No, not in Streatham, where I live, but in the area where I grew up, in Reading.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Katesgrove ward, Warren Swaine, decided to pass comment on the recent performance of my good friend and neighbour Chuka Umunna, Labour Member of Parliament for Streatham, on BBC Question Time.
Cllr Swaine (pictured) tweeted this:
“I am waiting for the Labour guy to claim, ‘Is it because I is black’ as a defence for being a muppet.”
Disgusting. Loathsome. Detestable.
I watched Chuka on TV, as I often do, and thought it was an excellent performance. As a press officer I used to brief people up for Question Time, and still do occasionally. So I can claim to know a thing or two about effective QT performances. I texted Chuka afterwards to say so.
Chuka is young, bright, articulate. He’s a very capable politician, in the Commons, in the media and, crucially, in the community he serves. Warren Swaine has shown himself to be the reverse of that, the negative, the underside of the stone. He is a bilious disgrace to his party, the people who elected him and the office he holds. If anyone is a muppet, it is Swaine. A racist muppet.
I read today that Cllr Swaine has now ‘stepped down’ from his role as Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability on Reading Borough Council, but not before turning his
not inconsiderable mind to maligning black community leaders on his own doorstep.
Reading is a town (it should really be a city) with a significant black and minority ethnic population. Cllr Swaine, who uses being half Sri Lankan as a defence when it suits, chose to question the integrity of campaigners trying to prevent funding cuts (by his Tory Lib Dem administration) to Reading Council for Racial Equality. Swaine said on his blog:
“Maybe I can be forgiven for thinking that they [RCRE] aren’t quite the spontaneous groundswell of support they were supposed to appear as.”
Swaine also sought to suggest RCRE has leanings towards Labour. RCRE director Rajinder Sophal has responded:
“Cllr Swaine came to RCRE disguised as a friend but actually with malice in his heart. We treated him nothing other that as a friend and colleague and we feel let down by his outburst.”
I do hope that in 2012 the voters of Reading will assist Warren Swaine in ‘stepping down’ from his role as a councillor.