The Liberal Democrats have suspended a prospective party choice for mayor of London after footage emerged of her urging Muslim voters not to vote for a Labour candidate in a previous general election because he was Jewish.
The footage from the 1997 general election, uncovered by the PoliticsHome website, was filmed when Geeta Sidhu-Robb was taking on Labour’s Jack Straw in his Blackburn constituency.
It shows Sidhu-Robb telling a reporter that Labour had accused her of being anti-Islam, and that in response she would “get into a car and walk around, and drive through town telling everyone Jack Straw is a Jew”, adding: “How is a Muslim going to vote for someone who is Jewish?”
It then shows her using a megaphone from a car being driven around Blackburn saying, in Urdu, what the footage translates as: “Don’t vote for a Jew, Jack Straw is a Jew.” It then shows Sidhu-Robb saying she did this in anger, and wished she had not.
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.”
The health company owner was among candidates seeking to fight next year’s London mayoral election for the Lib Dems. The poll had been due in May this year, but was put off for a year due to coronavirus.
Speaking via Twitter, Sidhu-Robb apologised for her language in 1997, writing: “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.
“Those words are entirely inconsistent with my views and values, and though there are no excuses for my actions, there is some context; that is, that I was under a great deal of strain and retaliated to the racial abuse I was receiving in Blackburn ‘like for like’.
“Two wrongs never make a right. I made a mistake and I take responsibility for my abhorrent actions 23 years ago, they were never repeated. I urge you to judge me on who I am today, a campaigner committed to eradicating inequality and discrimination in all its forms.”
The party is seeking a new candidate after Siobhain Benita, who had been due to run in May, said she was pulling out as she could not commit to another year of unpaid campaigning.
However, in a series of tweets on Sunday, Benita said she had since left the Lib Dems altogether. She said: “I wish the party – and it has many amazing people – only the best. But my deciding to stand down wasn’t based on finances alone. There are serious issues that need fixing in the London region and I couldn’t run the campaign I wanted to.”