The Enemy Within
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the UK’s first Muslim cabinet minister, says that Britain is ‘not cohesive’ during her lecture at Leeds Trinity University last week.
Talking about her upbringing in Dewsbury, early life in politics and work with David Cameron, Baroness Warsi addressed an audience of staff, students, alumni and friends of the University. She was speaking as part of Trinity Talks; a high-profile lecture series during Leeds Trinity University’s 50th anniversary year.
“I was born into a working class, Pakistani family, in Dewsbury,” said Baroness Warsi. “We certainly felt that we were different. I always felt we were special but as I grew up, I realised that many other people thought we were inferior.”
Along with her four sisters, Sayeeda Warsi was encouraged to go to University and trained to be a lawyer. She entered politics in 2004 and stood for election the following year. Despite not winning, she recalled how she met “a young man called David Cameron” and supported him with his election campaign in 2010.
As David Cameron became Prime Minister, he appointed Baroness Warsi as Minister without Portfolio, the first Muslim to serve as a cabinet minister and the youngest peer in the House of Lords, aged 36.
Since resigning from Government in 2014, she is Chair of the Baroness Warsi Foundation and continues to work with the Savayra Foundation, which she founded in 2002. Her debut book, The Enemy Within – which looks at how different communities, including Muslims, have been seen as “the other” in Britain – was released in March this year.
Following her talk, Baroness Warsi took a number of questions from the audience including queries about the Government’s Prevent strategy, British Missions abroad and the role of the media in politics.
When asked why Government and communities seemed so disparate, she replied: “I don’t think there’s any political party that is creating a sense of ease between our nations – and this is not because of our Muslim communities. We have a lot of other issues to deal with: a potential second referendum in Scotland; Wales asking for a different kind of relationship; a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland which is falling apart. We have a country that is not cohesive and at ease with itself.”
When asked about what integration looks like, Baroness Warsi replied:
“It’s easy to integrate when you live in a nice part of town and you have friends from lots of backgrounds, but integration is a privilege, if you have a choice. If you don’t have a choice about where you live and where you go to school, I’m not sure integration is a priority. Most people want to live in a mixed community, but most people don’t get that choice. For me, integration is about giving everyone the opportunity to have a good life.”
Professor Margaret A House, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said: “Baroness Warsi’s talk was informative, interesting and funny – and I know our guests had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I was honoured to welcome Baroness Warsi onto campus, and that so many friends and partners of the University could join us for this inspiring lecture.”
150 people attended Baroness Warsi’s Trinity Talk at Leeds Trinity on Thursday 18 May. Following her talk, she signed copies of her book, The Enemy Within.
As part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations Baroness Warsi speaks of a fragmented Britain