The Daily Mail has scooped a story exposing Ravenscourt Park Councillor Lucy Ivimy (Con) writing racial slurs in an official email. Cllr. Ivimy was promoted to be H&F Council’s new Cabinet Member for Housing on May 28th this year. One of her first acts seems to have been to write to Nick Johnson, the Chief Executive of H&F Council’s housing management company, in which she expressed her “personal” prejudice about “foreign born residents”. You can read the Mail’s online version here. BBC and ITV London also headlined the story all day yesterday. You may still be able to view the ITV version here.
Having been told by residents that Woodfood Court had increased levels of litter (presumably after the cuts to the caretaking service) Cllr. Lucy Ivimy, wrote to Nick Johnson, to say "I know that in India, throwing rubbish out of a window and total disregard for the cleanliness of a public area is normal behaviour and I dare say a number would change behaviour if firmly told that in London this is not acceptable behaviour." You can read more of her comments in the article.
The Daily Mail says there are “only a handful of Indian families” living in the area. Cllr. Ivimy clearly had no evidence on which to base her views. There are problems with littering but it is done by a minority of people from a wide range of backgrounds and completely wrong to say it is the fault of “foreign born" or "Indian" residents.
Defending herself Cllr Ivimy told the Mail that “This was a hastily written, ill thought out, stupid, personal email” Let’s unravel that explanation. Firstly, when someone writes down their “personal” views they are expressing their inner-most private thoughts. Thoughts that in this case expose Cllr. Ivimy’s gut “personal” prejudice against Hammersmith and Fulham’s “foreign born” and “Indian” residents. To say her comments were written in “haste” simply means that she did not spend the time to ensure she had camouflaged those “personal” views.
There has been no comment from Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of the Council. I guess he is hoping that by keeping his head down this problem will go away. This is a failure of his leadership as it won’t. I am sorry to say that he is obliged to immediately sack Cllr. Ivimy from her new role as the Cabinet Member for Housing. Any cabinet position requires a politician who will engage their brain when dealing with the myriad of issues they are presented with. Not someone who engages their “personal” prejudices. The housing role makes Cllr. Ivimy responsible for 18,000 local council homes and for deciding the policy of how vacant homes are allocated. She is also currently in charge of deciding the development policy for all of the borough’s new housing and has a responsibility for community cohesion and integration. Hammersmith and Fulham has residents from a diverse range of backgrounds. All have a right to expect that the politician elected to deal with those issues will do so without “personal” prejudice. Cllr. Ivimy has disqualified herself from that brief.
Sadly, for Cllr. Ivimy, Greenhalgh must go further. David Cameron has been telling the public for some time now that the Conservatives have changed. Mr. Cameron calls it his “strategy to decontaminate the Conservative brand”. Well, if that is to be believed then Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh has to remove the whip from Cllr. Ivimy and call a by-election in Ravenscourt Park ward. It is unfair on her constituents to do anything else.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Ivimy's comments have brought H&F Council into disrepute. That's certainly the view in India which is one of the world's great democracies and a country which modern Britain enjoys long-standing friendship, family and cultural links and increasingly important trading ties. The Hindustan Times covers the story here and the Mumbai Mirror covers it here. The Times of India says this and Yahoo India published this. The Hindu has this take on the story and the Telegraph (India) said this. India's IBN network is broadcasting the story today (you can read the text here) as is the Indian News Channel. The story has been covered on all the main Indian media but is also getting other international coverage including in Malaysia, China and the United States.