Labour right’s hierarchy of racism on show again as Newcastle councillor only suspended for twelve months over Islamophobic comments. Now Skwawkbox brings exclusive back-story on councillor’s racist ‘Muslim plot’ comment
This article was written by Labour insiders in the north-east on condition of anonymity.
Councillor Joyce McCarty has been found guilty of Islamophobia by the Labour Party’s internal process, but instead of being expelled, has merely been suspended for one year.
McCarty harassed a Muslim councillor, texting her and claiming “a specific Muslim plot” was the cause of right-wing council leader’s Nick Forbes’s deselection in February this year.
Forbes’s four year term as councillor was coming to an end, and members in Newcastle’s Arthurs Hill were asked to select a candidate for the upcoming May elections.
Forbes lives on the other side of the city and had rarely been seen in the local area, a fact that concerned local members. He had reportedly been hoping for elevation to the House of Lords, but when that did not materialise, appears to have panicked and realised he would need to be reselected as a councillor to keep highly paid roles as Labour Leader of the Local Government Association (LGA, £42,000), Leader of Newcastle City Council (£28,000) and vice chair of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority (£10,000), which he enjoyed alongside directorships and expenses.
Forbes doorstepped local members in the weeks running up to the selection meeting. One local member, who fears reprisals for speaking out, says they felt intimidated by Forbes’ doorstep conversation and Forbes demanding their vote, saying that he warned them that there would be ‘significant consequences for you in the Party and if you want a future, you know what to do’.
A local member on the end of a Forbes doorstepping told him they had been hoping to run for the seat. He responded that “There may be something else available, but it depends what happens here… You know what to do.”
Longstanding Labour Councillor Lord Jeremy Beecham was stepping down, and rather than being voted on by local members, Labour’s candidate for his Benwell council seat was appointed by the party executive.
When Forbes knocked on the door, one Party member said “Who are you?” They report that Forbes was ‘visibly affronted’, “I’m the leader of Newcastle City Council and Labour Leader of the LGA,” was the reply. “Well I’ve never seen you round here,” said the local member.
When his direct approach failed, Forbes tried to send the party membership lists to a BAME councillor from another ward, asking that they drum up support amongst the Muslim members – a serious GDPR data breach. The councillor was shocked at Forbes’s actions, and would have no part in them. Forbes also persuaded Chi Onwurah, the MP for Newcastle Central, to ring around members, saying that if they didn’t vote for Forbes, it would be a national story and bad for the city.
In the end, Forbes fell flat, and only 4 local members voted for him in the selection meeting. 13 voted for local member Abdul Samad, who lives in the neighbourhood, and was not aligned to any faction in the Party. Forbes and his allies, including Joyce McCarty, went into full spin mode. Forbes claimed to have been “ambushed” – despite his doorstepping antics and enlisting the MP to campaign for him weeks in advance.
Some might say the “ambush” claim was a direct lie. Forbes persuaded the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee to write a sympathy article for him, presumably to detoxify his future career prospects. She claimed “he received total pay of £27,600 a year, with no pension, for the past 11 years for heavy responsibilities.” Poor journalism, considering his £42,000 LGA and £10,000 Fire Authority roles are declarable interests.
He put a complaint into the Labour Party, claiming the decision was homophobic. And McCarty blamed local Muslim members, claiming it was a “specific muslim plot”. The selection process was run by regional officials and a staffer from right-wing Labour MP Catherine McKinnell’s office, and no grounds to overturn the decision could be found. Labour members simply didn’t want Forbes – and many didn’t even know who he was.
McCarty knew she had been suspended pending investigation, but kept quiet and stood as a Labour councillor in May, before her suspension became public knowledge. It is not known why regional director Kate Bolger, who knew about the suspension, did not alert the Newcastle Labour Group in time. Labour’s GLU ordered local party bosses NOT to suspend the whip from McCarty, and ordered them to keep quiet. It is understood that the matter was raised directly with Keir Starmer, but the extent of his involvement in the decision not to expel McCarty is unknown.
Newcastle council is under new leadership, and in the context of McCarty’s actions, Newcastle Labour has issued a statement condemning hate crimes. Senior Labour sources in Newcastle are outraged at the Party machinery’s failure to tackle Islamophobia.
The full text of the above article was sent to Nick Forbes for comment on Monday at two separate email addresses. He had not responded by the time of publication on Friday.
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