Tories and Labour accused of racial discrimination in Portsmouth

Conservatives have launched inquiry into alleged racist incidents in local party

Portsmouth’s major political parties are struggling to contain claims they have racially discriminated against local minority ethnic council candidates.

The Conservatives have launched an inquiry into alleged racist incidents in the local party. A leaked letter shows a former council candidate for the party has claimed he was marginalised, bullied and racially abused.

Meanwhile, Labour has angered some members of the Bangladeshi community by deselecting the city’s only minority ethnic councillor and replacing him with a white Momentum activist.

Both claims have emerged as the city’s council has been named by Operation Black Vote as one of England’s least well represented by people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Over the past 10 years, the BAME population in the south of the city has increased. In this time, some members of the Bangladeshi community have tried to become politically active.

At the previous council elections, the Tories put forward four non-white candidates. This time, there are none, party members said.

Massoud Esmaili, a Conservative activist who stood for a council seat, wrote to the party’s chair, Brandon Lewis, in October calling for a complete overhaul of the local party. He claimed he was only allowed to stand in unwinnable wards because of his race.

“I own my own successful business and I have regularly contributed in time and finance. One would expect that this would be recognised by the party and I would be fully accepted,” he said. “Sadly this is not the case. It would appear that I am judged by the colour of my skin.”

The Conservatives are examining multiple claims of racism within the local party, including that a white senior official referred to an Asian councillor as an orangutan.

Labour is facing some criticism for deselecting the only BAME councillor in Portsmouth. Yahiya Chowdhury, a businessman who came to the UK from Bangladesh in 1991, was elected as a councillor for the Charles Dickens ward in the Portsmouth South constituency in 2015.

But he lost the party’s candidacy in November after Cal Corkery, a local Momentum activist, stood against him at a selection meeting.

Friends of Chowdhury, who is now standing in a less winnable ward, said he had fought hard to win Charles Dickens by more than 1,000 votes after it had been held by the Liberal Democrats for many years.

The decision to deselect has left some Labour-supporting locals perplexed. “Would this have happened to a white councillor? I don’t think so,” one said.

Amanda Martin, the chair of Portsmouth Labour party, said no complaints of racism have been made concerning the selection process.

“All of our candidates are selected by local ward members. We are proud to have selected such a diverse range of candidates this year. We know we can still do more and we’ll keep working hard to ensure our Labour team reflects the communities we represent,” she said.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Conservatives and Labour fielding far fewer women in police chief elections
Number of female candidates standing for the two parties in vote for police and crime commissioners down 46% on 2012

Frances Perraudin

17, Apr, 2016 @10:59 AM

Article image
Portsmouth and Brighton among 'least representative councils for BAME people'
Operation Black Vote says its analysis shows a failure to encourage BAME councillors, which can lead to mistrust

Rajeev Syal and Amelia Clarke

25, Apr, 2019 @11:01 PM

Article image
Labour condemns Tories for racially charged attack on Sadiq Khan
Local election leaflet, which warns of increased influence by London mayor in Havering, described as a return to dog-whistle politics

Peter Walker Political correspondent

23, Mar, 2018 @1:17 PM

Article image
Theresa May: Copeland victory shows Tories are governing for everyone
PM visits scene of byelection win to hail ‘astounding result’ and signals intention to challenge Labour in its northern heartlands

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

24, Feb, 2017 @5:21 PM

Article image
Labour antisemitism scandal blamed for Tory win in Barnet
North-west London council was key target but Jewish voters told activists they would not vote for racist party

Jessica Elgot and Nadia Khomami

04, May, 2018 @12:54 PM

Article image
‘Obsessed with the flag’: Labour recriminations begin in Hartlepool
Party figures point to deep identity crisis as one of the reasons for shattering byelection loss to Tories

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

07, May, 2021 @1:37 PM

Article image
Labour predicted to lose hundreds of seats in local elections
Party expected to lose 75 councillors in England and more than 100 in Wales, and control of Glasgow and Cardiff city councils

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

25, Apr, 2017 @1:26 PM

Article image
Labour writes to CPS over 'fraudulent' Tory London mayoral leaflets
Candidate Shaun Bailey accused of using fraud to influence election with use of fake City Hall insignia

Jasper Jolly

25, Jan, 2021 @11:49 AM

Article image
Sadiq Khan says Tories' 'Donald Trump approach' won't work in London
Labour candidate for mayor condemns rival Zac Goldsmith and Conservatives for using ‘politics of division and fear’

Peter Walker

25, Apr, 2016 @10:29 AM

Article image
Labour candidate did not break law by handing out brownies, say police
Tories had reported West Yorkshire mayoral candidate Tracy Brabin for potential electoral law breach

Alex Mistlin

05, May, 2021 @11:36 AM