Indian-origin politician dropped from London mayor candidate list for anti-semitism

Liberal Democrats suspend Geeta Sidhu-Robb after a video from 1997 emerged, which showed her asking people not to vote for Jack Straw, whom she described as a Jew, in that year’s general election.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb, who has roots in Punjab, has apologised for anti-semitic remarks made during the 1997 general elections.(Twitter/Geeta Sidhu Robb)
Geeta Sidhu-Robb, who has roots in Punjab, has apologised for anti-semitic remarks made during the 1997 general elections.(Twitter/Geeta Sidhu Robb)
Updated on Oct 06, 2020 07:19 PM IST
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Britain’s Liberal Democrats have dropped Geeta Sidhu-Robb as one of their candidates for London mayor and suspended her from the party after a video emerged of her making anti-semitic remarks during the 1997 general election.

The lawyer and businesswoman, who has roots in Punjab, was the Conservative candidate in Blackburn, Lancashire in the 1997 election. Her opponent was senior Labour leader Jack Straw.

Footage from that election campaign, revealed by PoliticsHome website, shows Sidhu-Robb saying she planned to inform voters about Straw’s faith, adding, “how is a Muslim going to vote for someone who is Jewish?”

She is then seen going around in a car in Blackburn, appealing to voters on a loudspeaker in Urdu.

“Don’t vote for a Jew, Jack Straw is a Jew,” she is seen as saying about her rival candidate, who held various cabinet positions in the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown governments, including as foreign secretary.

Straw is a Christian, but has some Jewish ancestry. The Blackburn constituency has a large Muslim minority, around 25% of the population.

The video sparked an investigation by Liberal Democrats, the third largest party in UK after Labour and Conservatives. A Liberal Democrats spokesperson said: “Geeta Sidhu-Robb has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats and will not be on the ballot paper to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London”.

Sidhu-Robb apologised after the footage emerged. “I am deeply ashamed of the ignorant and abusive language I used on one occasion in the 1997 General Election campaign. As shown in the footage, I instantly regretted my appalling behaviour, which I continue to do,” she tweeted.

“Those words are entirely inconsistent with my views and values, and though there are no excuses for my actions, there is some context; that is, that I was under a great deal of strain and retaliated to the racial abuse I was receiving in Blackburn ‘like for like’.”

“Two wrongs never make a right. I made a mistake and I take responsibility for my abhorrent actions 23 years ago, they were never repeated. I urge you to judge me on who I am today, a campaigner committed to eradicating inequality and discrimination in all its forms,” she added.

The London mayoral election was due in May, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sidhu-Robb was shortlisted for the mayoral candidacy alongside Liberal Democrats councillor Luisa Porrit, with the contest due to run until October 13. The party, which formed a coalition government with the Conservatives under David Cameron from 2010 to 2015, is finalising its candidate after Siobhan Benita, who was to contest against mayor Sadiq Khan, withdrew recently.


    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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