The relentless smear campaign against the personal character of Naz Shah, Labour candidate for Bradford West, has continued apace, and indeed intensified over the past weekend.
With, apparently, no attempt at contacting Ms. Shah in advance to put their character smear allegations to her – a violation of basic press ethics – the Asian Sun, a free newspaper widely read among Bradford’s Asian community, published two articles falsely attacking Ms. Shah on the basis of her character. This was long-planned by the paper’s editor, Fatima Patel, who along with Ratna Lachman, the moderator of the hustings at which George Galloway was allowed to call Naz Shah a liar and wave her Nikkah around, has repeatedly slurred the character of Naz Shah by falsely stating that she made a personal attack on George Galloway at the first Bradford hustings – and therefore, Mr. Galloway’s wild character slurs against Ms. Shah were two sides of the same coin.
The first piece in the paper included this character smear by Fatima Patel in her “open letter to Bradford West Constituents”. I have asked Ms. Patel if she can sustain her charge that Naz Shah personally attacked the character of George Galloway, before publishing this article – which is more journalistic notice than she gave Ms. Shah. She has not replied.
Instead what I was getting was a Naz Shah and George Galloway engaged in a highly personal attack and counter-attack against each other
I have felt despair watching people from outside the district taking to social media in the Shah versus Galloway mud-slinging match.
Yet again, Patel repeats her smear on Naz Shah’s character, stating that Ms. Shah has based her campaign on ‘personal attacks':
However, my problem lies when both Galloway and Shah are defining their campaigns in terms of personal attacks against each other rather than giving us an agenda for positive change.
In fact, this is a wholly false accusation. Ms. Shah’s opening remarks at the hustings made no personal attacks on George Galloway at all; she made political attacks on his absentee record in Bradford West, and his high outside earnings. (Mr. Galloway votes and speaks the least of any active MP in the House of Commons, and is one of the highest outside earners). The local paper, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, covered this pretending Ms. Shah’s wholly political remarks were a personal attack and they entirely omitted Mr. Galloway’s brandishing Shah’s nikkah and calling her a liar on her forced marriage.
Ms. Shah’s remarks can be seen here. Slide cursor to 3:43. Here is a transcript:
I was going to talk about our absentee MP, but he’s here – and I remembered it’s election time. Bradford deserves better. I believe Bradford West needs a Labour government, and a Labour MP. Let’s be clear about a few things for Bradford West. This government has been a complete disaster for the schoolchildren in Bradford. They have taken out the money where we needed it the most, and spent it on free schools. Not only that, it is also worth pointing out that Labour put forward a motion for targeting of schools funding, so that we could target the funds where we needed it the most. But our absentee MP wasn’t there to cast his vote on that one. For children and families, we need a Labour government, because we are committed to increasing free childcare from 15 to 25 hours, capping class sizes for six and seven year olds, and abolishing the free schools status. Bradford deserves better. We need a Labour government for families because under the Coalition, every family is worse off by £1100. We are committed to increasing the minimum wage, increasing the minimum wage over the term of the next parliament to £8, freezing energy bills, and we will be doubling paternity leave. [applause] We need a Labour government, because the average weekly take-home pay in Bradford is approximately £360. That’s low in comparison to everywhere else, where it’s over £500 a week. Bradford deserves better! We have a coalition government which has failed miserably to reduce the deficit as promised. I tell you, my three year old could hit the back of that net better than the Coalition government! The only table Bradford West has gone up in, since the coalition, is the employment table. What we will do, a Labour government, is put £6bn through the L.E.Ps, through the ‘LEP’s, to spread that money from central government. So that £6bn will come to us to decide where we want to spend it the most, so nobody in London is telling us how we need to grow out community – our businesses. 99% of businesses are small businesses. For every one corporation tax cut that the Tories are offering, 17 small businesses will grow, will flourish. That’s where we need to put our investment. Over the last three years, Bradford West has been badly served. We have an absentee MP, and for me, the role of the MP is to be Bradford West’s voice in Parliament. But he’s never there, because he’s too busy earning loads elsewhere.
This opening speech is almost entirely about Labour policies for Bradford West and attacks on the Coalition government. At no point whatsoever does Naz Shah, as Fatima Patel accuses her, ‘sling mud’ at George Galloway or attack him personally. Her points about his outside earnings and absentee voting record are both fact-based and purely political.
In additional to the character smear against Ms. Shah, one repeated by Ratna Lachman of Just West Yorkshire in a blog post she has now hastily deleted, that Ms. Shah has personally attacked George Galloway, Fatima Patel willfully lies about Naz Shah’s politics. Under the law, this is not illegal, as the Woolas judgement made clear. It is however, disgraceful.
However despite the elections being imminent, I am still none the wiser about Naz Shah’s policy platform.
Well then, it is clear she did not listen to Ms. Shah at the first hustings or at any of the subsequent hustings. Indeed, Ms. Patel’s bias in writing this tripe is abundantly clear from her tweets and Facebook posts praising all candidates for ‘sticking to issues’ at other hustings, in which she clearly states she has heard nothing but policy from Naz Shah and all the candidates:
Fatima Patel also falsely states in her article
Although Shah has made the issue of her childhood and her forced marriage prominent, I have not known her to champion the issue despite the fact that it has blighted so many women’s lives in Bradford.
This is false on its face. Ms. Patel has known Ms. Shah’s campaigning on women’s rights issues all too well. She has published work by her about the matter in her own paper.
Indeed, the character slur with which Ms. Patel seeks to influence the election in Bradford West – that Naz Shah used personal attacks and mud-slinging against George Galloway – is matched by her knowingly false political slurs. Her ‘open letter’ states:
As a Bradford voter I was looking for someone who has an action plan for getting inner-city Bradford out of the bottom of the educational league tables; someone who has a business and jobs growth-plan for the district;
As eagle-eyed readers will note, these issues are exactly and precisely the ones addressed by Naz Shah in her opening speech at the first hustings; education, schools, business and jobs, with solutions offered for all of them.
So much for the disgusting ‘Open Letter to Bradford West Constituents’ in which Ms. Patel smears the character of Ms. Shah.
The Asian Sun has a second article, which I will not link to, as it contains malicious falsehood and defamation of my character; I can confirm that contrary to public interest journalism, the paper never contacted me in advance for a response to the heinous lies they printed about my attitude to men of Pakistani heritage, intended to defame me to a BME community; they made no checks with me against the malicious falsehood they published about me.
The article is about Naz Shah. It attacks and falsely smears her personal character of Naz Shah, again, accusing her of lying about her upbringing and her false marriage. It attacks her mother Zoora Shah, saying that Ms. Shah senior was not being abused by her bigamist husband Abid Shah, and yet the account it gives of Ms. Shah’s childhood confirms Zoora and her children’s appalling suffering at the hands of Abid Shah.
In a stunning passage that seeks to justify the hellish emotional abuse heaped on Zoora Shah by her then husband, the writer Anne Czernik describes Abid Shah as ‘the handsome business man’ who was courting a 15 year old underage girl when he was 29, and married to Zoora Shah who had young children:
She [Nasim Shah, the second wife and widow of Abid Shah] said Abid and Zoora Shah lived next door with their two young children. Naz, his much loved daughter was about six years old when Abid noticed Nasim. She said Abid told her “they had their problems but he didn’t set out to have a relationship with me.” Nasim said “Abid said he liked me. He was showing me some attention which I hadn’t got when I was young. I was flattered. He was 29, I was 15. He would come to our house to eat “
The handsome business man told her that his marriage to Zoora had been arranged.
It is utterly sickening that grooming of an underage girl should be described in this way. “I was 15.” Whether or not there was sexual intercourse, the 15 year old child was too young for an adult relationship and too young to “marry”. It is admitted that Abid proposed to Nasim “on her sixteenth birthday he went down on one knee.”
The article further describes Nasim as “married” to Abid when Zoora Shah was still his only legal wife; it excuses his bigamy; it describes Abid as “He had sold his business and risked his life for the young woman he loved.”
Certainly it seems that Nasim Shah, as well as Naz Shah, was to be forced into “marriage” in Pakistan by her family, and of this, she too was a victim. But Nasim was not at all the wife of Abid Shah at that time in any legal way. A hellish situation for Zoora Shah and her children is described, albeit in terms seeking to exculpate the bigamist husband who required his wife and children to live with his teenage fiancee in the same house (Zoora and Abid Shah were not legally divorced until several years after he took up with his teenage partner). The abusive bigamist’s brother, Zaf Shah, describes Zoora Shah as being forced to borrow a deposit from a friend of her father-in-law’s, dependent, clearly, on the family of her husband who was now in a bigamous relationship with a teenage girl. The torment that Zoora must have been put through is hard to imagine.
The article quotes Zaf Shah repeating the character slur against Naz Shah that George Galloway made on Twitter about the hustings: that Ms. Shah is a racist, and that she is giving the account of her own forced marriage, and her hellish childhood at the hands of his bigamist brother, to smear the community. He is quoted as saying:
“This isn’t about Respect or the Labour Party. This is about not duping the people if you are going to stand in a position of influence. I accept that people have a past. But you don’t play to all the horrible stereotypes of Pakistani men.”
Here then, Mr. Shah accuses Naz Shah of lying “duping the people” and of being a racist “you don’t play to all the horrible stereotypes of Pakistani men.” This is an attack on the personal character of a candidate in a General Election, made to influence the result of that election. It uses the same form of words George Galloway used when he falsely slandered Ms. Shah as a racist.
Nasim Shah, however, needs further examination. Firstly and simply, she too has attacked the personal character of Naz Shah in an attempt to influence the result of the General Election: she has spread the smear site against her ex-husband’s daughter. Here is a screenshot from 31 March from her Facebook in which she does so. On this basis I have filed a report against Nasim Shah to the police.
This is completely incontrovertible evidence that Nasim Shah has spread the repellent smear site against Naz Shah.
However, Ms. Nasim Shah’s public slurs on Naz Shah’s character predate March 31. On March 11 she posted to Facebook that ‘Maybe it’s time to go to her level’
and on March 10th she posted:
On the Facebook of the Respect sock puppet ‘David Humphreys’ whom I believe to be a lawyer connected to the Respect Party she was allowed to post staying that Naz Shah was lying about being forced into her marriage:
Meanwhile the smear site itself has separate tags – Naz Shah and Nasim Shah, despite the fact that Nasim Shah is never mentioned by name in the text anywhere:
The site has been re-created on WordPress, and under the wordpress blog are some sock puppet comments. If you click on one of them you will find the smear site under another url. Within the home url there is a sub url that contains the word ‘Nasim’. Again, the name ‘Nasim’ is not mentioned anywhere in the text of the smear blog:
Whether or not Nasim Shah co-operated in the writing of the horrifically abusive smear site, I do not know. That she has personally smeared the character of Naz Shah in order to influence the result of a general election is however absolutely certain, as she has shared the smear site on her Facebook directly. The fact that the Asian Sun has chosen to co-operate with a woman who has personally shared the smear site against Naz Shah is also repellent, as is their description of the grooming of a 15 year old child and their defence of the emotional abuse Zoora Shah suffered at the hands of her bigamist husband and his father. I have asked Fatima Patel in person and the Asian Sun as a newspaper if they can sustain their false allegations against the character of Naz Shah, or if they contacted her for comment or rebuttal before publishing this wretched hit piece with its slanders of racism and lying made by her uncle. They had an opportunity to comment and rebut that they did not afford the Labour candidate, contrary to any public interest journalism defence. I am adding all the individuals whom I believe have breached S106 of the representation of the people act to my criminal complaints to West Yorkshire Police. It is to be hoped that the Electoral Commission will do a better job in Bradford West than they did in Tower Hamlets.