An investigation into claims that Labour councillors accused local residents of making racist comments has been delayed until after the General Election.
Residents in Coventry, who were compared with Nazi Germany by the city’s Labour representatives, have accused the council and the party of kicking their formal complaints into the long grass for political reasons, the Coventry Observer reports.
The allegations were made by two residents and members of the Keresley Parish Council who are opposed to a housing development on Greenbelt land. The pair lodged formal complaints with the national Labour Party and Coventry City Council three weeks ago regarding the conduct of Councillors David Galliers and Rachel Lancaster.
Cllr Lancaster, a member of the council’s cabinet, used her Twitter account to publicly accuse ‘members of Kereley PC’ of making ‘racist comments’ – which she later removed following the complaints.
Her colleague Cllr Galliers had written a letter to a Coventry newspaper which compared Keresley Parish council chairman Sandra Camwell’s views with Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa.
The parish council members vehemently deny the claims of racism thrown at them after they expressed concerns about pressure from immigration on local services as well as building on greenbelt.
A third Labour councillor is also caught up in the scandal. He was accused of calling another resident and opponent of the housing project a ‘stupid, ignorant t*** in a conversation caught off camera by a resident’s wife at a public meeting.
Cllr Kevin Maton faced a council investigation and issued a written apology to the resident, who he also said was a UKIP supporter on Twitter.
But while that investigation was dealt with, residents fear the outcome of the other accusations is being delayed deliberately to avoid any political fall out before the elections on May 7th.
The situation is embarrassing for Labour because it once again brings up their real commitment to dealing with immigration, something they spent many years refusing to address after signing up to open borders with the whole of Eastern Europe. Comparisons have also been made with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s gaffe when, forgetting he still had a microphone attached, told an aide that a resident in Rochdale, Gillian Duffy, was a ‘bigot’ for raising concerns over immigration.
Over the last few years, coinciding with the increase in support for UKIP, Labour frontbenchers including Ed Miliband have said party members were wrong to say people concerned over immigration and pressures on local services and housing as ‘racist’ or bigoted.
Mrs Camwell accused the party of “running scared of the issue.”
“What are they afraid of?” she asked.
“I am offended by these disgraceful accusations of racism and facism and am disappointed with their lethargic reaction so far. It should be a straightforward investigation. The evidence has been published by the press and reproduced from Twitter.
“People are already judging them over the delay. They now have six weeks before the election. Surely they’re not happy to say nothing for another six weeks?”
Former Parish Council member Alan Owens also lodged official complaints to the council’s monitoring officer Christine Forde and the national Labour party general secretary Iain McNicol over the tweets, demanding an apology.
He said he was “disappointed” that a resolution had yet to emerge.
“It seems they are delaying the investigation so they do not get councillors and the Labour group into an embarrassing situation shortly before the election,” he added.
“I find it appalling that two elected Labour party councillors can make allegations about racism within a local Parish Council and it not be treated seriously by Coventry council when complaints are made.”
A council spokesperson said “All formal complaints made to the monitoring officer are fully investigated. We are not able to comment on the detail of ongoing complaints.”
A Labour party spokesman said: “We’re still looking into this issue and will respond in due course.”