Outrage at Labour’s imposition in Ealing borough elections – John Martin’s social media comments about GRT ‘invasions’ condemned and questions raised about how ‘new’ member with record of siding with Tories to harangue Labour councillors could be considered, let alone forced on locals
The Labour party’s selection process for council election candidates in the London Borough of Ealing, like many in London and elsewhere, has been tightly controlled by the right-wing regime. In Ealing Southall, 100% of candidates have been imposed in the twenty-two seats to be contest in May.
And in Norwood Green, a predominantly Asian ward, the imposition of white male estate agent John Martin has caused outrage among Labour members.
Martin was well known to Ealing members – not as a Labour activist but as an associate of former Tory councillors in the borough’s Cleveland ward where his business is based. One Cleveland member told Skwawkbox that Mr Martin “regularly turned up at ward forums and simply ‘harangued’ Labour councillors” in unison with the local Tories.
Martin is thought to be a very recent convert to the Labour Party. As such he has none of the history of campaigning for Labour, or of trade union activity, that would usually be demanded of any would-be candidate at any level – yet he has been handed a safe seat in Southall.
Members have described his candidacy as ‘sickening’ because of his attacks on the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller (GRT) community in Norwood Green, where is he wants to be elected as a councillor. Martin has repeatedly used the hashtag #traveller invasion to describe an encampment in the ward and tweeted calling for a ‘#permanentsolution’:
This language has been condemned as an echo of the holocaust language of a ‘final solution’. Some half a million GRT people died in the holocaust and the community continues to face extreme discrimination today, with activists describing it as the ‘last acceptable form of racism’ and speaking movingly of its impact on them, their families and their mental health.
And that racism is widespread among the Labour right. Former Labour MP John Mann published a booklet that included GRT people in a list of antisocial behaviour. More recently, Labour MP and then-frontbencher Charlotte Nichols tweeted a picture of herself handing out leaflets about ‘traveller incursions’, then claimed she hadn’t known what ‘incursion’ means; right-wing Labour front-bencher Toby Perkins posted anti-traveller comments on his website. Neither was disciplined by Keir Starmer.
Mr Martin’s comments about GRT people are not limited to a single tweet. At least three others have been captured by opponents of his selection:
Ealing Labour Women members raised Martin’s candidacy with deputy Ealing Council leader and Vice Chair of the LP Irish Society, Deidre Costigan, but said that Costigan refused to condemn his comments. Local election applicants in Ealing were presented with entire dossiers of their social media going back ten years by chief whip Gareth Shaw. Despite his more recent record, John Martin was embraced and imposed by the party.
Skwawkbox wrote to John Martin at his business email, asking:
I’ve received a number of complaints from local members about your selection as a local government candidate. Principal among the issues seem to be your length of time as a member, your Conservative background, your imposition in a ward of mainly minority residents and especially your comments about Gypsy/Roma/Traveller (GRT) people.
I will be covering these complaints on Monday evening so please advise no later than 5pm (for the avoidance of doubt that’s tomorrow, 14 Feb):
– in your view, was it appropriate for Labour to impose a white candidate in a predominantly Asian ward?
– according to local Labour members, you were well-known as a supporter of former Tory councillors in Cleveland ward where your business is based and have been known to turn up at ward forums and ‘harangue’ Labour councillors together with local Tories. Do you dispute this?
– members say that you have only recently joined the party and therefore have no track record of campaigning or of union activity as would usually be expected of an applicant, let alone a successful one. Is this true?
– members appear to be deeply angry about your selection given comments you have made about the GRT community, with one even using the word ‘sickening’ to describe it. You asked on social media for a ‘permanent solution’ to solve what you called a ‘traveller invasion’, which has been compared to nazi ‘final solution’ language used about Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of GRT people were killed in the Holocaust and their community faces extensive discrimination today. Do you think such language makes you an appropriate candidate?
– potential council candidates in Ealing were presented with dossiers of their social media going back 10 years by chief whip Gareth Shaw. Did the party raise your social media comments before selecting you?
At the time of writing, no reply had been received.
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