Opponent’s antisemitic comments leave Belsize councillor in line to be Lib Dem mayoral candidate

Cllr Luisa Porritt. Picture: Emilie Gomez

Cllr Luisa Porritt. Picture: Emilie Gomez - Credit: Archant

Camden councillor Luisa Porritt is now the sole nominee to become the Liberal Democrats’ candidate to become mayor of London, after her opponent dropped out amid historic claims of antisemitism.

The Belsize councillor will be the only name on the ballot, although party members could vote to reopen nominations.

Geeta Sidhu Robb was suspended by the party and take out of the contest on Sunday night, after comments emerged from a 1997 general election documentary where she urged voters in Blackburn not to vote for Jack Straw because they would be “voting for a Jew”. She had been running against Mr Straw as a Conservative.

The party’s president, Mark Pack, announced on Twitter that the party is carrying out an investigation into the incident and the selection of the former People’s Vote chair as a candidate.

This means Cllr Porritt, a former MEP, is favourite to be named on October 13 as the party’s candidate to face Sadiq Khan in the delayed mayoral vote next year.

Cllr Porritt tweeted on Monday: “What emerged over the weekend was heartbreaking. Sadly such attitudes still exist. As Jews we’re often painfully reminded of this, whether by graffiti or a musician. Like most Londoners, I believe in bringing communities together. I’ll be setting out how over the coming weeks.”

READ MORE: Belsize councillor Luisa Porritt confirmed in the race to be Lib Dem candidate for London mayor

READ MORE: A day in the life of Luisa Porritt MEP as she returns to EU parliament after Tory election win

In the footage which came to light at the weekend, Ms Sidhu Robb told a film crew in 1997 that she was going to “pull the gloves off” in her election against Mr Straw.

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She said: “The Labour Party is going around with a microphone, saying she is against Islam, she is not Muslim, don’t vote for her because she’s against Islam, and this is making it racist, it’s making it personal. Particularly considering the fact that my husband actually is Muslim.

“So, we are just going to pull the gloves off. I am going to get a car and walk around, and drive through town telling everyone Jack Straw is a Jew. How is a Muslim going to vote for someone who is Jewish?”

She was then shown driving around the constituency shouting out of a megaphone that voting for the Labour candidate would be “voting for a Jew”.

Ms Sidhu Robb tweeted: “I am deeply ashamed of the ignorant and abusive language I used on one occasion in the 1997 general election campaign. As shown in the footage, I instantly regretted my appalling behaviour, which I continue to do.”

She wrote on Monday (September 14): “I apologise profusely for my actions in the 1997 General Election Campaign. My behaviour caused offence and hurt and I am deeply sorry. There is no room for any form of racism or anti-Semitism in society and as such I very much regret my conduct at that time.”

A London Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Geeta Sidhu Robb has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats and will not be on the ballot paper to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London. There is an investigation under way in accordance with due process.”