The Liberal Democrats have suspended a party member they had shortlisted as a possible London Mayor candidate and removed her from the ballot paper after television footage emerged of her urging Muslim voters, “Don’t vote for a Jew” when she ran for parliament for the Conservatives in 1997.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb was named last Thursday as one of two contenders to run for City Hall for the Lib Dems, but the party said in a statement released last night that this is no longer the case, adding that “there is an investigation underway in accordance with due process”.
The decision follows Politics Home reporting earlier yesterday that Sidhu-Robb had attempted win support among Muslim voters in Blackburn during the 1997 general election campaign by telling them that the Labour incumbent for the constituency, Jack Straw, was Jewish.
She was filmed on election day (from 24 minutes) apparently following up on her threat to “pull the gloves off” and “drive through town telling them that Jack Straw’s a Jew. How’s a Muslim going to vote for someone who’s Jewish? That’s it.”
The ensuing footage is shot from a car, with Sidhu-Robb urging voters through a megaphone, “Don’t vote for a Jew, Jack Straw is a Jew” and “Jews are the enemies of Muslims”. Her words, spoken in Gujerati, are translated into English through subtitles. Sidhu-Robb is seen beforehand telling an interviewer that she would take this step in retaliation against what she claimed were dirty Labour tactics against her locally.
The TV programme in which the footage appears then shows Sidhu-Robb subsequently saying she did it “because I was furious” and “I must admit I wish I hadn’t done it.”
Straw, who won the 1997 Blackburn election with 55% of the vote and was appointed Home Secretary by the then newly-elected Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair the following day, has Jewish ancestry in the form of his maternal great grandmother.
Politics Home had reported on Saturday that Lib Dem activists had already expressed concern about the shortlisting of Sidhu-Robb, who runs a healthfood and wellbeing business, because of remarks she made about a council flat she lived in temporarily while appearing in a reality TV show in 2019.
The Lib Dems have yet to say if they will replenish their candidate shortlist, which now comprises only one person, Luisa Porritt, a former London MEP who recently became leader of the Lib Dem Group on Camden Council.
Sidhu-Robb said on Twitter yesterday: “I am deeply ashamed of the ignorant and abusive language I used on one occasion in the 1997 general election campaign. As shown in the footage, I instantly regretted my appalling behaviour, which I continue to do. And I am actively reaching out to the Jewish community to listen and learn.” She has made a further statement today.
Following the revelations about Sidhu-Robb, the previous Lib Dem mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita, who stepped down from the role in July, said on Twitter that she had resigned from the party last month without announcing it at the time but was now making her decision public because “I really don’t want to be associated with current events in the London campaign.”
She added: “I wish the party – and it has many amazing people – only the best. But my deciding to stand down wasn’t based on finances alone. There are serious issues that need fixing in the London region and I couldn’t run the campaign I wanted to.”
OnLondon.co.uk exists to provide fair and thorough coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate directly or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for bank account details. Thanks.