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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Race groups urge Hague to act
William Hague
Race groups want William Hague to expel Mr Townend
Race campaigners have backed John Taylor's call for John Townend to be expelled from the Conservative party.

The Conservative peer has threatened to leave the party because of what he called Tory leader William Hague's "pathetic" response to remarks by Mr Townend attacking immigration.

Jude Woodward of the National Assembly Against Racism said Lord Taylor's stance was justified.

What we're seeing is a real litmus test in the Tory party as to what the black communities really mean to them

Ashok Viswanathan
Operation Black Vote
"It shows even where you do have a very small number of black people who have managed to get anywhere in the Tory party, they find themselves isolated and on the verge of being forced out of the party on an issue like this," she said.

Ms Woodward added that Mr Hague's response so far had not portrayed the Conservatives in a positive light.

She said: "It clearly shows that the Tory party is very weak on the issue of race, that all the excuses that Hague has put forward for not taking action show he is not prepared to stand up to the racists in the ranks of the party."

Ashok Viswanathan of Operation Black Vote (OBV) also called for Mr Townend's expulsion saying the Conservatives' handling of the situation would be closely watched by black and Asian voters.

John Townend
John Townend is retiring at the next election
"What we're seeing is a real litmus test in the Tory party as to what the black communities really mean to them.

"If they reprimand John Taylor and yet don't reprimand John Townend it sends the double signal that the party is on one hand one that will reprimand people for being anti-racist and on the other hand will silently accept those like Townend.

"It sends an even worse signal when on one hand an MP can be expelled for expressing pro-European views and yet an MP who espouses to racist views doesn't have the whip withdrawn," he added.

Mr Viswanathan blamed the Conservative leader for the current row.

"These views were ignited by the oxygen of publicity that was given to the 'foreign land' speech that Hague gave at the Conservative's spring conference," he said.

Mr Viswanathan added that OBV had spoken to all the party chairmen urging them not to allow their MPs to use race as an issue in the upcoming election.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tory peer renews threat to quit
04 Apr 01 | UK Politics
MP defends race comments
04 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague plays 'patriot' card
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