Peer no stranger to controversy

Lord Ahmed
Lord Ahmed Photo: ITV Yorkshire

South Yorkshire peer Lord Ahmed has been suspended by the Labour party over claims he offered a £10m bounty on US President Barack Obama.

Labour peer Lord Ahmed was born in Pakistani-governed Kashmir, but his political roots are in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham where he grew up and still lives.

Educated locally, he joined the Labour Party at 18 and served for a decade on Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

After studying at Sheffield Hallam University, he ran a chain of shops in his home town and became a property developer.

At the same time he launched a political career which saw him serve as a magistrate, chair the South Yorkshire Labour Party and work as a non-executive director of Rotherham Health Authority.

His interest in race relations took him beyond the confines of local government and he was a founder member of the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992.

He was made a life peer in 1998 and soon began making regular appearances in the media where he was often called upon to comment on issues facing British Muslims.

His increasingly high profile saw him take part in the Government's Forced Marriage Working Group.

In 2000, he led a government delegation to Mecca to mark the Hajj - an annual event in which millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage to the city.

In 2006, he called on Islamic preachers to conduct prayers in English in a bid to stop young Muslims being influenced by extremists.

A year later, he was again in the headlines when he criticised the awarding of a knighthood to the novelist Salman Rushdie.

While generally supportive of the Labour government, he could not be described as a confirmed party loyalist. He has rebelled several times, including opposing the war in Afghanistan.

And in June 2008, he had to publicly deny rumours he planned to defect to the Conservative Party.

"I'm not going anywhere. I would never leave the Labour Party. I've been a member of the Labour Party for 32 years, and may this continue for another 32.

– Lord Ahmed

He said the rumours were being spread by a Labour minister whom he declined to name but described as a "sad loser".Part of the problem may have stemmed from his strong working relationship with Conservative peer and fellow Muslim Baroness Warsi.The pair travelled to Sudan in 2007 to secure the release of British teacher Gillian Gibbons.Ms Gibbons, from Liverpool, had been imprisoned for letting her class name a teddy bear Muhammad.Rarely out of the news, Lord Ahmed was involved in the controversy surrounding the visit to the UK of Dutch MP Geert Wilders.Mr Wilders, who had been invited to show a film in the House of Lords linking the Koran to terrorism, was banned from entering the country and turned back at Heathrow.Lord Ahmed had criticised the proposed visit and was a strong supporter of the move to ban his fellow parliamentarian.In 2009 he was jailed for 12 weeks for dangerous driving after sending and receiving text messages minutes before he was involved in a fatal motorway crash.He was freed by the Court of Appeal after serving only 16 days of his prison sentence and later supported an AA/Populus poll into mobile phone use among motorists saying he had "learnt the hard way" about the problem.