'Dangerous' and 'not acceptable': Chris Rigby responds at Standards Committee to Conservative councillor's 'ban mosques' comments

8 October 2020

Green Councillor Chris Rigby, a member of BCP Council's Standards Committee, spoke at the committee's meeting on Tuesday 6th October when it considered the report into the investigation of a formal complaint by a member of the public, regarding nationally reported comments by a BCP Conservative councillor for Moordown which included “I hate to ban anything really but I’d suggest we start with Mosques!”

Committee members had been advised that there was nothing BCP Council could do, given that the comments were made in a private capacity, and the Council's code of conduct does not apply to councillors' private lives.

Chris Rigby told the meeting: "I think we can't really disagree with the findings of the report, because that is what the rules are, and therefore we've done our due diligence by investigating that. But I do think that while we're in this meeting, it's also worth just digging into the report a little bit and just speaking, because there's a couple of bits in it which, as Cllr Stribley was saying, we need to call out things like this when they happen. There's something which stood out for me, there was a bit where Cllr Dunlop said about banning mosques. Which she then, in the report, said was made tongue-in-cheek and at the tail end of a long conversation, and that you know, you had to see the full context.

"But it's not acceptable, regardless of whether it's in a personal capacity or in a professional capacity, when we're in our sort of position, with our standing in the community. And racism, or Islamophobia, anything like that, needs to be called out when it occurs, even when it is just like a joke, or tongue in cheek. Because it's jokes or "in jest", it makes things seem acceptable, and makes racism or Islamophobia, or people who hold those opinions, feel more comfortable. And I'm not saying that Cllr Dunlop is racist in herself, but comments from someone in our position regardless of how we're saying it, whether as a councillor or as our own private individuals - it can make racists feel comfortable airing their views. And that's what's really dangerous, and we need to be aware of that.

"And also what I'd want to do is thank the complainant who brought this to our attention, because it does mean we've got an opportunity here to speak about it. And I'd want to encourage anyone to bring things forward where they come up, regardless of how these reports come out, this one, the previous one. And I think we should be encouraging people to call out racism in any form, at the earliest opportunity. And yeah, regardless - like I say it can't be covered by Standards and what we're doing, I think it's important to speak about it and ensure that we don't have that going forward, and we put up the Council's position on the table that we don't accept this and we don't find it acceptable at all. Thank you."

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