Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has hit back at claims that her resignation this week over the government’s stance on the Gaza crisis was a “cynical” move, insisting that stepping down was the only way she could “live with herself”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Ms Warsi denied her resignation was “revenge” for being overlooked for promotion by Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Long after politics has come and gone, I want to be able to live with myself and by resigning, I can live with myself”, she said.
Ms Warsi, the first Muslim woman to hold a Cabinet position in the UK, stepped down on Wednesday calling the UK’s position on Gaza “morally indefensible” and inconsistent “with the rule of law and our long support for international justice”.
Her decision came in for widespread approval with many commentators praising Ms Warsi for taking a “principled” stand on a conflict that has killed thousands of Palestinians – an overwhelming majority of them civilians, including scores of children.
Others however, have taken a less-than-generous view of the Baroness’ departure with the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce calling her resignation a “calculated” display of “cynicism and disloyalty”.
Mr Pierce also suggested that Baroness Warsi was “incensed” at being overlooked for promotion in last month’s government reshuffle when a host of women MP’s were named to prominent Cabinet positions.
However, Ms Warsi told the Today programme that her decision didn’t have anything to do with politics.
“If people really want to make this about politics, that really is a matter for them”, she said.
“What I’m very clear about and have been clear about for a number of weeks and have made clear in formal and informal meetings with colleagues – it is on record within government – is that I had real reservations about where this policy was.
“I had concerns about the language we were using. I was increasingly finding it difficult to hold to collective responsibility. In the end, I felt the only way to be able to reconcile that was to stand down and that’s what I did.”
The language issue seems to have been particularly important for Ms Warsi.
Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the violence in Gaza he has attracted widespread criticism for his refusal to specifically condemn what many call the “disproportionate” use of force by Israel, in particular the targeting of United Nations facilities where civilians have sought shelter.
Mr Cameron said it was right to condemn the strikes but refused to take a tougher stance on attacks described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as “moral outrages” and “criminal acts” and by the French foreign minister as simply, “massacres”.
“Our language was not there. It was lagging behind”, she added.
Ms Warsi also said the government needed to “move towards a Middle East policy that is in the long term sustainable” and cited the UK’s decision to abstain when the UN General Assembly voted in November 2012 to recognise a Palestinian state as symptomatic of the problems.
“There is no point in us talking about a two-state solution if we don’t do the simple things like recognising Palestine in the way that the majority of the world has at the UN”.
Ms Warsi also rejected claims that she was biased against Israel, citing her “proud history” of battling anti-Semitism.
“This dispute in Israel and this crisis is not a crisis between two religions. It has therefore got nothing to do with whether or not someone is a Christian or a Muslim or indeed Jewish.
“I have a very long and proud history of speaking out on the issue of anti-semitism, on speaking out against the persecution of Christians worldwide. I led the government effort on freedom of religion and belief.
“In relation to Hamas, as I said in my very first interview, Hamas is a terrorist organisation and I have no doubt they have not acted in the best interest of the Palestinian people.
“But I also made it clear that Israel as an occupying power has a responsibility not just to the Israelis but also to the people that it occupies.
“I have always believed in the right of Israel to exist – not just exist, but exist in a secure way.
“I do not believe that this is a way they needed to conduct themselves in order to achieve their aims.”