Bloodshed to bloodfest: rise and fall of an activist

Shahid Malik's career never lacked drama, says Andy McSmith

For years, Shahid Malik has had a reputation as a man in a hurry, determined to get to the top, who came out fighting when the going was tough. It was driving ambition that brought him on to television screens yesterday, adamantly proclaiming that he had done nothing wrong and forecasting his quick return to office.

Whenever Mr Malik has found himself in the centre of the storm, for instance after young Asians rioted in his native town of Burnley, or when one of his constituents from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was identified as the leader of the bombers behind the attacks on London on 7 July 2005, he has always fought back.

Mr Malik, 41, shot to fame one day in June 2001, when the police mistook him for a ringleader of the Burnley riots. In reality, he was a commissioner with the Commission for Racial Equality, and so was on the streets trying to spread calm. The police assaulted, arrested and handcuffed him. The incident was caught on national television when, with a theatrical touch, Mr Malik refused to wash the blood off his face.

He was more conciliatory when he emerged after seven hours in hospital with five stitches above one eye, and he realised that if he lambasted the police it could trigger more trouble on the streets. Instead, he declared: "No recriminations. This incident should not stereotype all police officers." His behaviour earned him praise and an apology from the Lancashire constabulary.

By then it was already obvious that Mr Malik had bigger ambitions than a career in a quango. He was, some people thought, too obviously political and too deeply plugged into the Labour Party to be a good race commissioner, which is probably why his appointment was not renewed in 2002. His aim was to become the Labour MP for Burnley, where he was born in 1967, and where his father, Rafiq, was the deputy mayor, but he was prevented by his party's decision that Burnley should have an all-women shortlist.

After that setback, Mr Malik seemed ready to go anywhere that a Labour Party seat was up for grabs. He entered what turned into a bad-tempered contest for the Labour nomination for Brent East in London, but was perhaps lucky to lose because the seat was then seized from Labour by the Liberal Democrats at the next election.

Mr Malik had, meanwhile, found himself a berth in the safe Labour seat of Dewsbury. He arrived in Parliament in 2005 with a track record of opposing the Government on issues that most directly interested British Muslims, notably the Iraq war, which he opposed from the outset.

But in the Commons, he managed to avoid any position that would have destroyed his chances of promotion. Two months after the London bombings, when Arab television showed a video of the ringleader, Mohammad Sidique Khan, from Dewsbury, boasting about the vengeance he was going to enact for the suffering that British foreign policy had caused Muslims, Mr Malik condemned his words as "sickening". He rubbished the idea that terrorism was caused by British foreign policy, blaming it instead on a "sick" interpretation of Islam.

A year later, when Jack Straw, the current Justice Secretary, caused a storm by suggesting Muslim women should not wear veils, Mr Malik's reaction was noticeably diplomatic. "We shouldn't shoot somebody for being honest," he said. At the time, a teaching assistant from Dewsbury, Aishah Azmi, had been suspended for insisting on wearing a full face veil. After she lost her (highly publicised) case at an employment tribunal, Mr Malik said: "I would appeal to Mrs Azmi now just to let this thing go. There is no real support for it."

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007, he made Mr Malik a junior minister at the Department for International Development; he was the first Muslim to hold a ministerial job in the UK. A year later, Mr Malik was transferred to the Ministry of Justice and in March his job was expanded to include part of the Home Office.

When he was elected MP for Dewsbury, his constituents naturally expected him to live there, so he found a flat at what appears to have been a subsidised rent. The House of Commons rules say that when an MP becomes a minister he should inform his civil servants of any benefits he is receiving. Mr Malik allegedly failed to do that, which is why he became an ex-minister yesterday.

He clearly that believes he has done no wrong, but his fierce determination to fight his corner may have done him more harm than if he had quietly slipped out of sight. As one older, more experienced minister, who heard Mr Malik's performance in front of the media, remarked yesterday: "He seems to have forgotten the old rule – if you're in a hole, don't keep digging."

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Science Supply Teacher position...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style