Radical left agitator Toyin Agbetu, who resigned from Sadiq Khan’s statues commission following anti-Semitism allegations and who once screamed at the Queen in church, is still part of the London Borough of Hackney’s review of memorials, the local government has been forced to admit.
The Review, Rename, Reclaim panel of which Agbetu remains a member states on the Hackney Council website that “The names of former slave owners and colonialists no longer have a home in Hackney” and that it will “ensure existing names are identified, reviewed and renamed to ensure our anti-racist values are upheld” — suggesting that it is not exactly an objective endeavour.
The admission of Agbetu’s continued involvement follows a long Freedom of Information battle between London’s Hackney Council and Breitbart London, culminating in the Information Commissioner’s Office issuing a signed decision notice against the council.
Agbetu had resigned from the London-wide Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, established by Sadiq Khan to review monuments, memorials, place names and so on in the British capital after much of Britain’s built heritage was deemed problematic by the Black Lives Matter movement. Blog posts emerged in which Agbetu praised the author of a book titled The Jewish Onslaught, which accused Jews of playing “an integral role in the slave trade” and “control[ling] the media”.
Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey branded Agbetu a “racist” who “compared the British people to Nazis” as well as having “anti-Semitic views”, and Sadiq Khan’s spokesman saying his resignation was “the right course of action” in light of the revelations.
Agbetu had also interrupted a service at Westminster Abbey commemorating Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 2007, shouting at the Queen, who was in attendance, railing that “the British are the Nazis”, and telling a black security guard attempting to escort him from the premises: “I’ll punch you out!”
Despite his resignation from Khan’s commission, however, it was unclear whether he was still involved with the Labour-controlled London Borough of Hackney’s local Review, Rename, Reclaim Community Steering Group, or Naming Review, from which he had been recruited.
Breitbart London attempted to establish whether or not Agbetu was still part of this review through a variety of methods, contacting the Naming Hub directly, the council press office, the contact address for general enquiries, and borough mayor Philip Glanville, of the Labour Party, all the way back in February — but received no answer.
Mr Khan’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, which is comprised of left-wing activists and celebrities, will seek to “improve diversity” in London, targeting statues, street names, memorials, and building names. https://t.co/n4PPoKBcNv
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 10, 2021
Breitbart London was therefore forced to fall back on the Freedom of Information Act, making a legally binding request for information as to Agbetu’s status on the council naming review. The council was also asked to confirm that the earlier questions had been seen and whether council staff had received instructions not to answer enquiries about Agbetu.
By law, public bodies are required to respond to Freedom of Information requests within 20 days. Breitbart London lodged its request on March 18th, but 20 days came and went with no answer. Allowing for some extra time due to the coronavirus pandemic, Breitbart London followed up with the council on April 20th — but continued to be met with a wall of silence.
A formal request for an internal review of the council’s handling of the request was made on May 14th, but this was also ignored.
Finally, an appeal was lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office, or ICO, which is responsible for upholding the Freedom of Information Act in the United Kingdom.
The government-backed ICO wrote to Hackney Borough Council on June 10th instructing it to answer the request about Agbetu “within 10 working days” — but, incredibly, the council ignored this correspondence as well.
Finally, the ICO issued a formal, signed decision notice against the council — its final sanction prior to possible court action — on June 29th, saying that “it is clear that the London Borough did not deal with the request for information in accordance with the [Freedom of Information Act]” and ordering it to issue a “substantive response” within 35 calendar days.
On July 7th, Hackney Council finally did so, confirming at last that “Mr Agbetu remains a member of the Review, Rename, Reclaim Community Steering Group.”
“This decision was taken after Mr Agbetu addressed concerns about previous public statements he had made and apologised for hurt or concern caused by these,” the council offered, vaguely.
It also confirmed that the initial requests for information about Agbetu were opened, but claimed it was “unable to confirm when they were opened.”
“Staff did not make a decision not to answer emails,” they insisted, without elaboration, before claiming to be “sorry for the length of time that it has taken us to respond to your questions.”
Breitbart London is requesting an internal review of the council’s handling of the request to shed some more light on what exactly happened.