Well, that didn’t last long.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb has been forced out of the race to be the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for London Mayor after it was revealed she had delivered a public antisemitic tirade in 1997, when a Tory parliamentary election candidate.
The LibDems’ London election campaign was already looking half-arsed, as there was dither and delay over finding a replacement for their original Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita.
Sidhu-Robb had only been named as a potential replacement candidate last Wednesday, so her “campaign”, such as it was, lasted barely 48 hours before her dodgy past was exposed.
But as it emerged that the party had conducted little or no scrutiny of Sidhu-Robb’s political scandals, apparently as officials greedily eyed generous donations from the millionaire businesswoman, Benita revealed that she had resigned from the LibDems altogether.
Benita announced she was standing down from the covid-postponed Mayoral race in July, at that time suggesting that the extended campaign was causing her financial and career hardship. But as the scandal surrounding Sidhu-Robb began to emerge, Benita issued a statement which will hit hard into any Liberal Democrat campaign.
“I wasn’t planning to make this public, but I really don’t want to be associated with current events in the London campaign,” Benita tweeted.
“I resigned from the LibDems last month.
“… 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.”
The controversy emerged after footage was unearthed from 1997 when Sidhu-Robb stood for the Conservatives in Blackburn, the seat held by senior Labour cabinet member Jack Straw.
She was filmed telling Muslim voters, “Don’t vote for a Jew. Jack Straw is a Jew.”
Sidhu-Robb, who has made her fortune as a raw food chef and “juice diet” entrepreneur, issued an apology. “My behaviour caused offence and hurt and I am deeply sorry.”
As well as being suspended from the LibDems, Sidhu-Robb has also resigned as a board member of Open Britain, formerly known as the People’s Vote campaign.
City AM has reported sources within the LibDems suggesting that any due diligence process over Sidhu-Robb’s candidacy was overlooked as party funding was given priority, meaning she effectively “bought her way in”.
City AM quoted a source from Benita’s campaign: “We were introduced to Geeta as a donor of the party… They wanted her to be a candidate so she could bring in money and wealthy connections, but there wasn’t proper scrutiny of her.
“There’s just a serious lack of professionalism.”
Liberal Democrat national headquarters has denied that any candidates have been chosen on the basis of their fundraising potential, before passing the buck for Sidhu-Robb’s vetting, or lack of it, to the party’s London office.
Luisa Porritt, a councillor in Camden, is now expected to be put forward by the LibDems to lose in next May’s London elections to Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
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