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EDITIONS
Monday, 3 February, 2003, 10:37 GMT
Anti-white bias claim MP under fire
Riots in Oldham in May 2001
Riots brought the world's media to Oldham
Racist attacks on white people are not being taken seriously enough, according to a Labour MP whose town was hit by race riots.

Phil Woolas, whose Oldham constituency was the scene of running battles between Asian and white youths in the summer of 2001, has written to the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) complaining about the problem.

Mr Woolas has no basis for his view and is clearly out of line with Labour party thinking

Shahid Malik
Labour's NEC
He argues that a multi-cultural society can only work if all sectors feel their concerns are being taken seriously.

But the MP's remarks have been criticised as "irresponsible" by the only non-white member of Labour's National Executive Committee.

Shahid Malik says Mr Woolas's comments are "out of line" with Labour policy and would only "feed" extreme right-wing groups like the British National Party.

'Sinister attacks'

However, Mr Woolas, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, stressed that all he wanted was an "even-handed approach" to racism in all its forms. He denied that he was giving succour to the BNP.

He insisted he had never said racist attacks on white people were being ignored. "I said that they were perceived not to be taken seriously enough," he said.

Phil Woolas
Woolas: Approach to racism is 'not even-handed'
"We had a series of very, very nasty and sinister attacks in my area against white people where it is very clear that the motivation is racial," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What I am trying to do in Oldham is build a consent for a multi-cultural society... and to do that, we have to be seen to be even-handed. At the moment, unfortunately, we are not.

"If we can show that there is an even-handed approach, recognising that of course, the bulk of discrimination and attacks are against the ethnic minorities, then I think that everybody will benefit and the BNP will be the losers."

'Damaged relations'

In his letter to Trevor Phillips, the new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality - which was leaked to the Sunday Times - Mr Woolas said: "Politicians across the party divide have failed to be seen to condemn racist violent attacks against white people as strongly or forcibly as such attacks against Asian and black people.

"My view, and I believe that of my constituents of all ethnic backgrounds, is that this fact has diminished confidence in the communities and damaged race relations."

Mr Woolas used the letter to urge Mr Phillips "not to diminish (anti-discrimination) work by allowing ... the perception that racist attacks on white people are not taken seriously and condemned".

But Mr Malik, a former commissioner on the CRE, said: "These comments are very disturbing. They are irresponsible remarks and absolute nonsense.

"The comments feed far-right organisations like the BNP who hijack the remarks.

"All right-minded people condemn racism, be it black on white, Asian on black or white on Asian. Mr Woolas has no basis for his view and is clearly out of line with Labour party thinking."

Condemnation

Mr Malik said the article had prompted dozens of telephone calls from concerned people.

He added: "It is nonsense that there is a refusal to condemn black on white racism."

But Mr Woolas's stance has won the support of Labour MEP Claude Moraes, former director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

He said racial attacks on white people were just "as brutal" as racially motivated attacks on black and Asian people and should be "condemned" in equal measure.

Mr Moraes said he believed the reaction by the police to all kinds of racial attacks is "improving".

"If that is not happening, then he (Phil Woolas) should raise it. There should be no political correctness in that," he told Today.

See also:

20 Jul 02 | England
28 Jun 02 | England
26 Jun 02 | England
27 May 02 | England
28 Feb 02 | England
11 Dec 01 | England
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