By: Rhi Storer
ASIAN individuals applying to the Sandwell Conservatives have had their party memberships deliberately declined in an attempt to consolidate power for a small section of the party, a former Tory councillor has claimed.
Councillor Ian Chambers, who was a Conservative local politician until defecting to the Labour party last week, accused some members in the Sandwell Conservatives of “knowingly rejecting” membership applications of Asian individuals.
Councillor Chambers added that a few members of the party were “uncomfortable” with Asian individuals in their party, and alleged that those members were “deliberately undermining” them.
The allegations have been denied by the party.
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Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), he said: “I joined the Conservatives initially because I wanted to hold an opposition against Sandwell council.
“But ever since the allegations of racist social media posts have surfaced in the party, they have attempted to silence the membership.
“I have witnessed myself bullying and intimidation to vote one way. There are rumours consistently spread by a few members of the Conservatives – some of whom are elected councillors – to undermine the position of those councillors they are uncomfortable around – even though they are democratically elected.
“I was bullied out of sitting in committees at Sandwell council for very little reason. This, including the toxicity of the party, was the reason I left.
“It is really sad and disappointing to see a few members who are obsessed with power damaging the first credible opposition to really have sat in Sandwell council.”
Several local Conservative members, who have spoken to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, have also raised concerns.
They allege that the Sandwell Conservatives are deliberately placing Asian candidates in “unwinnable” seats.
In a document obtained by the LDRS, Sandwell Conservatives divide local election wards into colour codes of green, amber, red, and black. Those wards identified as green are “winnable”, while those classified as amber are “less winnable”, and red or black deemed a sure-fire loss, according to councillor Chambers.
Those speaking to the LDRS claim that Asian members of the party are unfairly chosen to fight in wards that are deemed less winnable. They also claim that up to five Asian candidates have been selected in amber or red wards, with one rejected outright.
One Conservative resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “I applied for membership back in October for the party, but was duly rejected by the party in January.
“I cannot think of any other reason why they would reject my application, except for my non-English name.
“I feel like I have been abandoned before even joining. How can the party expect diversity in the party? This works against the principle of diversity itself.”
Another member told the LDRS they had “no confidence left” in the party to “internally deal with this issue”.
Another, who was a veteran member of Sandwell Conservatives, said: “There is so much pettiness and hatred in the party – it’s one of the reasons I left. I felt I was bullied out of the party.
“If you don’t agree with them, they will do everything to get rid of you. If the party cannot control itself now, how is it going to manage before the next general election?”
In responding to the allegations, the Sandwell Conservative Federation said it “absolutely rejects” the accusations.
A Sandwell Conservative spokesman said: “Sandwell Conservative Federation absolutely rejects accusations, or racism, or discrimination.
“The Conservative party has set processes in place for the selection of candidates and approval of memberships which are adhered to at all times. 52% of our approved candidates for this year’s elections are from BAME communities and we are proud to reflect the wider diversity of Sandwell.”
It comes as Sandwell Conservatives, appointed councillor Archer Williams this week as acting leader. His predecessor, councillor Laured Kalari, was suspended over abusive tweets alleged to have come from his account.
He has strenuously denied making a series of offensive messages on social media posted in 2020 and 2021.
The story follows the exit of previous leader councillor David Fisher, who was replaced as leader by the party this month after claims of offensive tweets.
It is unclear whether he will be investigated over the alleged racist social media posts.
With councillor Archer Williams, who represents Princes End, taking the reins, the Sandwell Conservatives are now on their third leader in seven months since establishing themselves as an opposition group in Sandwell council.
The allegations of racism in Sandwell Conservatives paints a similar picture in the national party.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was reported by the Guardian to be under pressure to launch an investigation into alleged anti-Muslim hatred in the Conservative party after Nusrat Ghani’s claims.
In an interview published in the Sunday Times, she alleged that her “Muslimness” was raised when she was removed from a ministerial job in 2020 and said she was told by Tory whips that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.
Boris Johnson had ordered a formal inquiry into allegations, while Downing Street accepted on Sunday that Ghani had raised her concerns personally with Johnson at a meeting in 2020, and said he had responded by encouraging her to make a formal complaint with the Conservative party.
Meanwhile, an exclusive poll of 518 people conducted by J.L. Partners and commissioned for Channel 4 News claimed Labour is in the lead by 11 points in “red wall” seats, and that support for Boris Johnson in those marginal seats has slipped away.
The figures suggest if an election took place now the Tories would lose all but three of their red wall seats. Those seats predicted to be lost to Labour include West Bromwich West, and West Bromwich East – currently occupied by Shaun Bailey MP and Nicola Richards MP, respectively.
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)