Leaders face tough questions as council unanimously supports Black Lives Matter campaign

    Council leaders faced tough questions on a night dominated by the politics of race.

    Milton Keynes Council has thrown its support behind an urgent Liberal Democrat motion to support the Black Lives Matter campaign against racism.

    Despite the unanimity, Wednesday’s full council was a feisty affair, with Conservative leader Alex Walker (Stantonbury) coming under sustained attack for refusing to expel a fellow Tory councillor who wrote a racist post on Facebook.

    Cllr Walker has stripped Cllr Terry Baines (Campbell Park & Old Woughton) of his prized role as the council’s Armed Forces Champion, and put him on a diversity training course.

    But he resisted demands to throw Cllr Baines out of the Conservative group.

    Cllr Baines has apologised and deleted a social media post saying ‘It is time to stop the invasion of migrants and time to send a lot back’. He has also referred himself to the council’s Standards Committee.

    But a member of the public, Shanika Mahendran, the daughter of a south Asian immigrant, said she found Cllr Baines’ comment “hateful and racist”.

    “For the sake of myself and all those others who are hurt by the comment, and all those who are tired of being told to go home and those deeply concerned over Cllr Baines’s ability to represent the diverse population of his ward, will you suspend him from your group?”

    Cllr Walker said: “I appreciate your feelings, these are always difficult judgements to make. I am content with the steps I’ve taken.

    “The comments were completely unacceptable and Terry knows he has caused offence and is deeply sorry.”

    Responding to a question from Ben Nolan, Cllr Walker said the campaign had “given us a chance to look in the mirror; clearly in the UK we still have an issue.”

    Cllr Walker also came under fire from council leader Pete Marland who accused him of placing the feelings of a white man above a BAME woman.

    But Cllr Marland (Wolverton) was also put on the spot over the council’s failure to sign a social mobility pledge that was proposed by the Tories and supported by councillors in 2018.

    Cllr Marland apologised and said it should have been picked up and referred to cabinet.

    Cllr Marland revealed however that the council is to commission a report on health inequalities in Milton Keynes that will be reporting back before September.

    He also spoke of being a middle class white man who does not have the experience of someone from a BAME background. But he says discrimination and racism has to be called out.

    The Black Lives Matter motion was passed following speeches of support from across the political spectrum.

    Cllr Moriah Priestley, a black councillor representing Central MK, detailed some of the racism she had seen in her life

    “It’s time to make history. Black Lives Matter in Milton Keynes,” she said.

    And Cllr Marie Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) said: “All lives matter doesn’t ring true uintil black lives matter.”

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