Well, according to Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens he is. At ConservativeHome, under the headline “Hate preachers should not be defended”, Meleagrou-Hitchens returns to the attack on City Hall’s supposed links with “Islamist extremism”. This time the object of his ire is Conservative Assembly Member Andrew Boff, who has defended Boris Johnson against Meleagrou-Hitchens’ earlier accusations.
It is not accidental that Meleagrou-Hitchens’ articles have been posted on ConservativeHome’s local government page, which is edited by Harry Phibbs. A one-time leading member of the notorious Federation of Conservative Students, Phibbs is one of those Tory right-wingers who expected Boris to implement a more thorough break with Ken Livingstone’s legacy after his election as mayor. Writing at ConservativeHome in July this year, Phibbs complained indignantly that “the Conservative administration in City Hall have been shamefully allowing Ken Livingstone’s ideology of quotas, interest groups, thought crime and racial separatism to remain largely intact”. For Phibbs, links with the Islam Channel and the East London Mosque show that Boris is extending this “Livingstone lite” approach to London’s Muslim communities.
But Boris has his eye on re-election in 2012 and is prepared to take a more pragmatic view than Phibbs. In the 2008 mayoral contest the publicising of Boris’s offensive journalistic remarks about Islam led to a significant mobilisation against him among Muslims in the capital, where they make up 8% of the population. This could well have cost Boris the election. So maintaining and publicising Eid in the Square is one of Boris’s ways of mending fences with Muslim Londoners, and if it means working with the Islam Channel and giving its CEO Mohamed Ali a platform then Boris is prepared to go along with that.
In the case of the East London Mosque a more specific issue is involved, namely that the Tories think they have a chance of victory in Bethnal Green & Bow or Poplar & Limehouse in next year’s general election, after Jim Fitzpatrick’s comments about a gender-segregated Muslim wedding severely damaged Labour’s prospects in the East End. So, from a party-political perspective, establishing a warm relationship between the Tories at City Hall and the East London Mosque makes good sense.
As we’ve pointed out previously, by extending their anti-Islamist witch-hunting to the likes of Jack Straw, Boris Johnson and now Andrew Boff, Meleagrou-Hitchens and the Centre for Social Cohesion have made a serious tactical blunder which risks undermining their whole operation. And that is certainly something we welcome here at Islamophobia Watch.