Labour Party is guilty of racism

The Labour Party has been seriously embarrassed by an Employment Tribunal ruling that it was guilty of racial discrimination against a long-standing Asian party stalwart.

The case, the first of its kind, comes in the wake of the Government's high-profile drive against racism.

Rather than order an inquiry into racism in its own ranks, however, party bosses are looking into grounds for appeal against the tribunal decision in favour of Jawaid Ishaq, a Scunthorpe restaurateur.

Mr Ishaq brought his claims against the Labour Party and its general secretary, Margaret McDonagh, after failing to be endorsed as a candidate for local elections. A party member for 34 years, he claimed he had been treated less favourably than other potential candidates because of his race and cited instances of prejudice against him over 20 years.

The tribunal heard that in February 1998 Mr Ishaq was nominated as a candidate by his local branch of the party, an application that was considered but not endorsed, after an interview, by the North Lincolnshire local-government committee. At an appeal in December 1998 he was again turned down as a candidate.

Mr Ishaq, vice-chairman of South Humber Racial Equality Council, told the tribunal: "I was victimised and racially discriminated against during the selection process. I was the only candidate not to be asked any questions during the interview. I was treated differently from other candidates. Many Asian members of the Labour Party have left because of the way they have been treated."

Another witness, former councillor Don Guest, said: "It is my belief that he has been discriminated against because of the colour of his skin."

The tribunal unanimously found that Mr Ishaq was racially discriminated against. It has yet to decide on action.

Mr Ishaq's solicitor, Alan Carnie, said his client was "relieved" at the tribunal decision but condemned the lack of concern shown by the Labour Party. In a statement he said Mr Ishaq felt sadness and disappointment that he was forced to go to the tribunal when he and other party members had sought to bring the matters to the attention of the party both regionally and at national level, including 10 Downing Street, and received no proper attention over a period of 10 years.

A Labour Party spokeman said: "This is a case we have taken extremely seriously. We are looking at grounds for an appeal and shall be making an announcement shortly."

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