CamdenNewJournal

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‘Racism top trumps’ at Hampstead and Kilburn election hustings

Labour's Tulip tells event in Hampstead that Boris Johnson is racist because of his 'privilege'

07 December, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Tulip Siddiq openly called Boris Johnson ‘racist’

ELECTION candidates were warned that they risked descending into a row over which party was the least racist after an angry clash during a hustings event in Hampstead. Labour’s Tulip Siddiq said she “would be damned” if anybody tried to avoid apologising for her party’s handling of anti-semitism complaints.

But she then tore up any pretence of campaigning politeness by claiming there was “already a racist in No 10” before rolling off past quotes from Boris Johnson, including lines about “black people being called piccaninnies” and “hijabi women looking like bank robbers”.

Ms Siddiq, using a more explicit choice of words than most of Mr Johnson’s other Labour opponents, said: “This is a man who has consistently escaped scrutiny and, because of the family he comes from and the privilege that he has, he is a man who has deep rooted racism in his body.”

Mr Johnson has said on several occasions that his past words have been taken out of context and he has always stood up for a tolerant society.

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, has said he has always fought anti-semitism and the party had dealt with and was dealing with complaints.

The candidates in Hampstead and Kilburn at next week’s general election had gathered at UCS, the private school in Frognal, where they were asked to explain how they would confront all forms of racism.

Sandrine Siraju-Kasongo confronts the panel

Their answers were interrupted when a Labour Party member, Sandrine Siraju-Kasongo, took the mic from the floor and accused other parties of “weaponising” anti-semitism while not, she alleged, taking the same interest in other forms of racism. She said she joined Ms Siddiq in apologising for the “hurt and upset” caused by the Labour’s handling of anti-semitism, but then told the candidates: “The media, you, your party, you have all weaponised anti-semitism really really badly.”

She drew an angry response in some parts of the room when she said that people on public transport did not know whether passengers were Jewish or not but everybody could see that she was black, later telling the hall that black people were abused on a regular basis on the trains. One of her friends, a Muslim woman, had been beaten up in front of her five-year-old child, she said.

“Let’s give every single race respect,” Ms Siraju-Kasongo said. “I’m a hugger. Let’s unite.” In answer, Conservative candidate Johnny Luk, whose parents had travelled down from Milton Keynes to watch the debate, asked not to be shouted at or pointed at.

He said: “I’m from an ethnic minority, I get attacked all the time and it drives me forward. I get what you are going through. If you elect me as your MP, I’ll fight it because I’m living it now. I don’t need to be lectured on it. I know it, I live it.” Last week, a Jewish family was filmed on the Northern line being abused before a Muslim woman intervened.

Liberal Democrat Matt Sanders said that he talked about anti-semitism during the campaign because “hundreds of people” have raised it on the doorstep.

He added: “The most harrowing conversation I had was with an elderly Jewish lady, I think in her 70s. She opened the door and she took my hands and she cried. And she said I have voted Labour my entire life, for 50 years, and I can’t this time, as long Jeremy Corbyn is in charge of the Labour Party. I don’t take any joy from that, it makes me really, really sad.”

Ms Siraju-Kasongo repeatedly said “I did not say that”, when it was suggested she had argued that anti-semitism should not be discussed at the election. After the hustings, Mr Sanders said that he was concerned a sensitive issue was at risk of “becoming a game of racism Top Trumps”.

The Lib Dems and Conservatives upped their campaign this week by booking paid adverts in the Camden New Journal, including a four-page run of pages bought by Jo Swinson’s party. The hustings, organised by the Hampstead and Highgate Express and hosted by their reporter Harry Taylor, had drawn at least 400 people to the school.

Matt Sanders looks unimpressed by Johnny Luk

David Stansell, the Green Party, candidate said society was “fragmentising”, adding: “People are turning into little groups and scrapping with each other, and being jealous and calling each other names. I think we need to educate each ­other more, we need to realise again and remind ourselves that our success comes from co-operating with other people.” Ms Siddiq, being watched by several journalists and activists from Bangladesh where her aunt is the Prime Minister and as a relation her every step is treated as major news, said she recognised Labour had not done enough.

She said: “I sent my daughter to a Jewish nursery because I wanted her to grow up with the same values that I grew up with: the values of social justice, the values of equality, that’s what the Jewish community is all about. And that’s what the Labour Party is all about.”

Ms Siddiq remains a red hot favourite to retain her seat next week, starting with a majority of more than 15,000 votes.

Mr Luk said: “We’re doing a review on Islamophobia and any other form of racism, but I’m choking over what Tulip has said. She says she has been fighting hard for the Jewish community but clearly it hasn’t been working over the last few years. She has refused twice to go to synagogues to debate me there.”

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