Call for action in South Tyneside Tory race row

Former South Shields Conservative Association chaiman Ajay Jogota
Former South Shields Conservative Association chaiman Ajay Jogota

A race row which has engulfed Conservatives in South Tyneside is not being tackled, it has been claimed.

Ajay Jagota, who quit as secretary of South Shields Conservative Association in January, says neither Tory Central Office in London nor its regional branch have taken decisive action.

Coun Jeff Milburn

Coun Jeff Milburn

Mr Jagota claims they have failed to properly investigate an allegation that he was the target of a racially abusive comment by Coun Jeff Milburn, South Tyneside’s only Tory councillor.

Mr Milburn denies the allegation and says he has already ben cleared of the accusation by senior officials in the regional party.

Mr Jogota has taken his claims of abuse and a lack of action in his case to the party’s leadership, including Brandon Lewis MP, its national chairman.

In a resignation letter seen by the Gazette, Mr Jagota, 49, who is of Indian descent, says he has personally raised the matter with Mr Lewis.

In the letter, He said: “I have raised it formerly as a complaint not only at a regional level but at the party conference speaking to Brandon Lewis, subsequent emails to Toby Willmer (Deputy Chief of Staff Chairman’s office), and in conversations with Glynis Barrie as the newly elected regional chair.

“At no stage have I had one response or update from anyone which I find disdainful and wholly unacceptable from the Conservative party.”

The Gazette contacted Conservative Central Office for comment, but received no reply.

The party’s regional office has said only that it cannot comment on internal matters.

Coun Milburn is alleged to have made an offensive remark to Gerard Leake, who was chairman of Jarrow Conservative Association, at a party social function last September.

Mr Leake claims the Cleadon and East Boldon ward councillor spoke of his opposition to people of ethnic backgrounds gaining positions within the party.

He has alleged the comment was said within earshot of Mr Jagota, owner of a South Tyneside lettings agency.

Engineering firm boss Mr Leake resigned from his post two days later, claiming the party had failed to investigate.

Coun Milburn, who was elected last May, has strongly rejected the racism allegation, which he has described as “absolute rubbish”.

He has insisted he was asked by Conservative regional office in November if there was truth to the claim, with his denial accepted.

Mr Leake has been replaced in Jarrow by temporary chair Vanessa Green, with Jack White taking the same role in South Shields.