Labour leadership candidates urged to 'get off the fence' over Islamophobia suspension

10 March 2020, 06:28

Mr Phillips was the first ever chair of the UK's human rights watchdog
Mr Phillips was the first ever chair of the UK's human rights watchdog. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Suspended Labour Party member Trevor Phillips has called on the party's leadership candidates to publicly say whether they support his suspension from the party over Islamophobia allegations.

Mr Phillips, a lifelong anti-racism campaigner and the first-ever chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is facing an investigation and possible expulsion from the Labour party over past comments.

The suspension is over comments Mr Phillips made in the past, including remarks on Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns.

However, he has defended his statements, including that it was "nonsense" to define being anti-Islam as racist as Muslims do not identify as a race.

Now The Daily Telegraph newspaper reports the 66-year-old has called on Labour candidates Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey to "pick a side" and say whether or not they support his suspension.

Mr Phillips told the paper the issue was a "test for the kind of party these candidates want to lead".

His call was supported by the Government's antisemitism adviser Lord Mann, who said: "It is a mark of leadership... either back the investigation or back Trevor Phillips.

"To suspend the first head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is not a sit on the fence issue."

Meanwhile, Labour’s Khalid Mahmood, the longest-serving Muslim MP, described the claims against Mr Phillips as “so outlandish as to bring disrepute on all involve in making them”. 

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said that Mr Phillips had made “incendiary statements about Muslims that would be unacceptable for any other minority.”