Kingston political parties condemn ‘divisive’ campaign tactics

Kingston’s main political parties have condemned the use of “divisive” campaign tactics ahead of the Green Lane and St. James’ by-election.

Kingston’s Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservative and Green Party issued statements following the circulation of a leaflet which criticised a candidate in the ward because of his links to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association.

In a joint statement, the Liberal Democrats and Labour said: “Islamophobia, and this sort of divisive campaigning, has no place in local politics…Together, we condemn these tactics and we stand united against its use.”

The inflammatory leaflet, circulated in New Malden on October 20, criticised Liberal Democrat candidate Mahmood Rafiq’s connection to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association. Rafiq is the association’s head of external affairs.

Distributed by councillor James Giles of the Kingston Independent Residents Group (KIRG), the leaflet accused the association of homophobic beliefs and the hushing up of a rape allegation

Rafiq told the Kingston Courier he was “horrified at what he saw” and deeply hurt. He said: “dirty politics have no place in local politics.”

Issues that matter

In a statement issued with the Liberal Democrats, Rafiq said: “These attempts to smear my name and character and beliefs, the Islamophobia and attempts to sow fear and division have no place in politics.”

The statement added: “we should be talking about the issues that matter to local people: tackling crime, improving access to GPs, making sure there are enough school places, sorting out the cycle lanes, to make this a better place for everyone who lives here.” 

Giles has defended himself against allegations the leaflet was intended as a smear campaign or was Islamophobic.

He said that as the only openly LGBT councillor, he felt it his democratic duty to make sure the public was aware of Rafiq’s association with an association he described as controversial. “I call out bigotry when I see it,” he said.

But Kingston Conservative candidate for Green Lane and St James Suniya Qureshi said: “Inciting hatred within any context is unacceptable there are no party lines to this.” We are all here to serve the public whatever your political beliefs may be.”

Kingston and Surbiton Green Party also criticised the pamphlet and said: “It is bad for democracy and turns off voters.”

Letters and leaflets posted through a letter box. Photo Simon Fletcher, Shutterstock.

KIRG is also fielding a candidate, Yvonne Tracey, in the by-election. Though Giles said he took personal responsibility for the leaflet and that it was not part of her campaign.

The by-election was called following the Lib Dem councillor Tim Cobbett’s resignation September 30 2022. Voting for Green Lane and St James’ ward takes place November 10 2022.

Want to find out more?: Kingston Independent Residents Group: the controversial party with election hopes

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