Change UK candidate resigns over ‘Romanian pickpockets’ comments hours after campaign launch

Ali Sadjady had said he would consider supporting Brexit to stop ‘Romanian pickpockets’ from coming to the UK

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 23 April 2019 19:36 BST
European elections are a chance to demand a People's Vote, says Change UK's Heidi Allen

A candidate for new centrist party Change UK has been forced to resign the same day as the party’s campaign launch, after he caused a race row with comments about “Romanian pickpockets”.

Ali Sadjady, a former Tory who was standing for the European parliament elections in London, was accused of joining in “hate speech” against EU citizens.

In a series of controversial tweets he had said he was tempted to support Brexit if it stopped Romanian pickpockets coming to the UK, and suggested that advocates of a second referendum did not “believe in democracy”.

“When I hear that 70% of pick pockets caught on the London Underground are Romanian it kind makes me want Brexit,” Mr Sadjady had said in a tweet from November 2017.

His social media profile also revealed other comments that could be regarded as derogatory to women.

It comes after the party’s launch as the Independent Group earlier this year was marred when one of its MPs, Angela Smith, caused uproar by describing people from ethnic minorities as having a “funny tinge” in a discussion about racism and skin colour on live TV. Ms Smith did not resign in that instance, but later apologised for having “misspoke”.

In another controversial tweet dating back to the aftermath of the EU referendum Mr Sadjady, a martial arts fighter, said: “Brexit is like dumping your girlfriend because she’s expensive and high maintenance and then realizing [sic] she’s pretty hot.”

But he appeared to have a change of heart about leaving the EU, later branding Mayor of London Sadiq Khan a “joke of a man” for advocating a second Brexit referendum.

Mr Sadjady speaking last year (Cllr Joy Morrissey/Twitter)

“Democracy was served – I voted Remain but stand by the vote cast because I believe in democracy,” he said in October 2018.

On an earlier occasion he said: “To those petitioning for a second EU referendum, don’t you believe in democracy or does it not apply when things don’t go your way?”

After the party was approached for comment the candidate locked his social media profile from public view.

On Tuesday evening after The Independent reported Mr Sadjady’s comments, a spokesperson for Change UK said: “Following discussions, Ali Sadjady has reflected on his inappropriate tweet from 2017 and agreed to stand down from the list of potential candidates.”

Molly Scott Catto, a Green MEP said: “I’m shocked to read this negative stereotyping of EU citizens. It’s the job of Remain politicians to defend them against the hate speech and acts that have been on the rise since the EU referendum – not to join in.”

She added that the episode “demonstrates the risks of assembling a list of celebrity candidates without having time to know their values”.

“It underlines the extent to which Change UK is an empty prospectus: without a platform and with no idea which group they will sit with in the European parliament, how can they ask voters to choose their candidates?” she said.

Mr Sadjady cancelled his membership of the Conservative party in March, citing the party’s handling of Brexit and Islamophobia allegations against it.

He was unveiled as a candidate for Change UK to represent London on Tuesday in the upcoming European parliament elections.

Other candidates for the party include former BBC journalist Gavin Esler, the former conservative deputy prime minister of Poland Jacek Rostowski, and Rachel Johnson, a journalist who is also the sister of Boris Johnson.

At its election campaign launch the party said it would unveil some policies in the future, but immediately confirmed it would not be supporting a no-confidence vote in Theresa May’s government – potentially throwing the embattled prime minister a lifeline.

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