Zarah Sultana

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Person.png Zarah Sultana   Facebook TwitterRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(politician)
Zarah Sultana 1.jpg
Born31 October 1993
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Coventry South

In office
12 December 2019 - Present

Zarah Sultana (born 31 October 1993) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Coventry South since the UK/2019 General Election.

On 17 January 2021, Zarah Sultana tweeted:

"If you told me a few years ago that I would speak on a panel alongside Noam Chomsky, I would’ve asked what you had been smoking.
"But this afternoon, that happened.
"Huge honour to speak at the launch of @jeremycorbyn’s Project for Peace and Justice.
"We have a world to win!"[1]

Student politics

Zarah Sultana joined the Labour Party in 2011, whilst doing her A-levels, following the coalition government's decision to treble university tuition fees to £9,000.

While at Birmingham University, Sultana was elected to the National Executive Council of both Young Labour and the National Union of Students.

Political career

In January 2021, Michael Segalov of VICE News reported:

Zarah Sultana – Labour's newly elected MP for Coventry South – decided to ignore the convention that maiden speeches in Parliament remain uncontroversial. Instead, the 26-year-old MP made something of a splash with her debut performance.

"In ten years' time," Sultana said from the benches, "at the start of the next decade, I want to look teenagers in the eye and say with pride, 'My generation faced 40 years of Thatcherism and we ended it. We faced rising racism and we defeated it. We faced a planet in peril and we saved it.' We have our work cut out, but together we can do it."

I meet Sultana on Parliament's terrace a few days later. She seems unfazed by all the attention. "My point wasn't that under Blair Labour didn't do some great things in government," she explains. "I just think we need to have a bit of nuance."

"Blair oversaw Sure Start centres, the national minimum wage and council house building which changed people's lives," she says. "But at the same time we didn't see the reversal of anti-trade union laws, and we saw more privatisation. Deregulation of the city wasn't reversed; he was responsible for tuition fees, the Prevent strategy and PFI. We didn't turn our backs on neoliberalism." (Blair has said as much himself. "My job was to build on some Thatcher policies," he said in 2013.[2])

Commitment to anti-racism

Another defining feature of Sultana's maiden speech was her clear commitment to anti-racism and intersectionality:

"I know my Muslim brothers and sisters, my Jewish comrades, my friends in the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities, and people of all faiths and none," she said, "are safer when we unite to defeat the far-right."

"When I'm looking at what's happening across the world now," she continues, "the people who are targeting Jews have a similar hatred for Muslims, for LGBT people. Because that's what White Supremacy is. Over years and years, I have gone on to understand this better.

"Things will pass inside here," she says. "The Tories have a huge majority. We'll have to be more organised outside Parliament to fight for workers' rights, action on climate change and helping those who need support in our local communities. And I'll be part of that, but with fewer Labour voices in here, I'll speak up for the causes that can't be forgotten. I feel a huge sense of responsibility."[3]

Parliament Square protest rally

Addressing the rally against the PCSCB

On 15 March 2021, Zarah Sultana spoke at a rally in Parliament Square protesting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and called for the resignation of Home Secretary Priti Patel:

"The right to protest is under attack from the Conservatives' #PoliceCrackdownBill.
"This evening I joined women in Parliament Square to say: We will not be silenced. We don't accept more police powers.
"Let's #KillTheBill and defend our rights."[4]

Britain's last war of aggression

Speaking outside Parliament on 18 August 2021, prior to the Afghanistan emergency debate on the Afghanistan/2021 withdraw, Zarah Sultana joined colleagues including Jeremy Corbyn to say:

"The war on Afghanistan shows – once and for all – that the West cannot deliver liberal democracy at the barrel of a gun. This war – the first War on Terror – must be Britain's last war of aggression."
"The 20-year war on Afghanistan was a mistake, a mistake of catastrophic proportions, causing untold human tragedy: 240,000 people killed, men, women and children; tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians; and, 457 British personnel."

Called as the penultimate speaker in the parliamentary debate, Zarah Sultana said:

Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker.

Today nearly 20 years since Tony Blair dutifully followed George W Bush to war in Afghanistan, this House has an obligation to learn its lessons and to ensure its mistakes are never repeated.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to start by stating a hard but clear truth that some in this House do not want to hear. The 20-year war on Afghanistan was a mistake, a mistake of catastrophic proportions, causing untold human tragedy: 240,000 people killed, men, women and children; tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians; and, 457 British personnel. This House must never again send British service personnel to die in futile wars.[5]

Mr Deputy Speaker, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past, we must learn this lesson for the future. The West cannot build liberal democracies with bombs and bullets. That dangerous fantasy cooked up by neoconservative fanatics in Washington and championed by their faithful followers in London has brought untold death and destruction to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Libya and many other places in wars that have made us all unsafe. So today we must rid ourselves of the delusion that the answer to failed intervention is yet more intervention, and dispense with the belief that freedom abroad and safety at home can be won through wars and regime change.

Mr Deputy Speaker, after all of this bloodshed we have a special duty to the people of Afghanistan. Today as Afghans flee for their lives with heart-breaking images of people clinging onto planes, hoping that the sky is safer than the land, and Afghan asylum seekers already here, they must be provided with unconditional amnesty. And on this issue, I want to raise with the government again the case of my constituent Jamal and his father. Jamal was a translator for the British Army for six years and his father worked as a gardener in a British base. While Jamal made it safely to Coventry – a proud city of sanctuary – his father has been denied re-location and is still in Afghanistan in grave danger. I've written to the Secretary of State but haven't received a reply. So today I urge the government to act immediately and provide safe passage to Jamal's father, and all the Afghans who are facing that threat from the Taliban.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the war on Afghanistan was the first War on Terror. I was seven years old when British airstrikes hit that country. The now Prime Minister a few years later wrote, and I quote:

"We are in Afghanistan to teach them democracy."

Today after 20 years of bloodshed it is incumbent on us to learn that democracy cannot be bombed into existence; that American military might is no friend of freedom; and, to ensure that this first War on Terror is Britain's last war of aggression.[6]

Thank you.[7]

Green New Deal

Zarah Sultana MP and colleagues launching the Green New Deal Bill on 20 October 2021

On 20 October 2021, Zarah Sultana tweeted:

"Today I joined colleagues to launch the Green New Deal Bill, a programme of economic transformation to avert climate catastrophe and tackle social injustice. It's a plan for rapid decarbonisation, creating millions of good jobs and taxing the super-rich. I am proud to co-sponsor it.[8]

Face masks

Why aren't you wearing it now?

On 3 November 2021, Zarah Sultana appeared on the BBC Politics Live show and said:

“When I look across the benches, and I see most of the Tories not wearing face masks, it makes me feel unsafe, and it makes my colleagues feel unsafe…there are vulnerable MPs also sitting there, and I think it’s a dangerous message to send to the rest of the country.”[9]

Deflecting that Tory criticism, presenter Jo Coburn insisted she explain why masks had not been worn at the Labour Party conference ("they should have worn masks") and guest broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer asked why she was not wearing a mask now ("because we're in the studio and socially distanced").[10]

On the same day, Guido Fawkes pointed out that she was mask-less indoors at Labour Party conference (25–29 September 2021).[11]

In 6 December 2021, she tweeted pictures of her living it up with mask-less celebrities, with no social distancing at the MOBO Awards.[12] Ben tweeted in response:

"I really love you Zarah, but a mask-less party right now is not good PR for you. Even if no one else wore one - you could have set a good example. I'm sure everyone was vaccinated and tested before they went - but it's still a bad look."[13]

Re-selection

Applying for re-selection in the nick of time

Under new recently approved Labour Party rules, all sitting Labour MPs wishing to stand at the next General Election require the support of at least half (instead of two thirds) of both their local and affiliated branches.[14]

The pro-forma from Labour HQ instructed MPs to:

"Please return by 6pm on Monday 6 December 2021 to selections@labour.org.uk"[15]

At 5:56pm on 6 December 2021, Zarah Sultana tweeted:

"I've submitted my application to be re-selected as the Labour MP for Coventry South. Determined to beat the Tories at the next general election!"[16]

On 3 December 2021, Dame Margaret Hodge announced she would not seek re-selection.[17]

As have another three Labour MPs: Alex Cunningham, Harriet Harman and Barry Sheerman.[18]


 

A Document by Zarah Sultana

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
Document:The 20-year war on Afghanistan was a mistakeSpeech18 August 2021Afghanistan/2001 Invasion
Afghanistan
"War on Terror"
War of aggression
Stop the War Coalition
Taliban
"Democracy"
Afghanistan/2021 withdrawal
Speaking outside Parliament on 18 August 2021, prior to the Afghanistan emergency debate, Zarah Sultana joined colleagues including Jeremy Corbyn to say: "The war on Afghanistan shows – once and for all – that the West cannot deliver liberal democracy at the barrel of a gun. This war – the first 'War on Terror' – must be Britain's last war of aggression."

 

Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Zarah Sultana could face re-selection as a Labour candidateArticle11 November 2021Politics.co.uk staffAt 5:56pm on 6 December 2021, Zarah Sultana tweeted: "I've submitted my application to be re-selected as the Labour MP for Coventry South. Determined to beat the Tories at the next general election!"


References

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