Tory MP blames ‘certain communities’ for crime in his constituency

Equality campaigners accuse Ipswich MP Tom Hunt of ‘ill judged piece of dogwhistling’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 13 January 2020 09:37 GMT
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A Tory MP has been accused of fuelling racism after appearing to blame crime in his constituency on minority groups.

Tom Hunt, the MP for Ipswich, claimed that a “disproportionate number” of offences in the town were committed by “individuals from certain communities”.

The claim drew fire from a local racial equality group, which accused him of “an ill judged piece of dogwhistling”.

Mr Hunt, who won the Ipswich seat from Labour at the general election, stood by his comments, although it remains unclear which communities he was referring to.

The row erupted when the MP used a local newspaper column to raise concerns about theft and antisocial behaviour in Ipswich.

Writing in the East Anglian Daily Times, he said: “It is impossible to start thinking about remedies to these issues without also being ready to confront the possibility that a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by individuals from certain communities. This is something we should be open and honest about. Brushing it under the carpet will not get us closer to solving the issue.

“Unfortunately, calling things how they are has not been a quality which we have come to expect from many in positions of responsibility on these matters. People who should know better are too quick to spout to politically correct mantras and too slow to call out problems in certain communities, hindering our ability to get to the bottom of the issue and leaving many residents and victims feeling like they don’t have a voice.”

Continuing to link crime to immigrant communities, he criticised people “who say we should be eternally tolerant of bad behaviour, which may be rife in other countries but is not traditionally in ours” and said integration must include “learning English, respecting women and obeying our laws”.

Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) condemned the article as “entirely evidence-free”.

They said: “The recent article on the topic of crime in the EADT by the newly elected MP for Ipswich is at best disappointing and at worst an ill judged piece of dogwhistling.

“Tom Hunt refers to ‘certain communities’ and the need for ‘action ... based on the facts as we see them’, in relation to crime in our county town.

“Yet his article is entirely evidence-free, which raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about his purpose in writing it.”

They added: “We believe that the people of Ipswich are way better than how Mr Hunt portrays them. He seems to have rather shot from the hip on this issue and misjudged us without making real effort to understand the town and its communities first.​

“The best way to tackle crime is to invest in our communities, courts, the CPS, legal aid, etc, and not pit communities against each other.”

In response to criticism, Mr Hunt said he would be meeting with the ISCRE but doubled down on his comments.

He told one Twitter user that the claims in his column “align with the views of the vast majority of people I spoke to on the doorsteps during the election campaign” and insisted that “if there is an issue with one community and there is evidence of it, then it should be looked into”.

In a statement, the MP said his article was “a direct result of the conversations I have had with tens of thousands of Ipswich residents over the past few months”.

He said: “The number one issue raised with me on the doorstep were concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour, particularly in the town centre.

“The vast majority of Ipswich residents I spoke to believe that if it is the case that certain crimes and negative behaviours are disproportionately committed by one community, then this should be looked at and the problem tackled.

“The problem shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet. We should not shy away from tackling crimes and bad behaviour if the people responsible happen to come from a certain community.”

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