All-white delegation asks Blunkett for inquiry into Oldham race riots

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, met a delegation of senior figures from Oldham yesterday to hear demands for an independent review into the recent rioting and racial clashes in the town.

The five members of the all-white delegation reacted angrily to suggestions that they did not represent all communities in a town where racial tensions led to violent disturbances involving white and Asian gangs and the police two weeks ago.

The Oldham delegation was made up of the council leader, Richard Knowles, the Labour MPs Michael Meacher, Phil Woolas and David Heyes, and the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, David Wilmot.

Mr Woolas, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said: "This is a complete nonsense that the composition of the delegation is even an issue." Those involved in the meeting with Mr Blunkett just happened to all be white. It does not mean that Asian people are not involved . If you talk to a representative Asian within Oldham you will find that Asian people are involved at all levels on a day-to-day basis."

The delegation called for an independent review to consider the roles of the police and Oldham council in promoting good race relations in the town.

Mr Meacher, MP for Oldham West, said meetings would be held in the town involving leaders of the white and Asian communities. He said that the delegation would be calling on Mr Blunkett to establish an independent review into the causes of the disturbances, "but, much more importantly, the positive strategy we need to prevent any recurrence".

He said: "I think the review needs to be open, it needs to be transparent, with anyone in Oldham ... who has got a real contribution to make being able to do so, and maybe that report should go to Government."

Some Asian leaders came to the support of the delegation. Ashid Ali, of the Bangladeshi Youth Association, said: "These people are elected by their party representatives, and Oldham council does have Asian members. The last thing we need to do is distinguish this delegation in terms of race. What we need to look at is how they can improve the town."