….historically you can find white Anglo Saxons doing this. But I do think as politicians, the political class, these are issues we need to pay some attention to.”
Dominic Grieve’s letter to Lord Sheikh is reproduced below
4 December 2013
House of Lords
Dear Mohamed [Handwritten]
Thank you for your letter concerning the interview that was published in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 23 November. In this I made reference to the need to address the risk of electoral corruption developing further in our country.
My remarks were made in the context of a discussion about the steps that are needed to ensure that the United Kingdom can develop as a harmonious society and accommodate the peoples of diverse backgrounds who live in it. Central to this in my view is the maintenance of the Rule of Law and equality for all under the law irrespective of ethnicity or faith. The integrity of our democratic institutions is an important part of this and I have a concern that electoral fraud or corruption if not challenged could undermine this. There have been instances of proven electoral fraud, some of which are linked to individuals from several ethnic minority backgrounds that reflect unlawful practises from their countries of origin. I do not think this is an issue that can be ignored. We should work collectively to ensure that there is an understanding that this is damaging to a free society and wholly unacceptable.
In reporting my remarks the Daily Telegraph published a headline which suggests that I had asserted that “corruption rife in the Pakistani community”. A reading of the interview and of the transcript which I enclose shows that I never said any such thing. I can well understand that members of the British Pakistani community would have been offended by the headline which is unjustifiable and wrong. This is why I apologised for the offence it would have caused.
It has been my privilege over the last ten years to have had extensive engagement with many different ethnic minorities including British Pakistanis in furthering our common good. I will continue to do this and to try and work with them and the wider community to address problems including electoral corruption.
Yours ever [handwritten]
Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP