'Golden opportunity' missed to select black Labour candidate in by-elections, Redbridge BLM says
- Credit: Hazel Griffin
The Redbridge chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) has said the Labour Party missed a "golden opportunity" to select a black candidate in the borough for the first time at upcoming by-elections.
Redbridge Labour has never stood a black councillor candidate before and, with two open seats, Redbridge BLM was hoping this might be the chance to get better representation.
It said two of those on the party's shortlist to be candidates were of Afro-Caribbean heritage.
Those hopes were dashed when Labour selected two Asian women - Pushpita Gupta as the Seven Kings candidate and Sadhia Warraich in Loxford.
A spokesperson for Redbridge BLM said: "Black Lives Matter Redbridge members are disappointed that a golden opportunity to choose a black candidate was missed.
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"As members of the local black community we feel ignored and marginalised.
"It's as though we are invisible, our needs ignored.
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"Having black representation is not just about filling a diversity quota, but reflecting the black community experience, our ideas, history and issues to Redbridge Council, although we recognise that other minority groups are also unrepresented."
Council leader Jas Athwal said council candidates are selected by the membership of individual wards, and not by him or Redbridge Labour as a group, but said BLM's concerns were a "fair challenge."
He said: “Redbridge Labour has a proud track record of improving the diversity of representation in recent elections - our current group is the most diverse in the history of the borough. But we know we have further to go.
“However, this is a fair challenge and we’re working hard to develop and support potential candidates ahead of the 2022 local elections to meet it.”
The spokesperson for Redbridge BLM claimed a request to the council for a mural by black artists from the community was ignored after a memorial created following the death of George Floyd was removed.
They suggested this as proof their voices were not being heard.
Cllr Athwal did not respond to the mural claims.
Anita Boateng (Con, Bridge), the only black councillor in the borough, said it was "disappointing" Labour had failed to ever have a single black councillor in Redbridge.
The Conservative candidate for Seven Kings, Greta René, is of Caribbean descent.
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said he is not involved in councillor selections but fully supported Cllr Athwal's comments.
Ilford South MP Sam Tarry declined to comment, saying he was not involved in the selection process.