Change UK candidate said he wants Brexit if it stops Romanian pickpockets

Party dragged into a second racism row after 'funny tinge' comments

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 23 April 2019 16:13 BST
European elections are a chance to demand a People's Vote, says Change UK's Heidi Allen

New centrist party Change UK was dragged into another racism row on Tuesday after it emerged one of its candidates had made derogatory comments about Romanians.

Ali Sadjady, a former Tory who was unveiled by the new group as a candidate for London in the European Parliament on Tuesday, was accused of joining in “hate speech” against EU citizens.

It has also emerged that he has a history of making potentially sexist comments about women.

“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.

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 monitories of as having a “funny tinge” in a discussion about racism and skin colour on live TV.

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.

"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?"

The Independent has contacted Change UK for comment but did not recieve a response at the time of publication. Shortly after the party was approached for comment the candidate locked his twitter account, hiding his social media posts from further scrutiny. Update: Hours after the original publication of this article a spokesperson for the group said the candidate had now resigned.

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 made 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 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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