by LAUREN CODLING
CONSERVATIVE mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has apologised to the Asian community for his controversial comments that were published in a 2005 pamphlet, which warned that multiculturalism could make the UK a “crime riddled cesspool”.
In an exclusive interview with Eastern Eye, the 47-year-old has acknowledged his “poor” use of language related to a report he wrote which has been widely criticised for its “divisive” remarks.
The London politician wished to make it clear to any community insulted by his past comments that his apology is sincere.
“There were rough words and poor language used,” Bailey said. “I want to make it quite clear that if anyone is offended by what I said or any hurt or upset I caused, I absolutely apologise for that.”
Bailey, who was selected as the Tory candidate for London mayor in September, was heavily criticised when a 2005 pamphlet he wrote for a London-based think tank came to public attention last month.
In a section entitled ‘Multiculturalism’ in the pamphlet No Man’s Land, Bailey cautioned Britain about “removing the religion that British people generally take to”, referring to children learning more about Diwali than Christmas in school, and warning it had allowed immigrants to bring their countries’ cultural problems with them.
“Without our community we slip into a crime riddled cesspool,” he said. “By removing the religion that British people generally take to, by removing the ethics that generally go with it, we’ve allowed people to come to Britain and bring their culture, their country and any problems they might have, with them.”
Bailey, a member of the London Assembly, also confused the difference between Hindu with Hindi in the controversial document.
The former youth worker was slammed for his remarks, with some politicians and community leaders demanding he step down.
Indian-origin MP Virendra Sharma called on the Conservatives to withdraw Bailey’s candidature for the 2020 local elections, stating it was “appalling” the party could select a candidate with views “[so] outdated and objectionable”.
Labour MP Andy Slaughter claimed the remarks were “at best divisive and at worst Islamophobic”, whilst a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said his words were “grotesque”.
A London Labour Party spokesman described Bailey’s views as “misogynistic and racially divisive”.
Bailey, who has found religion since the pamphlet was released, said he understands why people were offended by his comments.
“I have [the Christian] faith now and if someone said I shouldn’t celebrate Easter… of course I understand,” he said. “That is why I have made sure I have apologised with no qualification. I just want everyone to understand I am sorry.”
When Bailey was given a chance to verify his comments on multiculturalism, he wanted to
highlight that some of his comments were misunderstood.
The points he was trying to make, which he admits were constructed “very poorly”, were that he wanted to focus on what makes communities similar.
If you read through the entirety of the pamphlet, Bailey noted, the aim was to connect “everyone to the mainstream of society”.
Thirteen years ago, people were trying to talk about multiculturalism, but it was always focused on differences between groups, he said.
“I think I was trying to say to people, let’s talk about what we have in common, such as families, religion […] and building strong family networks,” he said.
When asked if his views remained the same, the Londoner said he had moved from a “place of ignorance to a place of knowledge.”
He believes the pamphlet only resurfaced because his opponents hoped the comments would harm his mayoral bid. Bailey claimed the pamphlet had always been “well-known”
and referred to its resurrection as a “well-organised attack”.
“This was an attempt to say you can’t look up to this man because he doesn’t believe in you,” he said.
“[But] I definitely will be representing all Londoners. I was born and raised here but I’ve always connected with communities – and I will continue to do that.”
Bailey also revealed that politician Baroness Warsi, who has previously accused the Conservative party of “widespread” Islamophobia, spoke with him after his controversial
“She was quite strident in saying you need to think about an apology and I said I absolutely [would],” he said. “She said the Asian community is strong enough to accept
an apology, but are you strong enough to give one? I hope people feel I’ve been able to do that.”
In recent months, the Conservative party has been plagued with accusations regarding racism within the party.
During the summer, former foreign minister Boris Johnson caused uproar when he compared women in burqas and niqabs to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes” in a newspaper column.
Earlier this year, fellow Tory MP Bob Blackman was accused of endorsing Islamophobia after he posted an anti-Muslim article.
Bailey said although he didn’t believe there was a problem within the party as such, he believes Baroness Warsi is right in “pressing the issue”.
“She is right in a sense to keep the pressure up, to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said. “She has been sometimes tough for Conservatives to swallow, but I would always say
she should be around as she keeps everyone on their toes and makes people think: ‘Do we have an Islamophobic problem there?’”
Moving onto his own politics, his main drives are employment and housing, two aspects which are close to his heart.
Having previously worked as a youth worker and and as a special advisor to the prime minister on youth and crime, Bailey has seen the impact poverty can have on communities. The father-of-two has witnessed violent assaults, helped young people who are addicted
to drugs, and worked with police in tackling knife culture.
Having experienced what he has, Bailey is keen to stress part of his leadership would be striving to see people progress.
“That is the backdrop for everything I do,” he said. “In short terms, security starts at home and opportunity starts at work.”
An additional central focus would be on crime. In the last year, London’s crime rate has increased at a significant rate.
There have been 121 homicides in the capital this year so far, including 69 fatal stabbings and 14 shootings, compared to 116 for the whole of last year.
In response, Bailey aims to provide 1,000 extra police officers and 800 extra police detectives. He also backed an increase in stop and search, a notion which home security
Sajid Javid has also supported.
“The only thing that criminals are afraid of is being caught,” Bailey said. “If they don’t think
they’re going to be caught, they will keep going.”
Brought up on a North Kensington estate by his mother, Bailey was born and bred in the capital.
Claiming he had a great childhood, albeit poor, he labelled his relationship with London as “pure love”.
“London has given me opportunities,” he said. “If you had saw me [back then], you would never have thought I would have arrived where I am now. That is why I want to give back to London. I want to see people progress.”