May 23 2013 Latest news:
Robin de Peyer
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Tower Hamlets councillors are embroiled in an increasingly heated war of words after the five councillors expelled from the Labour Party repeated allegations that the decision was “racially motivated.”
The five councillors, four of whom hold positions on the cabinet of independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman, were expelled for campaigning for independent candidate Gulam Robbani, who stood against the Labour candidate in April’s Spitalfields by-election.
The councillors held a press conference on Tuesday, at which they insisted that the decision to expel is a result of racism from the Labour Party.
They claimed that race was the reason behind them being treated differently to Labour members Sir Alan Sugar and Telegraph journalist Dan Hodges, neither of whom faced repurcussions for vocally criticising Ken Livingstone before London’s Mayoral election.
Councillor Shafiqul Haque, cabinet member for jobs and skills, added: “The acts of the Labour Party are unacceptable and racially motivated. Labour group leader Joshua Peck is stopping us acting in the best interests of the community.”
Councillor Abdul Asad, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, claimed that the Labour party, not them, acted inappropriately.
“It is our responsibility to let the Tower Hamlets public know that it is the Labour group who are guilty of wrongdoing,” he said.
“We are fighting for justice, because it is not on for the Labour party to continue to harrass us because we are from the BME (black and minority ethnic) community.”
Labour group leader Joshua Peck, said the councillors were already under investigation due to their association with independent Mayor Rahman, but said that the penalty of automatic suspension was invoked when they campaigned against a Labour candidate.
Councillor Peck supported the Party’s decision, and rejected the councillors’ accusations of racism: “The rules clearly say that if you campaign for other candidates you will be expelled - that applies to Labour members of any race.
“The Labour Party has a long and proud history of fighting discrimination, and to accuse the party of racism is ridiculous. I regret that these councillors have cried racism, but I do not regret that the party has expelled them after they very clearly broke the rules.”
The councillors are currently waiting for a response from the Labour Party before deciding whether to appeal the expulsion or pursue other legal action.