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An open letter to Southampton Conservatives

November 18, 2017 10:00 AM
By Southampton Liberal Democrats
James Read, Chair of Southampton Liberal Democrats, has written an open letter to Southampton Conservatives imploring them to respond to allegations of racism and cover-ups made by a local activist.

To the Southampton Itchen Conservative Association,

It is hugely disappointing that Southampton Conservatives have yet to respond to serious allegations of racially discriminatory language used by one of its Councillors towards an ethnic minority activist, a week after they were first made public. Many thousands of people will have seen the BBC's television report on Monday, more will have seen coverage online and on social media. It amazes me that you have not reacted with more urgency to this situation, which could have long-lasting repercussions for your party locally.

I've been involved in Southampton politics for a long time now, and I have a great deal of respect for many people in other parties whose policies and ideals I fundamentally disagree with. I consider a number of your members friends. It is in the spirit of mutual respect and friendship that I write to you now.

The allegations of racism made against one of your Councillors are, evidently, concerning for many. Voters must trust that in the performance of their duties, their elected representatives will not treat one person differently to their neighbour. Indeed, Southampton City Council's Equality Policy states that discrimination is defined as, but is not limited to, "Unfair or unequal treatment of people on the basis of race, colour, national and ethnic origin, culture or faith, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment or gender identity, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, disability, physical, sensory or learning impairments, mental health problems, HIV status, income or age."

The young man who has had the guts to stand up for what is right, and speak out against these outdated and frankly embarrassing attitudes, deserves an explanation as to why complaints made against an individual who is now a sitting Councillor were not taken seriously at the time. So, too, do the people of Southampton.

Perhaps you hope these allegations, whatever their worth, can be swept under the carpet and forgotten about. But the danger in concealing dirt is that it has a tendency to fester, to grow, and spread. Eventually, the entire carpet will be tainted.

So please, let the public know the truth. At a time when faith in the political establishment is low, failure to address matters like this in a timely and transparent manner will only lead to further disillusionment. If you didn't know about the allegations, just say so - and pledge to carry out a full investigation now that they have come to light. If you did know, but decided not to act, please be decent enough to hold your hands up and apologise, and vow to take action against any Southampton Conservatives espousing discriminatory attitudes.

Southampton deserves better than your silence on the matter.

Kind regards

James Read
Chair, Southampton Liberal Democrats