‘This is not an apology’ - Conservative leader who quit amid race row unhappy over Downing Street letter

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A former South Tyneside Conservative leader has denied claims he has received an apology from Downing Street over the handling of a race complaint he brought last year.

Ajay Jagota says the contents of a letter sent to him last month by an adviser to Theresa May are not proof that Number 10 is acting on his allegation.

He claims the correspondence – leaked by online news site Buzzfeed – is the only response he has received from the party in almost six months.

In it, David Beckingham, on behalf of the Prime Minister, tells him: “I was sorry to read of your concerns and that you had not received a response regarding your complaint.

“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.”

In his resignation letter, seen by the Gazette, Mr Jagota has alleged Jeff Milburn, South Tyneside’s only Tory councillor, used offensive language against him at a party social function in September.

He quit as chairman of South Shields Conservative Association in January, accusing party officials of failing to investigate.

Coun Milburn, who represents the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, was suspended by the party last month.

He denies Mr Jagota’s claim and a second racism allegation made against him by South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

Mr Jagota said: “This is not an apology, it is merely the party confirming that it knows of my complaint.

“They have still not contacted me to say what is happening with any investigation. They are burying their heads in the sand.

“I do not know whether he has been suspended because of my allegation or that made by the MP, or a mix of both.

“If it is because the MP has raised the allegation, then in a way that is worse because it means that haven’t done anything around my claim.

“Is it my allegation or hers? If it is mine, then why has it taken several months? I think they’ve got themselves in a right head spin over this.

“I think they should have apologised to me. Due process, if it exists, hasn’t been followed.”

Mr Jagota’s resignation followed that of Gerard Leake, who quit as chair of Jarrow Conservative Association in September over the same alleged remarks by the councillor.