Labour suspends former equalities watchdog chief over Islamophobia claims

9 March 2020, 05:56 | Updated: 9 March 2020, 09:48

The lifelong anti-racism campaigner was formerly head of the UK's human rights watchdog
The lifelong anti-racism campaigner was formerly head of the UK's human rights watchdog. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Labour has suspended the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission from the party over allegations of Islamophobia.

Anti-racism campaigner Trevor Phillips is now facing an investigation and possible expulsion from the party for alleged prejudice against Muslims.

The Times newspaper reported the allegations and investigation related to comments Mr Phillips made in the past, including remarks on Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns.

The newspaper said comments by Mr Phillips about the failure by some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by a substantial proportion in an opinion poll towards the “motives” of the Charlie-Hebdo killers also form part of the complaint.

Many of his statements occurred several years ago, but Labour's general secretary Jennie Formby suspended him as a matter of urgency to "protect the party's reputation".

Mr Phillips was among 24 public figures who last year declared their refusal to vote for the Labour Party because of its association with anti-Semitism.

In a letter to the Guardian in November, the group said the path to a more tolerant society "must encompass Britain's Jews with unwavering solidarity" and said Jeremy Corbyn has "a long record of embracing anti-Semites as comrades".

Mr Phillips told The Times there was no suggestion that he has done anything unlawful and "no one inside or outside the Labour Party has ever suggested that I have broken any rules".

Writing in an opinion piece for the paper, Mr Phillips said: "If this is how Labour treats its own family, how might it treat its real opponents if it ever gains power again?

"It would be a tragedy if, at the very moment we most need a robust and effective opposition, our nation had to endure the spectacle of a great party collapsing into a brutish, authoritarian cult."

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "The Labour Party takes all complaints about Islamophobia extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken."

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