“Race advisor slams Lewisham Labour over ‘apartheid system'”

So reports the Lewisham News Shopper:

A RACE and equality advisor to the Mayor [of Lewisham] has resigned from the Lewisham Labour Party claiming it runs an “apartheid system”.

David Michael, chairman of Lewisham Local Police Consultative Group and Sir Steve Bullock’s advisor on community cohesion, was due to contest the Whitefoot ward in 2010 but has resigned claiming he was not supported by branch members…

Mr Michael, a resident of Catford for 26 years, says he and a number of other ethnic minority candidates have been marginalised by the party in a “scandalous apartheid system”, being put forward for unwinnable seats and given no support…

Liberal Democrat member of the Local Police Consultative Group Councillor Duwayne Brooks said: “David Michael deserves better than to be treated so shabbily by Labour and by what appears to be a small clique in Lewisham who are only concerned with doing favours for their mates.”

You can read the full story here.

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  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Nov '09 - 10:52am

    Not wishing to be too critical of my esteemed successor as councillor for Downham ward, but we need to be a little careful with this. We too have had resignations from ethnic minority members claiming much the same as Mr Michael about our party (I mean nationally, not particularly in LB Lewisham).

    It is rather nice that there are wards in LB Lewisham regarded as “unwinnable” for Labour. It was not that long ago that they regarded most of the wards as naturally theirs, and mostly they were theirs because there was no serious competition. Whitefoot was, just a few years ago, “safe Labour”. Ha-ha-ha Mr Michael, now you’ve learnt you don’t get elected as a councillor just because you’re wearing a red rosette. Like with many Labour party people, that comes as a bit of a shock. How the **** did any of us get elected as LibDem councillors in LB Lewisham? Well it certainly wasn’t by sitting whingeing about “no support”. Mostly it was by getting out and doing the work ourselves and making what were “safe Labour” wards ours.

    It may be that the reason Mr Michael is experiencing “no support” is because Labour in Lewisham has no support left to give. If you’ve got few active members and little money, you can’t give support to everyone nominated as a candidate. That’s how it used to be for the Liberal Democrats in Lewisham, now the tables are turned. Many naïve people simply do not realise that political parties are voluntary organisations, they don’t have vast funds to give out to run elections, if no-one volunteers to do it, the election campaign won’t happen.

    We know ourselves that in situation of limited resources, we have to target. Yes, this does mean some candidates are “paper candidates” – they have to accept they won’t get any support, and even activists in their own wards will be directed to work elsewhere. This is why I urge caution, because I can remember too many cases where we’ve had candidates put up in non-target seats going to the press claiming making accusation that they got “no support”. That’s the whole POINT of being a paper candidate. You are there to look good and to keep quiet when all the work goes elsewhere.

    It would be entirely sensible for Labour in LB Lewisham to write off Whitefoot as unwinnable, and concentrate on the desperate task of retaining those wards they hold now. If Mr Michael was not willing to accept this tactical necessity, he ought not to have out himself forward as candidate for this ward. Either that, or he should go out and do a fraction of the work I and others who are and have been LibDem councillors in LB Lewisham did to win and retain our wards.

    I myself (that was before I was in Lewisham) once found myself a candidate in a ward which has been Liberal-held, but membership had collapsed along with the health of the sitting Liberal councillor. So I leafleted the whole ward myself. Every week for four weeks – four leaflet campaign. And canvassed as much of it myself as I could as well. I paid for the leaflets as well – out of my student grant. Came second, beating the Tories into 3rd place for first time ever for them. This is where I learned fighting from the left does not mean you lose votes to the Tories.

  • Lester Holloway 25th Nov '09 - 12:14pm

    Labour have been losing black members all across London over the past few months. I don’t understand why it’s not more of an issue, there is a clear pattern here. I’ve been saying that the way black Labour members and sitting councillors are being treated is largely a reflection of the way Labour regard the “black vote”; their’s to abuse, with the assumption that those votes are not going anywhere else. I suspect there’s also a slight element of a losing and imploding Labour having bouts of nastiness because of the state they’re in.

    The way a number of sitting black councillors have been ejected – in boroughs like Waltham Forest, Enfield, Haringey and Barking & Dagenham recently is disgraceful. Senior figures, from MPs to NEC members, are alarmed, but it appears that Labour generally (their leadership, their regional party and locally on the ground) couldn’t care less.

    Some black Labour members and councillors are going quietly, happy to be out of it; others – as we can see – are crashing and burning publicly. As a Lib Dem member, this is where my tribal affiliations stop; it pains me greatly to see people that I know meeting this fate in the Labour Party. It’s just unacceptable, plain and simple.

    Putting my Lib Dem hat back on, it should also be as clear a signal to us as is possible that London’s inner cities are there for the taking. Whilst ward-by-ward analysis of past elections in the capital indicate that black communities are perhaps most loyal to Labour, I don’t think that’s going to last for very long if we can make inroads and gain a reputation as a diverse party (including avoiding future defections!).

    I see no reason why we, as a party, cannot be serious contenders to have a Lib Dem mayor of London in the future. Our own failings in the past should not make us fearful of speaking out, of making progress in this area.

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