Race-row Lib Dems accept ultimatum

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The Independent Online
LIBERAL Democrats in Tower Hamlets, east London, threatened with suspension from the party last night agreed to an ultimatum to accept the findings of an inquiry into racist leaflets distributed during a by-election.

The ultimatum was imposed by the party's London region executive at a meeting this month. Failure to issue a statement accepting the findings of an inquiry by Lord Lester, a Liberal Democrat QC, by midnight last night would have resulted in the suspension of the 700-strong local party.

The statement accepted 'the broad operational recommendations of the report' but expressed 'certain reservations'. It added: 'We accept the need to ensure we do not produce any literature or other material whose content could be reasonably be interpreted as racist.' It welcomed the appointment of an 'organiser' to approve the selection of candidates and vet campaign material.

Lord Lester's inquiry found that leaflets distributed during last autumn's Millwall by-election 'pandered' to racism and recommended that two party members - Tom Winnifrith and Jonathan Mathews - should be expelled. Both were allowed to remain in the party after an appeal. Mr Winnifrith the author of a leaflet which implied that black people were responsible for elderly council tenants 'fearing for their lives', has agreed not to stand for elections or publish campaign literature.