Outrage as Zac Goldsmith sends 'patronising' leaflets to Redbridge's Indian communities
PUBLISHED: 17:26 01 April 2016 | UPDATED: 17:26 01 April 2016
Community leaders have spoken out against a mayoral hopeful's campaign tactics after "divisive" leaflets were sent to Indian families.
The backlash comes after targeted campaign material from Tory Zac Goldsmith said he supported Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and celebrated Diwali in a bid to win votes.
The leaflets – tailored and sent to those from specific Indian groups – stated Mr Goldsmith supported family-owned businesses and was against taxes on family jewellery.
Cllr Varinder Singh Bola (Lab, Cranbrook) said he received a Sikh-specific leaflet, which said Mr Goldsmith “campaigned for the Golden Temple to remain in the hands of the Sikh community”.
“I think it’s very distasteful and quite patronising to target ethnic communities in such a way,” he said.
“It’s based on stereotypes – not everyone in the Sikh or Hindu community lives with lots of gold.”
Redbridge Indian Welfare Association (RIWA) general secretary Ram Bhandari, 86, also got a leaflet in the post.
“The whole world is one, we’re human beings – he can’t split us like this,” he said.
“Our children are born and brought up in this country so we shouldn’t take any notice.”
Vinaya Sharma, of VHP Ilford Hindu Centre, Cleveland Road, Ilford, called it “divisive politics”.
“He’s patronising the Indian communities – we are all Londoners. He should concentrate on what he can deliver to people in London.”
Mankamal Singh of Singh Sabha London East, High Road, Seven Kings, said Mr Goldsmith’s “intentions were good” but he needed to be “advised adequately”.
Harmander Singh, of Karamsar, High Road, Ilford, called it “racial profiling”. He said: “People are right to feel upset – it’s patronising.”
Redbridge Equalities and Community Council (RECC) chairwoman Diana Neslen said politicians should “strengthen our community” rather than “try to divide us”.
Speaking in Ilford yesterday (Wednesday) after visiting the Bombardier depot, Ley Street, Mr Goldsmith told the Recorder: “I disagree – my job is to talk to as many people as I can people from every community.
“We need a mayor for all Londoners and that means reaching out in every possible way.”
Responding to the leaflets, Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry said: “It’s a matter of widespread concern that one of the main Tory tactics in this election seems to be to target Londoners with negative messages based on their presumed ethnicity and to divide them from one another by presumed prejudices.
“This is a deeply irresponsible approach at a time when we need more than ever to bring our communities closer together.”
A spokesman for Labour’s candidate Sadiq Khan was not able to provide a direct response but referred to criticism of the material by lobbying group Operation Black Vote.
Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon, the Respect Party’s George Galloway, Women’s Equality Party candidate Sophie Walker and Ukip hopeful Peter Whittle have been contacted for a response.