Downing Street apology to Tory in South Tyneside race row

Downing Street officials have apologised to former South Shields Conservative association chairman, Ajay Jagota, who resigned over the party's handling of a race complaint he made , according to leaked letters.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 2:07 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 2:13 pm
Former South Shields Conservative Association chairman Ajay Jogota

Buzzfeed News carried details of Number 10's involvement in the case of Mr Jagota, who resigned in January, criticising the "failure" of the party to deal with his allegation.

In a letter to party chairman Brandon Lewis, which was copied to Theresa May, Mr Jagota said he had been subjected to "racist comments" but, despite raising the issue several times, had not had a response.

Coun Jeff Milburn denies allegations of racism

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One of the Prime Minister's advisers, David Beckingham, then wrote to Mr Jagota saying he was "sorry to read of your concerns and that you had not received a response regarding your complaint".

He said: "I have spoken to Conservative campaign headquarters who have assured me that your complaint is being investigated and that you will receive an update shortly.

"I am sorry again to hear your concerns and I hope that this matter can be resolved satisfactorily."

It comes amid heavy criticism over the Conservative Party's handling of Islamophobia, with a senior Tory peer calling for an independent inquiry into "institutional" Islamophobia in the party.

Former minister Baroness Warsi warned the party's failure to address the issue within its ranks risked damaging Conservative chances at the next election.

South Tyneside’s Conservative party was thrown into disarray by a race row that led to two branch chairmen resigning.

Mr Jogota and and former Jarrow Conservative Association Gerard Leake accused Coun Jeff Milburn - the only Tory councillor in South Tyneside - of racism and quit in protest at what they say is a lack of disciplinary action against him.

Mr Milburn denies the accusations and says he had been asked by the Conservative regional office in November if there was truth to the claim, and his denial had been accepted.

South Shields Conservative Association chairman Ajay Jagota, who is of Indian descent and the target of an alleged remark, and chairman of the Jarrow branch, Gerard Leake, claim party chiefs have failed to adequately address their claims.

Lettings agency owner, Mr Jagota, 49, said in his letter of resignation that his reason for standing down were Coun Milburn’s alleged comments and the party’s lack of action.

In the letter, seen by The Gazette, he says: “My decision is based solely on the incident on 22nd September 2018 at the Jarrow presidents evening.

“At this event, I was subject to racist comments from Councillor Jeff Milburn, directed at myself and witnessed by Gerard Leake, then the chairman of Jarrow Association.

“I considered resigning at the time but as I have fought racism in the past, I felt it my duty to face this head on.”

He added: “As time went on, I have kept a log of all of the conversations, meetings and communications I have had.

“On each occasion, it is I who have had to follow up individuals leaving me with a feeling as though they would wish this situation to go away.

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