Within a week of the savage mob attack in Shrublands which left a teenaged asylum seeker fighting for his life and which is being investigated as a hate crime, a Labour councillor has felt it necessary to remind some members of an audience at a community event in the south of the borough to temper their “casual” attitudes to racism.
Andrew Pelling, the Waddon councillor, was one of the speakers at last night’s Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society debate on post-Brexit Britain, alongside Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp.
Pelling criticised two speeches from the audience in Old Coulsdon as including “the kind of casual racism that would not have been evident in previous decades”.
Pelling urged people to stand up to racism. He singled out for criticism remarks made at the meeting by the busy Tory activist, Robert Ward.
Ward had tried to claim that levels of hate crime were low and that reports of hate crime were exaggerated. Ward asserted that in one police command there had been only one hate crime and that had been a “Poles go home” graffiti that he claimed had been written by a Pole seeking to avoid eviction by their landlord.
Ward countered Pelling’s concern saying that as his wife was from eastern Europe, that he could not exhibit casual racism.
Another audience member, whose name was not made clear, also claimed that hate crime was minimal and growing from a very low base and that the Polish community faced no hate crimes. He went on to say that if he was black, he would be allowed to interrupt other speakers at the debate
Many non-governmental agencies and charities, as well as the Metropolitan Police, have reported a sharp increase in hate crimes over the past 18 months, in the build-up to and especially since the EU Referendum last June. One of the most notable incidents was the daubing of xenophobic slogans on the walls of POSK, the west London Polish cultural centre which had been built with funding raised by airmen who had piloted fighters in the Battle of Britain.
As for the debate, which had been postponed from January, Philp was speaking in favour of the motion, “This house is optimistic about our prospects after leaving the EU”, with Pelling speaking against.
It appears that the majority in the audience, after being treated to the latest examples of casual racist attitudes, did not share Philp’s optimism about post-Brexit Britain. The motion was lost.
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