LONDON: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was made Foreign Office and Faith & Communities Minister by Prime Minister David Cameron as he carried out the coalition’s first major re-shuffle which saw many promotions and demotions.
Warsi resigned from the post of Conservative co-chairmanship but was given various options to choose from. Many political pundits had predicted that she will be axed but Warsi survived the reshuffle and she will now serve as a senior foreign office minister, as deputy to British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Warsi will continue to have a seat at the cabinet table but more importantly she also now has a seat at the National Security Council meetings.
Her brief in the new job involves a long list of areas but the most important ones are Af-Pak policy, withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), and central Asia, Commonwealth, United Nations, human rights and consular policies. In her role as the Faith and Communities minister, a role specifically created for her in the Communities and Local Government (CLG) where she will have two special advisors to assist her, she will work towards the enhancement of faith in the social and public life.
Speaking to The News after accepting the new post, Warsi said the last two and half years as party chair gave her the opportunity to re-shape the Conservative Party and re-focus its strategy including a bigger focus on the northern towns, women and ethnic minorities.
“Winning the Alternative Voting referendum and delivering better than expected local election results have been highlights of my term and I am particularly proud of the launch of groups like Conservative Friends of Pakistan. Such initiatives will lead to our party engaging with essential non-white voters who are crucial to winning the next election.
I am confident that the strategy that I have set will be supported and followed by the new party chair,” she said.
Warsi told that she was clear about the kind of job she wanted to do in the new line-up. “The job I have been given fits my expertise, strengths and interests. I am delighted to serve as a minister with William Hague in the Foreign Office at a crucial time when the world is changing. At the same time I will continue to make the case for different faiths.”
Earlier, when the news of Warsi being moved out of the Tory party chairmanship broke, many commentators and equality campaigners offered her support.
Simon Woolley, the director and one of the founders of Operation Black Vote, said Warsi is a “great asset” to the coalition government. “She represents a progressive vision for the coalition government, being an able politician. Her inclusion in the cabinet is important otherwise it will be all male-and-white-dominated cabinet with no representation of ethnic minorities. It matters a lot when a Pakistani and Muslim woman breaks through the glass ceiling. She gave a positive message to all minorities across the board.”
The equality campaigner hit out at the right-wing element within the Conservative party. “Warsi’s problem has always been the presence of detractors within her own party who use friendly fire on her, more than on anyone else in the government. That shows the challenges that women and ethnic minorities face remain there and need to be addressed.”
Mathew Parris, a respected Time commentator, said that Warsi did a fantastic job as the party chair but he lamented that “there are elements within the party who don’t like an Asian woman leading them. It shows rift within the party.”