PARTY GUILTY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
(Monday 6th October 2003)
Labour Party has been found guilty of racial discrimination and
victimisation against a former Birmingham City Councillor, the CRE
announced today. Raghib Ahsan, a Pakistani Muslim, was Councillor
for the Sparkhill ward of Birmingham during the 1990s. The Employment
Tribunal in Birmingham has ruled that the Labour Party discriminated
against him between 1997 and 2000.
Tribunal unanimously decided that:
Ahsan was discriminated against when Labour declined, in 1997,
to select him as a prospective candidate for election to Birmingham
The Labour Party victimised Mr Ahsan when it declined, in 1998,
to include his name on a list of prospective candidates for local
The Labour Party both discriminated against Mr Ahsan and victimised
him when it declined, in 2000, to shortlist or select him as its
candidate for the Sparkhill ward, or any other ward.
Tribunal found that the approach to candidate selection taken by
the Labour Party's West Midlands Regional Executive Committee in
1997 was 'haphazard in the extreme'. None of the notes made by individual
members of the selection panel were retained, something the Tribunal
found to be 'extremely unsatisfactory', and the panel members were
inconsistent in their evidence as to how they marked the various
of them were able to tell the Tribunal with any certainty what the
number of marks available was. In addition, the successful candidate
in the 1997 selection had not verified his membership of the Party
as required and therefore had not been a party member for the requisite
12 month period when he submitted his application. When
Mr Ahsan tried to appeal the decision, he was told there was no
right of appeal and was given no reason for the decision.
took the regional Labour Party two years and three months to reply
to the special questionnaire served by the CRE on behalf of Mr Ahsan
under the Race Relations Act when he applied for assistance with
his complaint of discrimination. These questionnaires, covered by
section 65 of the Act, can form a key part of evidence put before
1998, Mr Ahsan's name was omitted from a list of candidates approved
for selection by branch Labour parties for the forthcoming local
government election. The Labour Party argued that this 'arose from
a misunderstanding and by mistake'. However, the Tribunal decided
that the action of the regional Labour Party, in authorising branches
to use the draft list excluding the applicant's name and in failing
to correct the position as soon as was reasonably practicable could
'be attributed only to the respondent's intention to allow the damage
done to persist, to the disadvantage of the applicant'.
Tribunal was 'quite satisfied' that the Labour Party 'would not
have similarly treated a person whose name had been accidentally
omitted from the panel list but who had not brought proceedings
[against the Labour Party under the Race Relations Act 1976]'.
2000, Mr Ahsan challenged the sitting Councillor for selection for
the forthcoming city council elections. The Tribunal found that
the selection process was 'extremely impressionistic' and noted
that 'there was no scoring process' and 'no notes at all were made
of the panel's discussions or conclusions'.
Tribunal noted that all three members of the selection panel 'should
not have taken part or even been present because the applicant had
complained about each of them in the past'. They concluded that
the respondent 'so orchestrated events as to minimise the chance
of the applicant being selected'.
on the decision, Trevor Phillips, CRE Chair, said he would be seeking
agreement from the Labour Party to set up an independent review
of candidate selection procedures. "Mr Ahsan's case demonstrates
the need for the Labour Party to have a long hard look at the way
it selects its candidates. The same could be said of all the major
parties. However, as the party for which most minority Britons vote,
Labour has a special responsibility to lead the way.
would prefer to work with the party on this issue. I intend to write
to the Chair of the Party seeking a meeting on the matter. We will
be looking for a full and transparent review of the selection procedure,
perhaps conducted by a distinguished individual or panel, independent
of the Party's NEC, to make recommendations in time for the next
round of selections."
Ahsan was delighted with the ruling. He said: "Personally I
feel vindicated. I have suffered eight years of attempts by the
Labour Party leadership to sully my reputation because I stood up
for the interests of ethnic minorities. I feel it is time for an
hearing has been set for 13th January 2004.
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