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|Muslims and electoral politics in Britain: The case of the respect party
|Peace T (2013) Muslims and electoral politics in Britain: The case of the respect party. In: Nielsen J (ed.) Muslim Political Participation in Europe. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 299-321. http://www.euppublishing.com/book/9780748646944
|This chapter examines the processes and realities of Muslim participation in both local and national politics in Britain through a case study of the Respect party. This party is unique in Europe as it is the first party dominated by Muslim leaders which has achieved any notable electoral success. Formed in 2004 in the wake of the mobilisation of Muslims against the War in Iraq, it managed to elect an MP in 2005 and a number of local councillors in subsequent years despite an electoral system that effectively penalises minor parties. The empirical evidence for the paper is drawn from a series of semi-structured interviews with Respect councillors who have been elected in East London as well as election material produced by the party. Additional material obtained from newspapers, party websites and other publications has also been used to inform the analysis. An overview of the party’s development and electoral progress is presented as well an explanation of the specific context in which it has achieved success in areas of the country with a significant Muslim population (e.g. East London and Birmingham). Constituencies with high numbers of ethnic minorities have in the past always represented ‘safe seats’ for the Labour party. The chapter details how the Respect party played a key role in drastically reducing this support between 2004 and 2007, particularly amongst Muslim voters. It also shows how Respect changed the ‘rules of thegame’ and forced mainstream parties to re-think their electoral strategies in response to its success. It is argued that relationships with civil society organisations were one of the crucial factors in helping Respect to achieve its success. As a party that evolved directly from a social movement, it could rely on the pre-existing networks that had been built up with various sections of civil society as a solid base for support. It has also been active in cultivating links with mosques, faith-based organisations, community groups and trade unions.
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