Sexism, rants against the local press for failing to be sufficiently subservient, and racism – last night’s full meeting of the council at the Town Hall had it all. It was as if, for Croydon’s ruling Conservative group, the 1930s had never ended.
Leading the way back to the intolerances of the previous era of global depression was Purley councillor, Donald Speakman, who called for travellers to be expelled from Britain “like the Irish government did”.
The unspeakable Speakman failed to explain his Irish government reference. Perhaps his Conservative council colleague, Maria Gatland, the former IRA gun-runner, could get him up to speed. Gatland, after all, was also very concerned about traveller camps in her ward, Croham.
In any case, as far as deportation is concerned, it is hard to understand where a community that is British would be expelled to.
Romani gypsies are mentioned in Shakespeare and certainly date back to the 16th century. Irish travellers, showmen and new age travellers have long been part of British culture. In Europe, gypsies were also one of the groups singled out for elimination in Nazi Germany of the 1930s.
Race Relations Case Law recognises English Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers as ethnic minorities. Speakman’s proposal stirred up much disquiet on the Labour benches at what some may regard as an inappropriate racial proposal by the Conservative Councillor.
The issue of traveller exercised councillors’ minds, as the Conservatives repeatedly raised the issue at last night’s meeting. They expressed their outrage that in the past year, £128,000 had been spent clearing up after traveller groups had camped on council property and parks.
It is known that some of these camps in Croydon were established when traveller groups got access to public parks because the gates had not been secured properly by council staff – another unforeseen side-effect of the council’s staff cuts, perhaps?
Now, the Conservatives on the council are proposing a borough-wide legal injunction against the traveller groups. Why it has taken them 83 incidents of illegal camping in the past year before even considering taking any legal action was never addressed.
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