Oliver Wright: Tories may not like Baroness Warsi, but they would miss her


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The Independent Online

As statements of support go, Michael Fallon's defence of Baroness Warsi on Sunday was equivocal.

Sent out to defend the co-chair of his party, Mr Fallon (who is also her deputy) would only say that "she believed" she had acted within the rules. He also said the affair was "embarrassing".

So was Mr Fallon's equivocation a sign of the severity of the charges against her and the likely chances of her being dismissed from the Government?

Not necessarily.

Mr Fallon represents a wing of the Conservative Party that has never been naturally disposed towards their chairman.

They believe that she has been ineffective in the job – a poor media performer and not sufficiently in tune with the party's grassroots. But those voices on the Tory right are missing the point of Warsi and why David Cameron appointed her.

She may not be a polished media performer but at least when she comes on television she doesn't reinforce the image of the Conservatives being white, middle (or upper-class) men in suits. Warsi may be a Baroness – but she is Northern, female, Muslim and from a working-class background.

And those are the types of voters that Mr Cameron will need to win over if his party is to have any chance at all of winning the next general election.

The Tories' research has found that Asian voters are supportive of Tory ideals and policies – but still voted Labour. It is this problem – far away from Westminster – that Warsi has been asked to change. And it is why Mr Cameron does not want to lose her from his Government.