Sandwell Conservatives accused of racism towards Asian party members and candidates

Asian individuals applying to the Sandwell Conservatives have had their party memberships deliberately declined in an attempt to consolidate power for a small section of the party, a former Tory councillor has claimed.

Conservative members in Sandwell have claimed Asian candidates are given less winnable seats to fight in elections by the party
Conservative members in Sandwell have claimed Asian candidates are given less winnable seats to fight in elections by the party

Councillor Ian Chambers, who was a Conservative politician until defecting to the Labour Party last week, accused some members in the Sandwell Conservatives of “knowingly rejecting” membership applications of Asian individuals.

Councillor Chambers added that a few members of the party were “uncomfortable” with Asian individuals in their party, and alleged that those members were “deliberately undermining” them.

The allegations have been denied by the party.

He said: “I joined the Conservatives initially because I wanted to hold an opposition against Sandwell Council. But ever since the allegations of racist social media posts have surfaced in the party, they have attempted to silence the membership.

“I have witnessed myself bullying and intimidation to vote one way. There are rumours consistently spread by a few members of the Conservatives – some of whom are elected councillors – to undermine the position of those councillors they are uncomfortable around – even though they are democratically elected.

“I was bullied out of sitting in committees at Sandwell council for very little reason. This, including the toxicity of the party, was the reason I left.

“It is really sad and disappointing to see a few members who are obsessed with power damaging the first credible opposition to really have sat in Sandwell Council.”

It comes after the leader of the Tories in Sandwell, Councillor Laured Kalari, was suspended over abusive tweets alleged to have come from his account.

Meanwhile several local Conservative members have also raised concerns. They allege that the Sandwell Conservatives are deliberately placing Asian candidates in “unwinnable” seats.

It was revealed in a document that Sandwell Conservatives divide local election wards into colour codes of green, amber, red, and black. Those wards identified as green are “winnable”, while those classified as amber are “less winnable”, and red or black deemed a sure-fire loss, according to Councillor Chambers.

Some Tory members have claimed that Asian members are unfairly chosen to fight in wards that are deemed less winnable. They also claim that up to five Asian candidates have been selected in amber or red wards, with one rejected outright.

Sandwell Conservatives list of coloured coded ward seats, leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

One Conservative resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “I applied for membership back in October for the party, but was duly rejected by the party in January.

“I cannot think of any other reason why they would reject my application, except for my non-English name. I feel like I have been abandoned before even joining. How can the party expect diversity in the party? This works against the principle of diversity itself.”

Another member said they had “no confidence left” in the party to “internally deal with this issue”.

Another, who was a veteran member of Sandwell Conservatives, said: “There is so much pettiness and hatred in the party – it’s one of the reasons I left. I felt I was bullied out of the party.

A Conservative party membership rejection letter from an Asian individual sourced by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Copyright Rhi Storer.

“If you don’t agree with them, they will do everything to get rid of you. If the party cannot control itself now, how is it going to manage before the next general election?”

In responding to the allegations, the Sandwell Conservative Federation said it “absolutely rejects” the accusations.

A Sandwell Conservative spokesman said: “Sandwell Conservative Federation absolutely rejects accusations, or racism, or discrimination.

“The Conservative party has set processes in place for the selection of candidates and approval of memberships which are adhered to at all times. 52 per cent of our approved candidates for this year’s elections are from BAME communities and we are proud to reflect the wider diversity of Sandwell.”

It comes after Sandwell Conservatives appointed Councillor Archer Williams as acting leader in the wake of Councillor Kalari's suspension.

Councillor Kalari has strenuously denied making a series of offensive messages on social media posted in 2020 and 2021.

The story follows the exit of previous leader councillor David Fisher, who was replaced as leader by the party this month after claims of offensive tweets. It is unclear whether he will be investigated over the alleged racist social media posts.

With Councillor Archer Williams, who represents Princes End, taking the reins, the Sandwell Conservatives are now on their third leader in seven months since establishing themselves as an opposition group in Sandwell council.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson has also faced accusations of Islamophobia after Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani said she was told by a Government whip that her "Muslimness" had been considered when she was fired from a ministerial role.

The Cabinet Office has been ordered to investigate into the allegations by the Prime Minister, who has denied accusations of racism.

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