• Saturday, July 13, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

“Labour is institutionally racist”

South Asian councillors stopped from standing in local elections

ACCUSATIONS: The controversy in Leicester has alienated many Indians (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)

By: BARNIE CHOUDHURY

LABOUR is “institutionally, structurally and systematically racist” and taking south Asian voters for granted, councillors and party members have told Eastern Eye.

They are urging the Labour leadership at national level to investigate why Hindus and Muslims have been barred from standing in next week’s [4 May] local elections.

Labour’s national body, the NEC, has stopped 18 sitting councillors in Leicester from contesting seats anywhere in the city – 10 of whom are south Asian, including all the Hindus.

“This is outrageous and completely and utterly racist,” said one unnamed Labour member.

“It’s institutional racism because it’s happening all the time with the national party interfering with local politics.

“They said it’s because we lost two local seats in by-elections which were safe Labour seats, but we know it’s because they want people who say ‘yes’ to everything.

“Every one of the councillors who were deselected didn’t like what Peter [city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby] is doing.

“He’s a control freak and won’t put up with anybody who goes against him.

“Peter blamed the NEC, but we know he did it because he wants complete and utter control.”

Sources have told this newspaper that Labour is rooting out troublemakers and those who will not “toe the party line unequivocally”.

Eastern Eye understands that in Leicester, councillors wanted to get rid of the elected mayoral system, which exists in the city, and return to a traditional local authority decision-making structure.

We have been told that both party whips and the mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, threatened rebels with deselection if they were disloyal.

LEAD Turn Labour Sir Peter Soulsby GettyImages 1253077123 Copy
Sir Peter Soulsby (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)

One of those deselected, Ruma Ali, said on the eve of the vote, Soulsby called her into his office where she made clear that she was not a rebel.

Ali said that Soulsby promised her she had been selected, yet she was dumped.

“It’s a corrupt system,” said Ali.

“We’ll see on polling day what damage Labour have done, I’ve been a Labour supporter my whole life, they have no value for loyalty.

Ruma ali
Ruma Ali (Photo: Twitter/@ru17maa)

“They have no value for good people and the amount of people that rang me and said, we can’t believe you’ve been deselected.

“When I think about it, I think, is it because I was too good?

“Is it because they don’t want you to advance? They want to keep you at a level.

“A job should be given based on merit and hard work, not because you’re white.”

Investigation call

Eastern Eye has seen an email where one councillor, who is standing in the local elections, Gurinder Singh Sandhu, wrote to the council’s head of standards demanding a police investigation.

Sandhu
Gurinder Singh Sandhu (Pic credit: Leicester City Council)

“I am not a legal expert, but it seems like bribery was used to retain the current mayoral system on the 9th March 2023,” he wrote.

“I believe the police should be made aware and they should investigate these claims.”

It is not the first time Labour’s ruling body has deselected sitting councillors.

In November 2021, the NEC stopped four south Asian councillors from Sandwell in the West Midlands running for office under Labour.

The regional Labour Party in the east Midlands has gone further and suspended a Muslim councillor who has served the party for more than 40 years.

In Nottingham, Hassan Ahmed, is taking legal action against Labour after being suspended because the party accused him of bringing it into disrepute, something he vehemently denies.

He remains loyal to Labour and will not agree with others who say that the party is racist.

cllr ahmed official photo
Hassan Ahmed (Pic credit: Nottingham City Council)

“I was quite clearly, shocked, very sad, upset after all my 40 to 43 years in the Labour Party,” he said.

“I’ve always fought within the party and have not gone public.

“I have gone public now but only after my expulsion, and again I’m not criticising anyone from the national Labour Party, I’m talking about locally and I’m fighting the injustice to me.

“The Labour Party, when we are training our new people who want to join the party or represent the party, we say to them, look, this is the only party which claims to fight for and believe in inclusivity, social justice and equality.

“It’s in all our manifesto commitments, and that’s what we talk about.

“But if we then start going against these kinds of principles and values, then we have to speak out.

“My fight has always been within the party.”

Unrepresentative leadership 

Some councillors in Nottingham, who wished to remain anonymous, told this newspaper that at leadership level the council was “unrepresentative of the city we serve”, and that “the white members don’t want a Muslim leader”.

“I got a WhatsApp message from a councillor,” said one, “which slagged off an Asian colleague.

“It was really vile and racist, but if I report it, I’ll get into trouble, so I’m keeping my mouth shut.

“I ain’t going to say anything because they’ll all gather round the person and brush it off as banter, so what’s the point?”

Sources have also accused Labour of “colonial tactics of divide and rule”.

Another Asian Labour member in Leicester said, “You remember when India was divided, and the Brits pitted Muslims against Hindus against Sikhs to create India and Pakistan?

“Well, that’s exactly what’s going on here.

“They’ve got rid of all the Hindus, and I’m telling you after what happened last summer with the disturbances, this is not good for Leicester.

“We were supposed to become harmonious again, but all this political divide-and-rule is making things tense here.”

LEAD Turn Labour INSET Nottingham city GettyImages 1282687367
The situation is not much better in Nottingham (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In Nottingham, sources believe there is another reason for Councillor Ahmed’s suspension.

“He was being tipped to be the next leader of the council because he kept on criticising the leadership and the way they kept on making mistakes,” said one councillor.

“But they won’t want an Asian in charge.

“It goes right to Labour at national level, doesn’t it? When you look at our front bench you don’t see a lot of south Asians do you?”

Those who spoke to Eastern Eye have warned that this will lead to Labour losing the south Asian vote in the next general election.

“Keir’s fighting for control of the party from the left and those who think it was wrong to expel Jeremy [Corbyn],” one councillor in Nottingham said.

“He needed every friend he had because there’ll be places in England which will rely on the Asian vote.

“In Leicester when Labour imposed Claudia Webb to replace Keith Vaz, her vote went down.

“With so many deselections and defections you can bet that next week we’ll lose many seats.”

Colonial divisions

Eastern Eye has reported previously that politics in the UK has become divided along the lines of south Asian nationality.

Labour has still refused to apologise for courting the Pakistani vote in the 2021 Batley and Spen by election.

Some of its own MPs questioned the tactic of using a photograph of former prime minister, Boris Johnson, shaking hands with Indian premier, Narendra Modi, with the words “Don’t risk a Tory who is not on your side”.

One Labour member in Leicester said, “They’ve alienated so many Indians, who’ve defected to the Tories.

“You’d have thought they’d have learnt lessons, but they keep on making the same mistakes.

“The Tory party are supposed to be the racist ones, but they’ve got a record now of promoting Asians into top jobs in government, and now they’ve even got one of us as prime minister.

“What are we doing? All the big jobs have gone to white MPs, and in this day and age that’s not right.

“Our parents and grandparents were told that Labour was the party for Asian immigrants, and like most of their promises it was all lies because they take our vote for granted and give us jack s**t in return.”

We put questions to the Labour leadership, the east Midlands regional party and Leicester City Council, but they refused to comment.

In an interview with his local paper, the Leicester Mercury, Soulsby said, “That is absolutely bizarre, it really is.

“The selection was undertaken by people who were entirely impartial in the way in which they approached it and, certainly not was I in a position, nor did I, promise anybody a selection or deselection.

“I had no part in it whatsoever and that was made very clear to the candidates.

“It was an impartial process.”

Councillor Ahmed from Nottingham has fought and beaten his party before.

In 1995, he took legal action when he was suspended.

Two years later, Labour not only reinstated him but paid for his court costs.

“I’m not somebody who breaks party discipline, I’m not somebody who wants to see our party lose elections,” he said.

“I’m somebody who’s always fought for and will fight for the Labour Party.

“I’ve done that in my 42 years, and I’m not going to do otherwise now.

“When people come up with these complaints, the party need to think carefully, what’s the motive behind it.

“They should look at my case, that’s the role of the party leadership.”

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