Reading Labour Party leaflet’s “born and bred” racist innuendo: will Labour now apologise and withdraw it?

This is the leaflet the Labour Party is delivering through letter-boxes in a ward where the sitting Conservative councillor — Cllr Azam Janjua, a Reading resident for half a century — is facing a Labour opponent, Eileen McElligott. See if you can notice the oh-so-subtle way in which Labour puts its lips together to dog-whistle:

You read that right:

“Eileen McElligott … was born and bred in Reading … She will fight for us here … because she is one of us.”

Nor is this simply the case of generic wording being applied to all candidates across Reading. As Gareth Epps, a former Lib Dem councillor in Reading, points out on his blog here:

It’s striking that the equivalent Labour leaflet for Abbey ward promoting Tony Page does not make the same claim. Why does the first line talk about the candidate being ‘born and bred in Reading’? The Labour candidate’s address is listed as being in Tilehurst, in what I think is Norcot ward. Why should Labour only be making this claim in a ward where the incumbent is of Pakistani origin? …

It is a deliberate contrast drawn on lines of race alone. I challenge Reading Labour Party to come up with a reason for the contents of this leaflet that is not to pander to racism, to point to the fact that their candidate is white, and the incumbent is not. I wonder whether the procession of senior Labour politicians, from Ed Balls downwards (upwards?) and including several Shadow Cabinet members, have delivered this leaflet or approve of it?

Absolutely shameful and disgusting on Labour’s part. … The leaflet should withdrawn and Labour should apologise in public. Everyone who, like me, utterly abhors racism and the use of politics to pander to prejudice, should speak out against this.

Quite. Will Labour’s leadership choose to stay quiet? Or will they do the right thing?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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74 Comments

  • DAVE WARREN 7th Apr '12 - 1:12pm

    I don’t think there is anything Reading Labour party wouldn’t do to get and hang on to power.

    I was an active member for a number of years and i saw the current controlling group take power. They are a totally unprincipled bunch.

    I have no doubt that this leaflet is intended to appeal to the prejudices of white voters and is written for that purpose.

    They are beneath contempt.

  • DAVE WARREN 7th Apr '12 - 1:56pm

    Maybe because i live in Reading and have seen what has happened in local politics over the past 25 years or so i am a bit too close to it.

    When i originally joined the Labour party they campaigned on policies.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Apr '12 - 4:00pm

    It is utterly disgraceful.

  • That’s nothing really. Labour in Oldham put out a leaflet which IIRC said something like “I’m different to these two” – alongside a picture of two asian Lib Dem cllrs. Their candidate? Joe Fitzpatrick who went on to “star” as Phil Woolas’ agent.

  • Always think it’s a bit dubious, claims of “I’m less racist than thou”. There have certainly been cases of Lib Dem leaflets which have been dogwhistles of similar kinds. However, as people say, it would be good for all in authority in whatever party to ensure these things are not issued. I think it would also be salutary to make some publicity out of it, where a party has withdrawn a leaflet in a public fashion (and condemned those responsible). What were Ed Balls etc doing in this case, for instance?

  • PlaidCeredigion 7th Apr '12 - 5:03pm

    How strange it is then, that the Lib Dem Welsh Assembly candidate in my own constituency last year produced a glossy leaflet last year all about how she was a local girl born and bred.

    Also strange that her leaflet hid the words Lib Dem only revealing them in tiny print along the staple edge.

    And even odder …here on Lib Dem Voice and article ‘Why Elizabeth Evans is the best choice for Ceredigion’ states that she was ‘Born and raised in the county’.

    Why does a Welsh Lib Dem candidate get feted for being one of the locals, in an area where to be an English monoglot is seen by some as being an ethnic outsider and that’s considered ok ?

    Yet a Labour candidate is condemned for the same trick in this article ?

  • Richard Dean 7th Apr '12 - 5:39pm

    The statement is unwise because it can so easiliy be re-interpreted in this context, and perhaps that is what Labour intend. But, the statement is not actually racist. It simply claims that the Labour candidate knows Reading well. Is this not a valid claim in a political contest? Would be acceptable, even unremarkable, if Azam Janjua happened to be white and born in, say, Durham? Perhaps Labour is using sub-text, but it is the critic who is bring Azam’s race into the debate in an explicit way. Is it not therefore the critic who is being the racist?

  • PlaidCeredigion 7th Apr '12 - 6:13pm

    ”Is it not therefore the critic who is being the racist?”

    Glad to see Richard Dean gets the point.

    I see my post is still not appearing on the site, presumably because I’m not a Lib Dem Voice regular.

    As I posted, my local Lib Dem Assembly candidate made much of being a local born and bred, and an article here on Lib Dem Voice included that as part of its praise for her candidacy.

    Condemning other parties for tricks one uses oneself smacks of tribalism.
    A bit like the now infamous ‘Simon Hughes – the straight choice for Bermondsey’ dog whistle anti-gay campaign.
    We all realise the irony of that now of course.

  • Lib Dems and Tories put out same leaflets with same words in my constituency so you’re in no position to hand out lessons. As hypocritical as each other.

  • I am disappointed that you so easily use use the term racism in this instance. To me, at least, all it showed was a candidate emphasising their local attachment.
    The accusation of racism is a very serious matter and should not be used lightly. Frankly, taking words out of context, to make such claims should be beneath LDV.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Apr '12 - 9:33pm

    The “born and bred” stuff is a bit OTT – “bred” is a dodgy word. But the really dodgy stuff is “one of us” which is insidiously inviting white people to be racist in their response when the sitting Councillor is apparently of Asian origin.

    The problem with all this stuff is that it is essential to be sensitive to the local context. Nothing wrong in saying you lived all your life in Ceredigion or Colne or anywhere else. (People might or might not prefer that to a more adventurous person who has spent his life travelling the world). Nothing necessarily wrong in the slogan “a straight choice” as a means of trying to squeeze third candidates and below – we all used to use it – the problem in Bermondsey was the context of who else was standing.

    I have just produced a leaflet for a ward saying our candidate “is a Nelson man. He grew up in Bradley and went to Bradley School and then Primet High School. He and his family live in Bradley.” As it happens he is also of Pakistani origin.

    Of course, Labour will stoop to any tricks, and often do so.

    Tony Greaves

  • Didn’t the CRE (as it then was) raise the use of phrases like this as a specific concern in its advice for political campaigns in around 2001?

  • Richard Dean 7th Apr '12 - 10:14pm

    “One of us” is also open to misinterpretation in context, yes, but it is only racist if you assume “us” refers to a race. Racists might assume this, but a poor person might assume it means poor person. If there is a context of Reading fighting central government, it could mean someone on the side of Reading. There are all sorts of other possible contexts and interpretations, so perhaps someone who knows the context could provide some guidance?

  • I can see where words maybe misconstrued as racist, but I think we have to be careful, there are plenty of LibDem leaflets that have used the term ‘Born and Bred’ and I have in fact delivered some.

    If we start attacking this Labour organisation for using this kind of language its only going to be a matter of time before it backfires on us, because I know for a fact we have put the exact same type of literature out.

  • @Simon Shaw – completely disagree – you need to take the words out of context to find the racist element. The statement as a whole seems to suggest that the girl was born in Reading

  • @Richard Dean – yes, “one of us” could be taken many ways, which is why Stephen refers to it as a “dog whistle”… those who are susceptible to perceive it in that way will do so but without everyone else necessarily picking up on it.

  • Richard Dean 7th Apr '12 - 11:37pm

    Thanks, Stuart, I wondered what that meant. Is a racist dog whistle the same as explicit racism? By your definition, it is only heard by racists or by non-racists who know its pitch. That seems significantlydifferent to racist incitement or explict abuse, which invites everyone. I wonder what the new CRE would say?

  • Ruth Rundle, one of Stephen Tall’s fellow Lib Dem candidates for Oxford council boasts of being “born and bred” in Oxfordshire. Her Conservative opponent is Siddo Deva who is of Indian extraction. Are Oxford Lib Dems running a dog-whistle, racist, campaign? No, of course not, but would an unbiased observer see any difference between this and what labour are doing in Reading? I don’t think the evidence presented is solid enough to warrant the author’s accusation.

  • Simon ShawApr 07 – 10:21 pm…………..jason, I think the whole point is that when the words are taken in context they are profoundly disturbing………

    Not to me. However, evidence of racism ( like a double entendre) can always be found by those intent on finding it.

    Are you as willing to condemn….”Ruth Rundle, one of Stephen Tall’s fellow Lib Dem candidates for Oxford council boasts of being “born and bred” in Oxfordshire. Her Conservative opponent is Siddo Deva who is of Indian extraction”?

  • Maybe Tony Page wasn’t born or bred in Reading so he doesn’t claim that. I’m not sure what “bred” in Reading actually means…. conceived perhaps? As the candidate is a zoololigist perhaps breeding is particularly important to her.

  • LondonStatto 8th Apr '12 - 9:41am

    The party of the straight choice should be careful which leaflets of other parties it criticises…

  • I really think that this is a bit over the top. A dog-whistle? Maybe, possible… perhaps, but realistically the racist subtext is only there if you want to see it. ‘Born and bred’ is an oft-used idiom, and it doesn’t necessarily connote anything to do with race but rather that the person in question was born in a certain area and raised by parents who themselves have a connection to the area. It simply suggests that the family has been established in the area. Considering the number of useless MPs with no knowledge of local matters parachuted into safe seats it is just as likely, IMO, that this is an attempt by Labour to play up the fact that this MP is different from that type.

    If the phrase ‘born and bred’ seems racist to lib dems here (although I have to say I am not sure exactly how genuine the concern is) then I suggest it is simply because they are not acquainted with the vernacular of the majority of the population. If they really have a problem with those words maybe they should start by stopping their own campaigners and candidates from using them, since that action is within their immediate power to take.

  • “Quite. Will Labour’s leadership choose to stay quiet? Or will they do the right thing?”

    Stephen Tall, will the Lib Dem leadership speak out against Ruth Rundle? Will you?

  • Stephen Tall 8th Apr '12 - 10:17am

    @ Rob “Stephen Tall, will the Lib Dem leadership speak out against Ruth Rundle? Will you?”

    Has Ruth also said “she is one of us”? No, so your comparison fails. Nice try though.

  • @ Stephen Tall

    I think you’re clutching at straws. For what it’s worth I am not a Labour supporter and I agree that dog-whistle politics is bad, but do you honestly see a real difference between the two cases? From my reading of that leaflet the message Labour are trying to send is that Eileen McElligott will fight for the residents of Reading because she is a resident of Reading and she has a ‘historical’ connection to the area (a kinswoman or a Reading woman ‘born and bred’ if you will). If it’s trying to suggest than Azam Janjua does not have this connection then perhaps it is a little low, but would hardly qualify as ‘racist’. Saying that Eileen McElligott is ‘one of us’ to me is simply reinforcing the point that she is kin and thus will fight for Reading due to her historical connections to the place. I don’t even really see an implication about the opposition candidate in there. The fact that the leaflet is promoting her local credentials doesn’t actually exclude the possibility that Mr Janjua is ‘one of us’ too… nowhere is that stated or (IMO) even implied.

  • I think your interpretation of this pamphlet as racist says more about you than it does about the candidate.

    To me, the pamphlet just serves to inform the voter that the candidate has a long-standing attachment to the local area as a result of being born there. If you consider that some MPs get parachuted into areas that they have no knowledge of or attachment to, then I don’t really see what the problem is with highlighting this fact.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Apr '12 - 12:24pm

    @Stephen
    If it’s OK to use the phrase “born and bred” then why is your piece titled “Reading Labour Party leaflet’s ‘born and bred’ racist innuendo…”?

  • I honestly believe that the suggestion that this is racist is far fetched to say the least. We more often than not point to our candidates being local, neighbours or any other comment that may connect them to the area. Mrs Thatcher referred to her supporters ‘as one of us’ I don’t think her intention was racist. I think we should leave this one well alone

  • Lee_Thacker 8th Apr '12 - 12:56pm

    Didn’t go of our councillors in Reading get suspended last year due to a race row involving Twitter?

  • Tony Dawson 8th Apr '12 - 1:38pm

    As a Lib Dem, I think that this posting is a bit poorly-pitched.

    We have been a party where ‘localism’ has been very important, in terms of candidates and I cannot remember how many “XXXX lives in the ward” leaflets I have helped put out from the days when I was a mere footsoldier.

    “Born and bred” is a bit OTT really, these days, since it does seem to differentiate oneself from those who are equally part of the community but happened to arrive in it a little later. The phrase might sometimes just be an innocent thoughtless over-identification with the local area, however in the context which has been described, trying to shift a sitting councillor from an ethnic minority and combined with the ‘one of us’, it is blatantly evil.

    Context is everything, here..

  • According to Wikipedia dog-whistle politics is “….a type of political campaigning which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience…The key to its use is to maintain the option of plausible deniability”.

    The only defence the author(s) of this leaflet could have was that they were too stupid to see the dog-whistle subtext. I think that is implausible.

  • I would also point out that Lord Lester’s report into allegations of racism in the Tower Hamlets Liberal Party, which led to the expulsion of councillors, the resignation of others from the party, and the effective collapse of the party in the borough which it had controlled held that in the context of the local political situation “Liberals fight for local people” was a racist statement. Context is everything in matters like this.

  • Stephen TallApr 08 – 10:17 am………….Has Ruth also said “she is one of us”? No, so your comparison fails. Nice try though………….

    You titled this thread ‘Labour Partys leaflet’s “born and bred” racist innuendo'; you even highlighted ‘born and bred’. However, when a LibDem uses the same phrase, the goalposts are moved and ‘born and bred is OK; now it’s only ‘half racist’..

    Not even a nice try.

  • This really is scraping the barrel

  • Stephen Tall 8th Apr '12 - 6:04pm

    @ jason “You titled this thread ‘Labour Partys leaflet’s “born and bred” racist innuendo’; you even highlighted ‘born and bred’.”

    And I also highlighted ‘one of us’ — both in the leaflet image and in my post. It’s the leaflet’s combination of both phrases, together with the local context, which make this a clear case of dog-whistling. Try again.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Apr '12 - 6:47pm

    Are any of the posters on here who think that the words on Labour’s leaflet are acceptable born abroad or from an ethnic minority?

    As someone from a multi-racial family who sees and hears the level of racism in this country, I can only assume that those who do not see the hidden message in the leaflet, are not.

    Racism in this country is now subtle rather than overt, making victims question what they have heard and whether they are being ‘over-sensitive’ . Now that I can see things through the eyes of victims, I can see too clearly how language is used to exclude and marginalise and the pain this causes. It is the very subtlety that makes the victims doubt their own perceptions making it harder for them to fight back.

    People who are attuned to it can hear the ‘dog whistle’ in Labour’s leaflet.

  • @Jayne Mansfield

    One of my parents was born abroad but has lived in the UK for over 30 years and holds a British passport. However, said parent has different cultural references and has a limited understanding of certain aspects of ‘British life’ for example, the British school system, because said parent was not schooled in the UK.

    I don’t think it would be ‘racist’ to say that my parent had a different level of knowledge compared to someone who is ‘born and bred’ in a given town or county. It’s just common sense.

    In the same way, as a Southerner, I feel I would not have as much local knowledge or affinity to Newcastle as Alan Shearer or someone else who was born and bred there. Why is it offensive to suggest otherwise? If I were to stand in Newcastle as a councillor against Alan Shearer, I might expect his ‘local knowledge’ to be something he would use to his advantage.

  • After reading some of the comments I have changed my opinion. I think that the other posters are probably right that there is a dog-whistle subtext to these leaflets, not least because anyone making these leaflets must have been aware that it would be possible to interpret these words in such a manner. I think that this low behaviour stops short of ‘racism’ which is better defined as discriminating againt or attacking someone because of their race. Although these kinds of cowardly insinuations are definitely unpleasant I don’t believe they can be called ‘racism’ simply because the issue here is the opposing candidate’s supposed status as an outsider to the community rather than his race itself.

    And, that said, all parties employ these kinds of dog-whistles and the lib dems are most certainly no different. That, however, doesn’t excuse these tactics.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Apr '12 - 8:23pm

    @ Sophie- the opposing candidate has been a resident of Reading for half a century.Are you suggesting that a deep understanding of the people of Reading, their hopes, fears , struggles and aspirations cannot be acquired during that time? How long does it take to become’ one of us’ ?

    The Labour candidate was brought up in Tilehurst which is at the opposite side of town to the Church ward. She is a graduate who is seeking to represent a ward with the highest rate of child poverty in Reading (33% based on 2009 figures).
    You are assuming that she has the same cultural references as those she seeks to represent, just as you are assuming that the Tory candidate does not.

  • @Jayne Mansfield

    So if the Tory councillor has 50 years of experience of living in Reading then I don’t really see what the problem is. He too can write on his pamphlet – “I’m a Reading resident of 50 years, I love Reading – I’m one of you” etc.

    If the Tory candidate happened to be a white New Zealander or a white American, would you all be casting these aspersions against the Labour candidate for declaring her own background/affinity with the population of Reading?

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Apr '12 - 9:59pm

    @ sophie. Clearly we are going to have to agree to disagree on this.

    Why should the tory candidate need to declare that, ‘I am one of you’?

    The words that are used in the Labour leaflet cannot be taken out of the context in which they were chosen. The opposing candidate is not white, and was not born in Britain, and that is why the words on the Labour election leaflet have such power to paint the opposing candidate as an ‘outsider’ to people with racist assumptions. That is why, to prevent any misunderstandings, there was a need to choose the words on the election leaflet carefully..

    The Tory candidate was born in Pakistan but judging by the Labour candidates election photograph, he has probably lived in Reading since before the Labour councillor was born. The Labour councillor does not live in the ward that she seeks to represent. The Tory candidate does. I think that if I lived in Church Ward, I would think it fair to assume that he has local knowledge and affinity to the ward and that, apart from being a tory, he is’ one of us’.

  • “Why should the tory candidate need to declare that, ‘I am one of you’?”

    For the same reason as the Labour candidate – to build a bond with potential voters. In the same way that CallMeDave tries to prove to the populace that he is ‘one of us’ by mentioning his pasty-eating proclivity.

    I imagine if this were a white Australian or a white American Tory candidate, nobody would be accusing the Labour candidate of racism by mentioning her long-standing link to the community. Therefore in this case it would seem that the racism is in the eye of the accusers.

  • Richard Dean 9th Apr '12 - 2:16am

    I do agree that racism appears to be in the accusers’ eyes.

    The leaflet suggests that Eileen McElligott and the Labour party have no policies at all, on anything. This is indeed the new politics that is so successful in some places. But more, she has no thoughts on any issues at all. Her whole message is that she is competent and will fight for the people of the ward because … she’s from Reading. This defines the nature of the division as being where a person is from – not what a person’s race is. It may be pathetic, but it’s surely valid in a political contest? Can Liverpudlians not claim to be Liverpudlians?

    She mentions degrees – is this prejudiuce against non-graduates? She has her picture there. She looks white. so is this a racist picture? If a black candidate werev to publish a photo, it certainly carries a message, so would it be racist? In Reading? In Tottenham? The photo suggests that Eileen is a woman – is it sexist? She looks young – is it ageist? Yes, why of course it is, because Azam is relatively old!

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Apr '12 - 10:27am

    @ Sophie, @ Richard Dean,
    It is to your credit that you are deaf to the coded message. I doubt that people like yourselves were the target audience.

  • David Boothroyd 9th Apr '12 - 11:35am

    Just watching the 1992 election repeat, and Nigel Jones appears on the screen (having beaten John Taylor) and denies that his leaflets saying he was a local man were a coded way of drawing attention to John Taylor being black. Hmm.

  • Richard Dean 9th Apr '12 - 2:49pm

    Having read the reply linked to by Gareth, I’d say that someone should indeed ask the CRE f(now the Equality and Human ights Commission, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/) for a ruling on the matter.

  • Hmm, interesting new information in that link from Gareth. Given that the ‘one of us’ line has been used in the two wards with those particular issues – one Labour councillor defected to the Tories and one had in the past become independent – could Labour not just have been trying to neutralise/play on those lines of attack rather than being implicitly racist? Especially since in the other ward, there weren’t even any candidates from an ethnic minority. I think the ‘racist innuendo’ angle on this might be a bit misguided, and doubt it would get anywhere if someone tried to take this further.

  • Whatever their intention I don’t think it would get anywhere complaining about the leaflet if, as they claim, they have also use the phrase in a ward with no racial overtones.

    It is though at best ill advised language, and like others I would suspect that the secondary, and more sinister meaning, is not unintentional. Unfortunately, it would take more than a suspicion to prove this…

  • Stuart Mitchell 9th Apr '12 - 4:00pm

    The questionable accusations of “racism” being flung about here are looking much more sinister than the original leaflet. I think you need much more evidence than this to describe somebody as “racist”.

  • From Gareth’s link it appears that the Labour Party is claiming that “one of us” means that they are a committed member of the Labour Party. Pull the other one!

  • Malcolm Todd 9th Apr '12 - 10:12pm

    @Simon Shaw
    That’s a shocking misreading of the claim made by Labour. The only reference to “born in Pakistan” is in this paragraph:
    Ms Swaddle had complained that Labour had described candidate Eileen McElligott as “born and bred in Reading” and that “She will fight for us here in Church Ward because she is one of us”, alleging that the aim is to contrast her with Tory candidate Azam Janjua, who was born in Pakistan.

    In other words, they are accurately identifying the nature of the “smear” against them. To interpret that as being what Labour are actually claiming is either very careless misreading or a deliberate and frankly tendentious attempt to sustain this rather tenuous attack on Labour for unexceptionally ambiguous campaigning.

  • I note that Labour Councillor Gul Muwaz Khan describes himself as a “A long-standing resident” of Battle Ward…….

    I’m sure, by using the same logic, that can be interpreted as”Anti Immigrant” (recent)

  • Andrew Thomas 10th Apr '12 - 8:47pm

    This is obviously being done purposely to appeal to racist feelings while pretending not to be racist. The ‘born and bred’ term is below the belt. I hoped we had left these sort of days behind.

  • Stuart Mitchell 10th Apr '12 - 8:49pm

    “It is a deliberate attempt to defame a candidate which is a criminal act.”

    Looks to me like all the main candidates are defaming each other. This brouhaha isn’t doing anybody any credit.

    If I lived in Church Ward I would definitely be voting for Kim Maysh of the Common Sense Party, who says: “If you want Common Sense in Reading vote for me.” Got to be worth a try.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 11th Apr '12 - 3:10pm

    Party politics in Reading, as we have see enacted in the Council Chamber is a left over from another century. Historically the Labour Party and the Tories have been at each others throats, both behaving in inappropriate ways, and sadly some feel that our own Party became embroiled in this silliness whilst it was in Coalition with the Tories for a short time. One only has to read the local Reading papers to realise that the some within the public are sick and tired of this ‘old school’ playground approach to politics.

    Whether some within this forum feel that the leaflet is discriminatory or not is interesting, but it is the public who will ultimately decide with their votes. Is the leaflet racist? Well the definition of a racist incident is simple “Any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.

    Personally I do believe that this leaflet is racist, for in a town such as Reading with a long history of engagement with such issues as ethic diversity, one can hardly believe that the Labout Party could be so obtuse in highlighting the apparent ethnic origin of their candidate over that of another? but whether it was meant to be racist is another matter, and one I suspect that the Labour Party will pay for, as we have recently seen in Bradford West. I suspect that ‘red mist’ blinded the Labour campaign team, as they were more upset that one of their own had crossed the chamber to the Tories. Personally I feel that we should be asking ourselves, why a previous Labour Councillor, who is of Asian descent, believes that the Tory Party is the obvious alternative to Labour.

    We as a Party, would benefit from not making the same mistakes that either the Labour or Conservative Party make when trying to attract new voters by being tokenistic, or even ignorant of the electorate, for if we rely on our own perhaps limited understanding regarding the diversity agenda, we will inevitably make mistakes, for “we do not know, what we do not know”.

    I would suggest that as a Party that we do not continue to fear the accusation of racism, as much as the reality of its existence, for until we as a Party adopt processes and procedures to make sure that we ourselves are not discriminatory (in line with the Equality Act, 2010), we will continue to make needless and avoidable mistakes as well.

    I wish to thank the original contributor for highlighting this issue to the Party, for if Bradford West bi-election has taught us anything, it demonstrates that we as a Party have much to learn.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    [email protected]

    (apologies for any typo’s, as this was written whilst on the move)

  • Ruwan
    >the definition of a racist incident is simple “Any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.

    Agree however, it doesn’t mean that the incident was racist. As an example, at a previous house, I repeatedly got complaints with racist undertones from the Jamaican family that lived opposite me concerning my repeated parking of my car on the road directly outside of my house (it meant that they could only drive off their drive in one direction). However, the Sri Lankan family, I sold the house to and who park their car in the same place, have yet to receive a single complaint from Jamaican family still living opposite…

    Hence from reading the article and the comments which give local context, I do not find either the phrases “born and bred” and “one of us” and the entire statement racist; although I agree for those who are overtly sensitive to such matters a racist interpretation could be placed on it. Even without the local background I question the rational for the racist shouts, as by replacing the picture of a person from an ethnic English heritage with that of any one from a different ethnic heritage (eg. Chinese, Polish, Persian) the statement still makes sense and in some circumstances more powerful.

    Finally, I agree there is much to learn from the electioneering and party politics in Reading and appreciate your level headed response as there is much to be lost by making simple statements such as “born and bred” and “one of us” racist.

  • the definition of a racist incident is simple “Any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.<<< but initially be sceptical if the charge of racism comes from one political party aimed at another political party during an election campaign. It usually turns out to be one party attempting to put a well-timed spanner in the workings of their opponents campaign- as in this case.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 13th Apr '12 - 9:35am

    Putting legal speak to one side, I do appreciate that it is very difficult for some people to define or even understand what is racism as they have not necessarily experienced it, in the same way that many men do not realise what is sexism, and many people do not truly realise how homophobic society is.

    I fear that some of the counter arguments that we have seen here, and in other articles on bigotry will not give some individuals and communities confidence that we as a Party really understand racism, homophobia and other bigotries as well as we may think, and are even at times dismissive of how others may feel, as a result of what they know to be real, and/or have genuinely experience.

    As stated before, we can though put measures in place to make sure that many of the obtuse errors that people are inclined to make through ignorance are thwarted before the damage is done. We will never eradicate intentional bigotry, or the damage that is done when people speak ‘off script” and from a position of ignorance, but we can put in place measures that will demonstrate that we as a Party not only talk of fairness and equality, but can demonstrate how we actually do it, and how we influence the Coalition in such a manner.

    Lets not play the game of pointing fingers in an accusatory manner, when we are not exactly beyond question ourselves, but let us actually do something to turn our rhetoric into action.

    If you are interested in assisting i this process, then please contact your Local, Regional Diversity Champions, or myself for we need to build a critical mass within the Party of people who wish to bring about change before it will be successfully achieved. I left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats, because I believe that this is the party not only of fine words, but good deeds.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    [email protected]

  • Stuart Mitchell 13th Apr '12 - 6:36pm

    @Warren Swaine
    “Last year, Reading Labour supporters made a series of homophobic slurs against Lib Dem candidates.: http://www.jamie-wake.co.uk/?m=201105

    In the interests of balance though, here’s what Jamie Wake had to say about this a few days ago:

    “I was quite surprised to see a blogger quote a piece that I had written from my blog with regards to the experiences I encountered in my first election last year. As readers of my blog will know, I have never accused any particular local political party of the homophobia I encountered – even though I was told on numerous occasions where the comments that had been made were presumed to have originated from.”

    Wake’s admirably level-headed thoughts on the current controversy are well worth reading:

    http://www.jamiewake.org.uk/2012/04/theres-no-place-for-discrimination-in-reading/

  • Rather a fuss about not very much in my view. I presume though that Eileen McE now lives in a posh part of Reading and not where she grew up.

  • Anthony Parrott 3rd May '12 - 10:07am

    It’s getting so you can’t say anything, in case someone manages to construe an opinion of of your words that you didn’t in the slightest intend. Saying that one is “one of us” doesn’t in any way state that someone else isn’t “one of us”. If you look at it as a statement of racial separatism,, the only prejudice is in the eye of the reader, not the author. And “Born and bred in Reading”: well, that’s got to be a good thing for a Reading Council candidate, hasn’t it? WHATEVER COLOUR HE OR SHE IS.

    When you’re done slinging mud around, we can start getting this party electable again.

  • Paul Walter 5th May '12 - 6:16pm

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