Croydon North MP Steve Reed’s old stomping ground of Brixton Town Hall is in turmoil today, after one of that borough’s highest-profile Labour councillors was forced to report himself to the party over historic racist, Islamophobic and transphobic tweets.
Councillor Philip Normal was the Mayor of Lambeth for 2020-2021, when he made headlines as the country’s first HIV-positive mayor.
His It’s A Sin-themed “La” T-shirts from his Brixton-based fashion business raised £500,000 for the Terrence Higgins Trust charity last year.
Normal is very well-connected within the Labour Party nationally: his partner is Matthew Doyle, a former party staffer and aide to Tony Blair who last June was appointed as Keir Starmer’s interim director of communications.
Normal has already been campaigning ahead of the 2022 local elections, using the same Twitter feed that included the offensive tweets – leading some reports to conclude that Normal has been selected to stand again as a candidate in Oval ward, which he has represented since 2018.
That means that two of the three Labour Councillors in Oval ward are under internal investigation by Labour, following allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted touching made last year against Jack Hopkins.
Hopkins was a colleague of Reed when the Croydon MP was still the leader of Lambeth Council.
Hopkins himself was council leader until he resigned last year, just before the allegations against him were being made public. Hopkins “vehemently denied” the allegations when they were reported by The Guardian. No outcome of the Labour investigation into his conduct has been published.
Oval ward’s third councillor is Claire Holland, Hopkins’s successor as council leader, who will doubtless be consulting her crisis management team this morning.
The offensive tweets from Normal remained on his social media feed until earlier this week. They mocked various race and gender groups, and date back to 2009 to 2014 when Normal, then in his late 20s and early 30s, was uninvolved with politics.
They appeared on his Twitter profile under “Labour Councillor, Oval Ward #lambeth”.
They included, “Why do some Muslim women walk like penguins?” which Normal tweeted on September 29, 2011. “I’m not being mean? [sic] Because I know there’s an issue in the healthcare system there…”
He described Whitechapel as an “aggressively Muslim” neighbourhood in a tweet on January 22, 2013.
On May 27, 2011, he complained about a “big Black man” for taking up room on a bus. He added a lewd hashtag which referred to a sex act.
PinkNews reports, “Many members of the LGBT+ community were disgusted by the tweets, calling on the Labour Party to take action against its councillor.
“Some noted that the remarks were particularly offensive given that Normal represents Lambeth, a vibrantly diverse borough of more than 300,000 people.”
Normal last night issued an apology… on Twitter.
“I am profoundly sorry for the content of some of my historic tweets,” 39-year-old Normal wrote. “I sincerely apologise to everyone who has seen them and who I have insulted by their contents.
“Reading them now I am horrified and deeply disappointed in myself. They are clearly offensive and discriminatory. They do not reflect my views and values today. I have referred myself to the Labour Party for investigation.”
Lambeth Labour told PinkNews in a statement: “We are aware of a number of past tweets being circulated on social media from a Lambeth Labour councillor.
“A Labour Party investigation into these tweets is underway.
“Lambeth Labour rejects racism and prejudice in all its forms and expects the highest standards of behaviour and integrity from all councillors and candidates, particularly in regards to the fair and equal treatment of all residents in our diverse borough.”
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