The British Election

The Cheeky Muslim Woman Attorney Who's Britain's Most Appealing Candidate
Notes from different corners of the world.
May 5 2005 7:09 PM

The British Election


Brent East blogger Rob Dyke
Brent East blogger Rob Dyke

When I met Rob Dyke outside Willesden Green tube station in the Brent East district of London this morning, he had the wild eyes and mile-a-minute jabber of a freshly fixed addict. It was the exquisite high of a politics junkie on Election Day. It was only 9:15, and he was chatting with his second candidate of the morning. He'd already watched Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat, cast her vote, and now he was exchanging banter with Labor hopeful Yasmin Qureshi as she made a last-minute vote-for-me pitch to commuters.

Brent East’s Labor candidate Yasmin Qureshi
Brent East's Labor candidate Yasmin Qureshi

Qureshi has been all over the national media during the campaign, mostly because of her religion and gender—if elected, she would be Britain's first female Muslim MP—but also because she's fighting for Labor pride. In September 2003, the 29-year-old Teather won the seat in a huge upset widely seen as a protest vote against the Iraq war. Before Teather's victory, Brent East had been Labor-held for three decades. In 2003, Labor had been handicapped because Brent East's Labor MP Paul Daisley had been dying of cancer as the other parties selected their candidates.


This time, Labor has more than leveled the playing field. Qureshi is a formidable candidate. She's a Muslim of Pakistani descent in a constituency that's 28 percent Asian and 13 percent Muslim; she's a barrister; she's a human-rights adviser to London Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone, who represented Brent East from 1987 to 2001. On paper, she's astonishing enough. But in person she's astounding. Charismatic, chatty, cheeky, she's a natural extrovert. She described herself as "a gobby candidate"—that's "outspoken" in American—which is one way of saying that she disagrees with a good chunk of current Labor Party policy. Over the last four weeks, she's run an anti-war campaign that stresses the government's economic strengths. She has distanced herself from Blair and invited in "old Labor" stalwarts like Livingstone ("former Labor" in his case) and Tony Benn to campaign for her.

As Qureshi button-holed another potential supporter, Rob Dyke gave me the 10-minute tour of Willesden Green's political attractions—two polling places, a defaced election poster, and the Conservative and Lib Dem party headquarters. Rob is a blogger who's been chronicling the local campaign at "Brent East Campaigning," where he posts scans of campaign materials, writes up hustings and other public events, and reports on his encounters with the candidates.

An hour in closely contested Brent East transformed my view of the election, but back in my "home" (at least for the last two weeks) constituency of Cities of London & Westminster, things were much more sedate. Walking past a polling station, I thought I'd found the best-dressed trainspotter  in Britain, but Ann Wild, a Conservative volunteer, explained that she was collecting polling-card numbers as voters left. Back in party headquarters they'd be compared with the canvassing records, and anyone who had stated an intention to vote Tory but hadn't yet shown up would be contacted and offered a ride to the polling place. But where were the other parties? "They don't really bother here," she told me. "This is a Conservative area."

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.