From The Telegraph
The apologists can try to pick tiny inaccuracies in Cameron's statement yesterday (something to do with the public money in question coming from a different fund - it ultimately all comes from the one fund, MY POCKET! Tax here, tax there, fee, levy, rates, whatever). The question won't go away.
An Ofsted inspection report cited by the Schools Secretary Ed Balls as clearing a school with alleged links to Muslim extremism was written by an inspector with links to Islamist groups, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
The school in Haringey, and a sister school in Slough, was paid £113,000 last year by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The schools are owned by the Shakhsiyah Foundation, run at the time of the grant by members of the extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir.
The Tory leader David Cameron this week attacked the use of public money to “fund extremism”. But the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, said the schools inspectorate, Ofsted, had “satisfied themselves that there were no problems” in the schools, accusing Mr Cameron of peddling “smears and untruths” which “divide our communities.”
However, the first report on the Haringey school, in November 2007, said not enough was being done “to promote cultural tolerance and harmony”.
In a second report in May 2008, the inspector, Michele Messaoudi, said “satisfactory progress” had been made.
An Ofsted spokesman said: “The second inspection was specifically designed as a follow up to ensure that the school had undertaken the improvements required as a result of our first inspection. The report reflects that such action had been taken.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that Ms Messaoudi has links with Islamic organisations and events. Last year, she was a judge for the Global Peace and Unity awards in London. The awards and the associated conference, which Ofsted said Ms Messaoudi did not attend, are organised by the Islam Channel, whose chief executive, Mohammed Ali Harrath, is wanted by Interpol for alleged terrorist offences.
And there's more.
A trustee of one of the schools which Ed Balls is defending has written in a Hizb ut Tahrir journal condemning the "corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom," observes Andrew Gilligan.
Mr Balls has been having good sport with the Tories this week.The Tories should have "checked their facts", he chided. Ofsted, he told Radio 4, "have satisfied themselves that there were not problems in these schools". The whole episode "casts real doubt on David Cameron's judgment", he said, sorrowfully. The central charge is perfectly true, thoroughly documented – and a scandal. But Cameron made some mistakes in the detail, sending the Westminster media chasing down one of their classic "process issue" cul-de-sacs (whether the schools were registered, and which particular part of the Whitehall cake this slice of cash had come from) and allowing Balls to launch his attack on Cameron. He clearly thought he'd scored a bullseye: one-nil to the forces of Gordon.
But it turns out to be Ed Balls, just as much as Cameron, who's been playing politics and failing to check the facts. The issue is not the situation with the schools now. It's the situation at the time the public money was paid. It turns out that the schools' chief Hizb ut Tahrir trustee, Yusra Hamilton, only resigned last month, in response to my story, long after the Government grant came in.
The headteacher of one of the schools, Farah Ahmed, who remains a trustee to this day, refuses to deny that she was a Hizb member and has written in a Hizb journal condemning the "corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom."
And Ofsted – far from "satisfying themselves that there were no problems" – actually condemned one of the two schools as "inadequate," questioned the suitability of the staff, and said that it could do more "to promote cultural tolerance and harmony." That was in November 2007.
By May 2008, according to a follow-up report, the school had been magically transformed, and was now "good". That second report, however, was written by an inspector with, at the very least, personal connections to Islamic groups.
I fear Mr Balls's heavy reliance on these Ofsted reports to defend the schools is about to make him look pretty silly. Ofsted is also, of course, the body that rated children's services in Haringey "good" – in the same year that the borough was comprehensively failing Baby P.
But there's a broader point. If taxpayer-funded schools were run by supporters of the BNP, there would be an outcry. Hizb ut Tahrir is an Islamic version of the BNP: not actually violent, but openly anti-Semitic, racist, and an enemy of liberal society.
Do Ed Balls and New Labour really want to be the friends and defenders of such people? Does Balls really think it's good politics to be the Minister for Hizb ut Tahrir?