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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ex-lord mayor of Newcastle to stand in general election after quitting Labour Party over racism row

A former lord mayor of Newcastle will stand as an independent candidate at the general election, months after quitting the Labour Party in a row over alleged Islamophobia.

City councillor Habib Rahman dramatically left the party in January, claiming that there was a culture of “institutional racism” within Labour.

Labour MP, Chi Onwurah. Image: Wikipedia

Cllr Rahman has now confirmed that he will contest the Newcastle Central and West seat on 4 July, as he bids to unseat Labour’s Chi Onwurah.

The 50-year-old is the second independent standing in that seat, alongside former journalist and prominent Muslim activist Yvonne Ridley, with both making their support for the Palestinian cause a key campaign platform.

Cllr Rahman has been a councillor in the Elswick ward since 2010 and is a well-known figure in the West End, having become Newcastle’s first non-white lord mayor in 2021.

Announcing his candidacy shortly before the deadline for nominations on Friday afternoon, he said: “I’m proud of my record of serving the people who elected me. Over the past 14 years I’ve campaigned to save an entire estate from demolition, redeveloped Cruddas Park flats, supported the building of Newcastle Eagles Arena, and helped save Elswick Pool, which is now a thriving pool under community ownership.

“I left the Labour Party in January 2024 because of the direction of the party under its current leader, his failure to address racism and Islamophobia locally and nationally within the party, and his inhumane and unacceptable stance on the genocide against the Palestinians.

“We need to take a stand. Sadly Labour has abandoned its moral roots and has committed to the same broad policies as the Conservatives.

“The people of Newcastle face child poverty, sky-high rents, lack of youth provisions, unemployment, crime and anti-social behaviour, underfunded GP practices, and the NHS under attack. These aren’t just Newcastle issues but are faced regionally and nationally.

“We need elected politicians who put their community ahead of their careers. My loyalty will always be to the people of Newcastle, not to the party whip.”

On Thursday, a group called the Suffrage Sisters Alliance published an open letter in support of Ms Ridley, urging Cllr Rahman to “reconsider your decision, so we can all back one united candidate”.

The group, claiming to represent more than 200 women in the North East, asked him to “step down and withdraw your candidacy for the sake of Gaza and to unify our community”.

Ms Onwurah, a Labour shadow minister, has been the MP for Newcastle Central since 2010 and won a majority of more than 12,000 in 2019.

The seat has been extended westwards in boundary changes at this election, taking in Denton, Lemington, Westerhope and Newbiggin Hall.

The full list of candidates standing in Newcastle Central and West is:

Ali Avaei – Liberal Democrat

Frances Lasok – Conservative

Ashton Muncaster – Reform

Chi Onwurah – Labour

John Pearson – Green

Habib Rahman – Independent

Yvonne Ridley – Independent

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