Thursday 22 October 2020


Rakhia Ismail, former mayor of Islington

When Rakhia Ismail sensationally quit the Labour Party last month she promised a full statement in due course.  At the time she cited 'discriminatory behaviour' and 'oppression'.  There followed weeks of silence, but she has now spoken out with further details of the horrific abuse she suffered.  The long list of incidents she has revealed are as follows.
  1. She was allegedly told to be quiet during a meeting
  2. She was allegedly shouted at by a colleague after she raised the issue of knife crime
  3. An invite to Labour's national women's conference had 'Somalia' written underneath her address (her birthplace)
  4. The official mayoral Twitter account was withheld from her
Bear in mind that this exhaustive list took six years to compile.  Ismail says she has been agonising over her decision to quit for 'over five years' and blames a 'white establishment mentality' for forcing her out.  She also appeared to suggest that there was a degree of misogyny at play: "I was battling with a party system that simply allows white men to have what they want, when they want".  A cursory glance at Islington Borough Council's website suggests that of Labour's 46 councillors only 17 are white men.

Much of Ismail's frustration appears to be rooted in her repeated attempts to get knife crime on the council's agenda.  She also lashed out at Sadiq Khan when she resigned, telling the Islington Tribute: "Sadiq Khan has totally failed us.  He is failing every child that is killed on the streets, not just those in the Somali community, but all of them".  The resentment she feels about Khan wasn't helped recently when she and her fellow campaigners protested outside City Hall and challenged the Mayor to meet with them.  Khan did not appear, but his Conservative opponent Shaun Bailey did.

Tory candidate Shaun Bailey discusses knife crime with Rakhia Ismail
and her fellow campaigners

However, Ismail's biggest beef is with the leader of Islington Borough Council - Cllr Richard Watts.  He has been the council leader since 2013, before she was elected the following year.  In a video posted on social media last week she called on him 'and the whole Islington leadership' to resign, alleging that they were guilty of 'Islamophobia' and treated the Muslim community 'like second class citizens'.  She also appears to suggest that Labour voters should consider backing another party in future.  Click below for the video.

She also lashed out at Keir Starmer in an interview with the Huffington Post, saying that he 'is not interested in talking to people' like her, despite contacting his office earlier this year.  The only senior Labour figure she's had anything good to say about since she quit the party is Emily Thornberry, who is one of Islington's two MPs (the other being Jeremy Corbyn).  Last week she thanked Thornberry in a tweet for 'all her support'.

A spokesperson for Islington Labour responded to Ismail's revelations: "While we are saddened that Rakhia has taken such a step, the allegations she has made were not pertaining to new or recent events.  They had already been investigated and resolved in line with party procedures.  Cllr Ismail attended a number of meetings as part of this process and many steps were made to support her in her role as a Labour councillor.  We are sincerely sad that Cllr Ismail felt she was unable to continue as a Labour councillor despite resolution being reached".

Ismail looks set to continue as a councillor for the remainder of her term as an independent.