Claim to be anti-racist “in tatters” after Islamophobia complaint, Labour warned

Elliot Chappell

Labour has been warned that its claim to be an anti-racist party is “in tatters” after an election notice listed a councillor facing several complaints of Islamophobia as a Labour candidate.

Messages seen by LabourList show comments, reportedly from Joyce McCarty, saying the deselection of Nick Forbes was a “specific Muslim plot to get more BAME candidates selected and was set up by councillors in the area”.

LabourList understands that the councillor is currently administratively suspended from the party pending an investigation into the allegations made against her and that, as a suspended member, she is not eligible to stand as a Labour candidate.

But candidates must submit nomination papers showing which party they are standing for and Newcastle City Council published an election notice on March 25th. McCarty was suspended on March 29th, which means she will appear on the ballot as a Labour candidate.

A complainant has also alleged that McCarty wrote in an email, in relation to the deselection of Forbes, that she was “horrified by what you have done and you have brought your ethnicity and race, the party and the wider community into disrepute”.

McCarty is reported to have said she was “sorry to say that your cause of racial equality has been massively undermined because of your actions”, adding: “Because of your actions, I am worried you will never be trusted in the future and I’m also afraid that will impact on all of us in the Labour Party.”

Forbes, who represents local government on Labour’s national executive committee, was deselected as a council candidate in Newcastle earlier this year. He lost his battle to be reselected against Abdul Samad by 13 votes to four.

Momentum’s Mish Rahman told LabourList: “This is a disturbing development but sadly it follows a pattern. Muslim Labour members have consistently raised the issue of widespread Islamophobia within the party, including as recently as last month.”

The national executive committee member added: “Disgracefully, it seems that the Labour Party’s no-tolerance policy on racism doesn’t apply to friends of the leadership. Labour’s claims to be an anti-racist party lie in tatters.”

Labour was urged last month to take action to tackle Islamophobia after research from the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) showed that 68% of Muslim Labour supporters do not trust the leadership to combat the issue effectively.

The organisation found that 20% disagree and 48% strongly disagree with the statement “I trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively”. The study followed a poll in 2020, in which the same question was asked.

The 20% who said they disagreed is a ten-point decrease on the earlier research, while the 48% who said they strongly disagreed represents a 23-point increase. Asked this year how they thought the Labour leader had handled the issue since the last report, 4% said he had done “very well” and 7% “quite well”.

Labour’s ruling body approved a new code of conduct on Islamophobia in July last year, which included the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to Labour council leaders to encourage wider adoption of the APPG definition of Islamophobia. The party has also rolled out Islamophobia training to staff.

Muslim Labour MP Zarah Sultana described the move as a “really good first step” in an interview with LabourList to mark Islamophobia Awareness Month in November, but added that she believed there was much more work to be done.

LabourList understands that Keir Starmer has met with the Labour Muslim Network several times since being elected leader. Angela Rayner, Anneliese Dodds and David Evans have also met with the LMN on multiple occasions.

Joyce McCarty was contacted for comment.

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