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LGBT+ Labour members said to be driven out by ‘homophobic takeover’

Reiss Smith June 28, 2019

Rohit Dasgupta (centre left) has accused West Ham Labour Party of ignoring complaints about homophobia. (Facebook/West Ham Labour Party)

LGBT+ Labour Party members in an east London borough are being driven out by “homophobic bullying,” a local councillor has told PinkNews.

Rohit Dasgupta, Labour councillor for Canning Town South, said that he and his peers have been made to feel “unsafe and intimidated” by a “homophobic” faction of the West Ham Labour Party.

“I had been the local party’s LGBT+ officer for two years,” he said.

“There has been a distinct change in dynamics with lots of new members joining in the last year or so from faith groups.”

Dasgupta said that the influx of new members have voiced their opposition to LGBT-inclusive relationship education and their support for so-called gay conversion therapy.

Attending branch meetings “had become unbearable” for LGBT+ members after “homophobic content” was shared to social media, Dasgupta said. He explained the posts were designed to “rile parents up” against councillors such as himself who had spoken out in support of inclusive education.

LGBT+ councillors walk out in protest

The final straw came at a party meeting on Thursday (June 27), ahead of which one member shared a video calling for disruptive protests outside of schools, in the style of those which have plagued Birmingham in recent months.

Dasgupta emailed officials to say that he and his colleagues would “find it impossible to attend because of the homophobia and intimidation we fear would be directed at us.”

The meeting went ahead—attended by those named in the complaint.

Elections to the party’s executive committee took place, during which Dasgupta’s post of LGBT coordinator went to a man who “was supported by the very homophobic men who had been bullying and harassing us,” and who has not publicly aligned himself with the LGBT+ community.

West Ham Labour chair resigns

Party chair Josephine Grahl resigned in solidarity, saying that “there are publicly and privately expressed concerns that one of the new self-identifying officers has not been sincere about their identification.”

Writing on Facebook on Friday (June 28), she added: “If this is the case, it’s also a deeply concerning situation. At a time when the rights of LGBT+ people are under threat globally, the left must be in the forefront of the struggle to defend these.”

“At a time when  LGBT+ rights are under threat, the left must be in the forefront of the struggle to defend these.”

 

—Josephine Grahl, former West Ham Labour Party chair

Councillor James Beckles attended the meeting and told PinkNews that he left “disheartened.”

“I did like others tweet my dismay and anger that an effective BAME openly gay and popular candidate for LGBQ+ coordinator, Rohit Dasgupta, was not selected as the coordinator,” he said.

Of the man who replaces Dasgupta, Beckles added: “I’m told has never taken part in any LGBT+ forum events.”

He noted that “black candidates who are not within a faction or sectarian grouping” have also been targeted by “exclusionary tactics.”

“Also there have been allegations of anti-semitism which a colleague and I reported to the Labour Party’s compliance unit, but we find our selves the subject of local complaint for speaking up.”

Labour has been ‘taken over’

Another LGBT+ member of West Ham Labour who preferred to remain anonymous told PinkNews that the party had effectively been “taken over.”

“Denying LGBT+ members a voice for factional gain when our rights are under threat is cynical politics at its worst, yet in today’s Labour Party is depressingly unsurprising,” they said.

“Everyone in West Ham Labour needs to reject this takeover and stop throwing its LGBT+ members under the bus.”

Dasgupta said that neither he nor his fellow LGBT+ councillors will return to meetings “until something is done.”

“I have been a member for ten years,” he said.

“I grew up in India—death threats, threats of violence and ostracisation is what made my queer politics and I will stay and fight but I do sometimes wonder if it is all worth it. It is exhausting.

“I didn’t think I would have to be fighting for liberation politics in 2019 London.”

Senior Labour MPs including Jess Philips have voiced their support for Dasgupta and his colleagues on Twitter.

Stella Creasy offered her support and tweeted: “Am sorry and shocked to read this and my heart goes out to you.”

Angela Eagle added: “This cannot be right.”

In response to a request for comment, a Labour Party spokesperson told PinkNews: “The Labour Party takes any complaints of this nature extremely seriously, and we are committed to standing in solidarity with LGBT+ communities and campaigning for LGBT+ equality.

“Any such complaints are investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken. We can’t comment on individual complaints.”

More: Homophobia, Labour, Labour party, Newham, West Ham

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