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Monday, May 27, 2024

Former Lord Mayor of Newcastle quits Labour over racism allegations

Newcastle’s first Muslim lord mayor has quit Labour and accused the party of a “culture of institutional racism”.

Habib Rahman claimed on Friday that he had been subjected to Islamophobic abuse within the party and that his requests for support had been “ignored”.

The Elswick ward councillor, who will continue to sit as an independent, became the only non-white person ever to hold the post of lord mayor of Newcastle in 2021 – a civic role that dates back 800 years.

Coun Rahman, whose father Azizur was killed in 1977 at the Wallsend restaurant where he worked by a customer who was unhappy about the size of a takeaway curry, has been a vocal campaigner against discrimination on Tyneside.

The city council’s ruling Labour group said it was “incredibly sad” at his resignation and that the party was “committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism”.

Coun Rahman cited the 12-month suspension given to former deputy council leader Joyce McCarty in 2022 after an internal party investigation found her guilty of Islamophobia, following a scandal surrounding claims of a “Muslim plot” against ex-council leader Nick Forbes.

He also attacked Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the war in Gaza and accused the party of “telling all Black and Muslim voters that their votes do not matter”.

The former youth worker, who joined Labour in 2008 and was first elected in 2010, said:  “I have spent my life campaigning for equality and fighting against all forms of victimisation, abuse, and harassment. I am a proud, lifelong anti-racist campaigner. For almost two years, I have been fighting for justice and against racism within the Labour Party, its Regional Office, and Newcastle Labour Group expecting to be fully supported.

“Instead, the party has put up barriers and has not provided me with any support as a victim of racism nor has it taken any steps to address the culture of institutional racism. Instead, the national party seems to be telling all Black and Muslim voters that their votes do not matter and that it sides with perpetrators of racism.

“This has been made worse by party Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s immoral and unethical U-turn on the recognition of the state of Palestine together with his failure to call for an immediate ceasefire and his unquestioning support for the Israeli Government carrying out genocide in their war on Gaza. I am resigning from the Labour Party because of the racism I have faced and Sir Keir Starmer’s support for the war on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

“I will continue to serve the residents of Elswick Ward as an independent councillor until the all-out elections planned to take place in 2026.”

A spokesperson for Newcastle Labour Group replied: “As a Labour group we are incredibly sad to hear of Councillor Habib Rahman’s decision today. We would like to thank him for all he has done for his constituents in Elswick and the city of Newcastle at large.

“The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

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