The Coop Party already has 31 MPs in Parliament, making them the fourth largest party, yet you will be forgiven for not knowing who they are. As a sister party of Labour they run on a joint platform called ‘Labour Coop’. But what does the Coop stand for? Does it really make a difference within Labour? And do Coop values and Islamic values overlap? Sarmad Jawad sat down with the Chair of the Coop, Gareth Thomas MP, to find out.
So what does the Coop offer Muslims? According to Thomas, a lot. The Coop’s biggest policy for the upcoming election is entrenched with Islamic principles. The Coop wants companies with 50+ employees to share profits with its employees, or as they like to call it, a John Lewis economy. Islamic principles encourage wealth to be distributed pre-production, i.e. companies should pay their employees based on the wealth they create, not on how much they accept being paid and pocketing the rest.
“There are examples of companies that are profitable, durable and have higher job satisfaction rates that share their profits with their employees,” Thomas said . When it was pointed it out to Thomas that profit-sharing could stifle innovation, Thomas dismissed such claims by listing successful companies that share profits, including the “provocative” Navy Federal.
The Coop also champions other radical, but principled, policies, such as the Rohin Hood tax (a tax that is supported by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and over 1,000 economists, read here) and the Land Value Tax (a progressive tax on land, read here).
But if someone is to vote for the Coop, will it really be able to implement these proposals? The Coop seeks to win arguments within Labour, and push their candidates further up the Labour hierarchy, so it can achieve its aims. Is the Coop a pressure group within Labour? (Thomas’ answer came back sharply) “No, we have our own agenda and we are working from within to achieve it”. That sounds great, but what are the Coop’s biggest achievements since 1997? “We’ve managed to build 1000 Cooperative schools, converted leading football clubs into supporter-owned clubs (including Swansea City FC, a Premier League side) and reformed the law to allow Coop businesses to function like normal businesses”.
What about you, you’re the chair of Coop and a Shadow Minister, how have you influenced Labour recently? Thomas says he is proud that he convinced Ed Miliband to tax pay-day lenders to raise money for credit unions.
The Muslim News pointed out that these achievements, albeit positive, are no where near as radical as the ones the Coop are proposing. “We are ambitious,” Thomas replied, “and we will try to win the debate within Labour.”
“The Coop is about giving as much power as possible to the people,” Thomas says, a cliché if there ever was one. But the Coop takes this idea to its radical end. They believe that railways are run as a partnership between passengers and staff, people coming together to form credit unions, locals having a say in the local NHS (not on clinical decisions, Thomas is quick to point out), the examples are endless. This seems like a huge number of arguments that you need to win within Labour? “We need to build the case for each of those arguments. Look the past decade has shown the need for an alternative way to running the country, the Coop is proposing this.”
Thomas thinks that Muslims would be attracted to the Coop because Muslim and Coop values “lean the same way”. On issues such as ethical business and finance, empowerment of the individual, pooling the communities’ resources to support the community, Thomas thinks there’s significant overlap between the Coop and Muslims. “I would support a Muslim credit union that borrows money interest-free,” Thomas added.
The Coop Party does not run independently, if you want to vote Coop check if your local candidate is a ‘Labour Coop’ candidate. If they are not ask them about their Coop principles.
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Rehman Chishti, Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham
Exclusive: May’s election is the most important in a generation. That means that when you put a cross next to someone’s name and vote, you’re making a real choice about the future of our country.
It’s a choice between David Cameron as Prime Minister or putting Ed Miliband into Downing Street. It’s a choice between working through a plan that is helping fix our economy, or giving up the progress we’ve made. And it’s a choice that has real consequences for you, your family and Britain.
We all know that the Government has had to take some difficult decisions over the past five years. That’s because after thirteen years of Labour, Britain just wasn’t living within its means. One in four pounds the Government spent was borrowed – and Labour’s mismanagement of the economy saw people losing their jobs, savings and homes.
Since then, the Conservatives have been working to a plan to build a healthy economy. This helps people, rewarding them with a meaningful job and a decent standard of living. We’ve backed the businesses that create jobs with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes. Compared with 2010, there are now over 180,000 more people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity in work. Think about the difference that makes to the lives of each of those people – the security of getting paid each month, and being better able to look after their families.
Our plan is also about helping our young people reach their potential and succeed in life. We protected the schools budget and are working to ensure children get the high quality education they deserve. We’ve seen big rises in the number of children taking the GCSE subjects that are most valued by universities and employers. Four in ten Asian pupils are now taking these subjects – nearly double the level in 2010.
We’re also delivering record numbers of apprenticeships. These ‘earn while you learn’ schemes combine training and qualifications with real work. They mean people can learn a skill, and get on in life. Since 2010, nearly 40,000 apprenticeships have been started by British Bangladeshi or Pakistani people.
Our growing economy helps us fund good public services that people can rely on when they need them. Last year Britain’s was the fastest growing major, advanced economy in the world. We need that strong economy to have a strong NHS. In Government, we’ve increased the NHS budget by £12.7 billion. That means we can have thousands more doctors and nurses in our hospitals helping treat the sick.
As well as delivering a strong economy – Conservatives have taken action on the issues that specifically affect the Muslim community. I know many people are worried about Islamophobia. We’ve set up a new team in Government that brings together the people responsible for tackling anti-Muslim hatred, and Ministers are working with the police to ensure mosques get the protection they need. And at a time when some are calling for restrictions on halal food, David Cameron has said clearly: whilst he is Prime Minister, halal is safe.
On international aid, the Government is committed to spending 0.7% of our national income on aid and development – helping those in poverty and need this includes many Muslim countries around the world.
These are just some of the ways we’ve made progress and there is more we want to do. But the alternative is clear. Ed Miliband isn’t up to the job of Prime Minister. But he would be in Downing Street getting pushed around by everyone – and it’s people reading this who would pay the price. Labour simply haven’t got a plan for the economy. That would mean more borrowing, more taxes and putting at risk the stability of our whole economy.
So when you go to the polling station on Thursday May 7, less than two months time, you’re making an important choice. Choose Conservative, and you’re choosing a competent Prime Minister, a strong team, and a plan for a better future for you, your family and this country.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Shadow Exchequer Secretary
Exclusive: The key job of Government is to collect taxes and to decide how to distribute the money. Party political manifestos are primarily put together to tell people what each party would do – what they would spend and what they wouldn’t – if enough people voted for them to form the next Government.
The global crash in 2008, followed by the worldwide recession was caused by irresponsible bankers in America but is still being felt by workers here; wages after inflation are still on average £1,600 lower a year than they were in 2010. But the crash also means there is an added dimension to the debate; the parties also need to explain how they are going to reduce the remaining budget deficit. The Government still spends more money each year than it takes in – a necessity during the dark days of the recession but not something that should be sustained indefinitely.
The Labour Party has made its priorities very clear. We will:
• Make work pay by expanding free childcare for working parents and introducing a lower 10p starting rate of income tax to help 24 million working people;
• Get at least 200,000 new homes built a year to relieve Britain’s housing crisis;
• Increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour before 2020 and give tax breaks to firms who start paying the living wage;
• And get the NHS back on its feet by employing 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives by 2020
And we know exactly how we will pay for it.
We will ask those who have a more to pay a little more. We will introduce a mansion tax for people who own a house worth over £2 million. We will also reintroduce the 50p rate of tax for people who earn more than £150,000.
We will also clamp down on tax avoidance. We will close tax loopholes that are being exploited by companies to avoid paying tax such as the Quoted Eurobond Exemption and we will stop the abuse of self-employment in the construction industry.
And we will make some cuts – for example we know we can make £250 million of savings in the police budget – savings would include scrapping elected Police and Crime Commissioners and reforming police procurement through mandatory joint purchasing of equipment by police forces.
Our financial plan allows us to make significantly different choices to the Tories and it will allow us to get rid of the budget deficit – to balance the books – at the very latest by 2020.
The Tories however are not being quite as upfront in their plans. They have told us that their goal is to get rid of the deficit and in fact run a surplus of £23 billion by 2019-2020.
What they haven’t told us, at all, is how on earth they are going to get there.
Because if that is really their plan then to do that they will have to make cuts twice as large as those that they are admitting to. Cuts that would change the face of Government in this country.
Cuts to public spending of this magnitude would lead to the smallest police force since the late 1970s (the earliest available comparable data), the smallest army since Cromwell ruled Britain in the 17th Century, and a third of older people in social care losing their entitlement to it.
Cuts that would affect each and every one of us in this country.
And the Tories, of course, as a political party have every right to put that political choice on the table for voters to chose. But at the moment they are not being honest with people about exactly how they would achieve it and what that choice would mean.
In my constituency of Birmingham Ladywood I have no doubt what that would mean.
People waiting longer and longer for NHS treatment; more foodbanks; fewer police on the beat and more vulnerable older people trying to fend for themselves. And I don’t think it would end there.
So there is a big choice for voters in the 2010 election. It’s a choice about who you want to be the Prime Minister of our country; which political party you think will be best for you. But more than that, it’s about the kind of country you want to live in. A country where Government creates the conditions to enable people to get on or a country where most people are left to sink or swim. I know which kind of country I will chose.
Baroness Manzoor CBE, Lib Dem Peer recognised for her work in Business and the public sector
Exclusive: The Lib Dems are the party of opportunity. We believe everybody, no matter who they are, should be given the same chances in life. We want to do all we can to make sure everyone has the opportunities to get on in life.
Conservatives are seeking to remove some of the basic freedoms in the European Convention of Human Rights, which sit strongly alongside the principles of Islam. We are the only party in the UK that genuinely supports fundamental human rights and civil liberties.
We desire to build a fairer society is balanced with our desire to build a stronger economy. For the UK to thrive we need to take advantage of all our talents and build our economy on the diversity of the people of the UK. Muslim men are reportedly 76% less likely to be employed then white Christians of a similar age. This is appalling. We are encouraging those companies that reflect equality and diversity good practice. Part of the problem is at the top, company heads do not reflect the population (only 5% of our board members are from ethnic minorities). The next government must ensure that change happens. We want to see, at the very least, one non-white person on every board of FTSE 100 companies by 2020.
The Quran advocates only one tax; Zakaat that is only payable by those who have excess wealth left over at the end of the year i.e. the rich. It is paid as a percentage on the wealth so the richer pay more. It is distributed to the poor, the sick, disabled, the elderly and the needy and used to abolish poverty and need. We achieved this with cutting income tax for poorest and want to impose mansion tax on the richest.
We are also an internationalist Party. Nick Clegg was the only Party leader willing to stand up to the nationalistic, anti-immigration message spouted by Nigel Farage. We believe in a Britain that is open to trade, open to new ideas and that promotes equality throughout the world. We were the only major Party to vote against the disastrous Iraq war and our MPs continue to work to promote diplomatic solutions to international problems.
My background is in health, I was the Chair of the Northern and Yorkshire NHS Regions. Many health issues affect ethnic minorities more adversely than other parts of the population, yet they often have more difficulty accessing services. We are fighting to end these differences and discrimination in our health provision
For example, as a party we are pushing for equality in mental health provision, an area where ethnic minorities are over represented, we have enshrined in law the equal status of mental and physical health in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
There is further inequality in how mental health problems affect different groups within society. People from a minority background are more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for mental illnesses. Furthermore, they are more likely to disengage from the services on offer. This is causing an unnecessary and avoidable divisions in society. We made clear that culturally appropriate services are offered on the NHS, we need our National Health Service to work for our modern nation. It is for these reasons mental health will be a key part of our manifesto.
We also find inequalities in social care. Black and ethnic minority groups do not get the same service as others. Ethnic minorities are less likely to use health and social care services and those that do often appear to get worse treatment.
We want to change this statistic, we are introducing a £75,000 cap on care costs and giving financial support to people with less than £123,000 assets. Nobody will have to sell their home to pay for care during their lifetime thanks to our plans. We are determined that everybody should have the opportunity to access good quality care.
We are working hard to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities in life. We need to ensure that our society is built on equality and fairness. We must build a fair society across the board, in government, in business, in health, in education. We must represent, and cater for, the diversity of our society throughout our society. With your votes and support, the Liberal Democrats are the party that will deliver this.
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According to analysis* by The Muslim News Muslims could influence up to 25 marginal seats. Most of these seats are in London, but there’s a significant presence in Yorkshire and Birmingham. The Muslim News will cover these seats in depth.
There are many seats where Muslims make up a substantial minority which have been omitted from our analysis (such as seats in Birmingham and Manchester). This is because these seats are safe seats and it is unlikely it will change hands, so The Muslim News decided to cover them less.
* We used three statistical models to obtain these results, read the full methodology. “The best and most comprehensive analysis on the Muslim vote,” Dr. Jamil Sharif.
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A video has gone viral of a Lebanese TV host cutting off a scholar after he told her to ‘shut up’.
Rima Karaki, a TV host at Al-Jaded TV, a pan-Arab TV station, and professor, told the scholar, “Either there is respect or this conversation is over”.
The scholar, Hani al-Sibai was interrupted by Karaki, as he was giving a detailed historical answer, asking him to ‘talk about this era’ as ‘our time slot is limited’.
Sibai reacted angrily , “Don’t cut me off so you can prove yourself mighty … I will present the idea I want.”
Karaki then said that she is telling him to be concise so you can get you’re idea across fully in the time available. “In this studio I run the show,” she continued.
This sent Sibai over the top, “Shut up let me continue” he said. After a tense silence Karaki replied, “How can a respectable scholar like you tell a TV host to shut up?”
Karaki then decided to cut the interview, to which Sibai replied “It’s beneath me to be interviewed by you. You are a women…” when his microphone was muted and then cut off altogether.
The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on 25 March in central London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.