September 29th, 2016

Outraged residents accused of racism by Coventry Labour councillors lodge complaints

Updated: 4:46 pm, May 07, 2015

OUTRAGED residents accused of making “racist” comments and being compared with Nazi Germany by Coventry Labour councillors have lodged formal complaints to the council and Labour Party.

Two residents opposed to housing on Greenbelt in Keresley have lodged complaints with the national Labour Party and Coventry City Council regarding the conduct of Labour councillors David Galliers and Rachel Lancaster.

They vehemently deny racism, after expressing their concerns about pressures from immigration on public services, housing and the Greenbelt.

It comes after a third Labour councillor, Kevin Maton faced a council investigation and issued a written apology to another resident and Greenbelt campaigner for allegedly calling him a “stupid ignorant t***” in off-the-cuff remarks caught on camera by the resident’s wife at a public meeting, and for wrongly publicly branding him a UKIP supporter on Twitter.

The incidents have prompted comparisons with former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s off-mic gaffe in Rochdale in 2010 election campaigning, when he accused pensioner Gillian Duffy of being “bigoted” over her concerns about immigration.

Labour leaders Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and other party frontbenchers have since repeatedly said party members were previously wrong to brand concerns about immigration and pressures on housing and services as “racist” or bigoted.

Coun Lancaster, a council cabinet member, took to Twitter on Friday to publicly accuse “members of Keresley PC” (parish council) of making “racist comments”.

Councillor Galliers last week wrote a letter published in a Coventry newspaper which compared Keresley Parish Council chair Sandra Camwell’s views with Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa.

Mrs Camwell had expressed her views that immigration was straining public services, housing and the Greenbelt. She went further in stating the government should “shut the borders”, at least until there was a better understanding of pressure on services.

Dr Walter Milner, vice chair of Keresley Parish Council, sought clarification over Coun Lancaster’s public comment that its “members” were racist.

He said he did not share Mrs Camwell’s “personal views” about immigration and its connection with the council-approved plan for 800 homes on Greenbelt in Keresley.

But he added: “Mixing concerns about immigration with racism goes back to the Gordon Brown incident. That’s not a very sensitive thing to do. Now I have been tarnished by a councillor’s tweets too. I have no problem with immigration.”

Father-of-two Allan Owens, a Keresley community volunteer who is a former parish council member, has also lodged official complaints to the council’s monitoring officer Christine Forde and national Labour party general secretary Iain McNicol concerning Coun Lancaster’s tweets.

Mr Owens had sought clarification and an apology from Coun Lancaster on Twitter.

He said: “The law does not define concerns about immigration as racist. It is not racism according to the defition of racism. To talk about immigration is not racism.

“I’m appalled they can make accusations like that. I’ve known Sandra for years and she is certainly no racist.”

Other residents on social media condemned Coun Galliers’ “deeply offensive” letter, which said Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa had also “shut the door” to foreigners.

His letter also described Mrs Camwell’s “rantings” as “irrational fears”, adding “Coventry housing is for Coventry people no matter where they come from originally.”

Coun Lancaster clarified in an email response to Dr Milner that her “racist” comments referred solely to Mrs Camwell’s remarks in the media last week and Mrs Camwell’s comments at a planning committee meeting last Thursday, which approved the Keresley housebuiding plan.

Mrs Camwell said, during the minuted public meeting, she had only outlined the “well reported” strain on public services including GPs surgeries’ translation services.

She said government statistics proved that migration and immigration were key factors in population growth amid cuts in public services, alongside demographics of a young and growing elderly population.

She said Coun Galliers had by inneundo made “outrageous” camparisons with Nazi Germany, and both councillors had effectively public branded her racist.

She has called for an apology from the councilors, the Labour Party and the council, and for further investigations over whether they had breached codes of conduct.

Tweets by Coventry city Labour councillor Rachel Lancaster accusing Keresley parish council ‘members’ of racism

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