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Andrew Slaughter MP describes allegations that he is to speak at the GPU as “highly offensive and defamatory”

This is a guest post by Mehrdad Amanpour

Andrew Slaughter MP, Labour’s shadow justice minister, has asked for an article I wrote, naming him as a speaker at the forthcoming GPU event, which advertised a number of hate preachers as speakers, to be taken down and an apology issued.

In his letter to me Mr Slaughter stated:

“The allegations which you make in your article, which I find highly offensive and defamatory, were made in similar form in a blog on another website some days ago…I have not been asked (and therefore have not considered let alone accepted) speaking at the event which you criticise…You should have checked your facts before writing a scurrilous article about me…”

The blog Mr Slaughter was referring to was Left Foot Forward where a post making the same allegation regarding Mr Slaughter and 3 other politicians was published more than two weeks ago and has since been taken down.

Prior to receiving his letter, I wrote to Mr Slaughter explaining that I had written the article in good faith and based it on sources that I though reliable in this context, namely an article first published in the Telegraph almost 2 weeks ago written by Toby Young that remains published on the Telegraph website: “Labour’s shadow justice minister to share platform with Muslim hate preachers” and GPU’s own publicity, that clearly showed Mr Slaughter as one of the speakers for GPU 2013. The references to Mr Slaughter were only removed last night but the cached versions can be seen here and here.

In his letter, Mr Slaughter responded that, “The Telegraph have been told the Young article is untrue and the same request has been made to them…The Conference organisers have been told by me to remove my picture from the website.”

However Toby Young claims, “I didn’t hear a squeak out of him”.

It was unfortunate therefore, that 2 weeks after the Left Foot Forward and Telegraph articles, Mr Slaughter was still being promoted as a speaker at GPU 2013, especially as Sadiq Khan MP, Lord Falconer and Simon Hughes MP who were also named in various media all managed to have their profiles removed promptly from the GPU 2013 publicity. It was therefore rather unlucky for Mr Slaughter that his profile wasn’t removed at the same time.

Mr Slaughter has told me that he is taking legal advice for my “false and malicious statements” about him being a speaker at GPU 2013. I hope that as part of that advice, he considers his options with regard to the GPU organisers for misrepresenting him in this way, despite the fact that he had not even been asked.

I did ask Mr Slaughter whether he intends to attend or participate in the event in a capacity other than as a speaker and in the absence of a definitive response to this specific point I am happy to take Mr Slaughter’s words at face value and assume that his association with GPU 2013 is to be none whatsoever.

So credit where credit is due. The fact that Mr Slaughter feels so offended by my associating him with the GPU needs to be applauded and is very good news. It clearly indicates a turning point in the way he and our other  political representatives have become much more discerning about the causes they associate themselves with.

It has to be acknowledged that in the past, Mr Slaughter hasn’t been quite so discerning, having associated himself with some truly odious and extremist outfits. In June 2011, Mr Slaughter seemed happy enough to speak at the 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner of Al-Muntada, an organisation that regularly hosts hate preachers that are every bit as vile as those at the GPU.

I can’t be alone in noticing a sea-change over the last year in the way our political class and mainstream media seem to be waking up to the fact that some of the Muslim organisations they associate themselves with have extremist connections.

I think that blogs like Harry’s Place, Left Foot Forward and Unrepentant Jacobin deserve some of the credit for that.

In previous years, politicians such as and Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed, Lord Charles Falconer, Salma Yaqoob, Simon Hughes MP, Sadiq Khan MP, Stephen Timms MP, Shahid Malik MP and Richard Barnes were queuing up to speak at the GPU.

This year there are no politicians whatsoever on the final GPU speaker list which was released yesterday (here and here).

So a positive outcome all round and I have no hesitation in congratulating Mr Slaughter for his comments, apologising unreservedly for associating him with such a toxic event and asking the good people at Harry’s Place to withdraw my original piece.

UPDATE

Lamia in the comments below notes the following from Andy Slaughter’s own blog, from  December 2007:

“I also attended the opening event of the Global Peace and Unity Conference – the biggest Muslim event held outside Muslim countries.  I made a speech mentioning the issue of Palestine, and I was very impressed that thousands of delegates had come from all over the world to express the desire of Muslims to live harmonious and peaceful lives with those of other – and indeed no – faith.”