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Monday, April 22, 2024

Labour candidate accused of ‘racial slur’

Labour's North East mayor candidate Kim McGuinness accused of using 'racial slur' in historic social media post

Labour’s candidate for North East mayor has been accused of using a “racial slur” in a historic social media post.

Kim McGuinness has apologised over what she admits was an “offensive” remark made on Twitter 13 years ago.

She wrote “f*** off! I am not a gypsy!” in a since-deleted tweet from February 2011.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer Image: Wikipedia

National charity, The Traveller Movement registered a complaint over the post with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer this week, saying the term “gypsy” had often been used “as an all-encompassing racial slur throughout the centuries to justify the discrimination and persecution of all nomadic peoples”.

This comes days after the party has been immersed in the scandal surrounding comments made about Israel and Jewish people by parliamentary candidates Azhar Ali and Graham Jones, from whom Labour has now withdrawn support.

In a letter to Sir Keir on Wednesday, Traveller Movement CEO Yvonne McNamara accused Ms McGuinness of making “racist comments online about Romani (Gypsy), Roma and Irish Travellers” and asked how she had been selected as a candidate to stand first as a councillor in Newcastle, then to become Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, and now for the upcoming mayoral election.

The 2011 tweet pre-dates the PCC’s entry into politics, which saw her elected as a councillor in the Lemington ward in 2015.

Ms McNamara wrote in her letter to Sir Keir: “We understand that some of the selection decisions were made before your election as leader of the Labour Party. However in your statement this week you stated that ‘the Labour Party has changed under my leadership’. We would request you stick to that statement and treat the racist language used by Kim McGuinness in the same way as the former Labour candidates’ for Rochdale and Hyndburn. Romani (Gypsy), Roma, and Irish Travellers need assurance that our elected officials act in their interest free from prejudice and need to see strong action carried out by political parties when their members and officials are racist towards our communities.”

Ms McGuinness has served as PCC since summer 2019, when she succeeded Vera Baird in the role, and was chosen last year as Labour’s candidate for the historic mayoral election – the winner of which will spearhead a new combined authority representing around two million people across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and County Durham.

A Labour Party source told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “13 years ago, in conversation with a friend, Kim used a term she’d never use now. She understands why this would be offensive to the traveller community and for this she reiterates her apology. As a councillor and police and crime commissioner Kim has proactively campaigned against racism, promoted equality and prioritised fighting hate crime.”

Ms McGuinness won Labour’s selection contest last year following a furore over the barring of current North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll from the race, amid a row surrounding an appearance he made with film director Ken Loach.

The filmmaker had been expelled from the party in 2021, saying at the time that he would “not disown those already expelled” amid reports of a purge of left-wing factions that backed  ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn and criticised Sir Keir’s attempts to tackle antisemitism, and the Jewish Labour Movement said the mayor’s decision to share a stage with him in March 2023 was “hugely upsetting”.

Mr Driscoll is now standing as an independent in the North East mayoral election. Also due to stand are Conservative Guy Renner-Thompson, Liberal Democrat Aidan King, the Green Party’s Andrew Gray, and Reform UK’s Paul Donaghy.

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