Local Tories in racism row

Cllr William Coleshill suspended by Conservative Party following comments made at council meeting, reports James Cracknell

Suspended councillors

Cllr William Coleshill (left) and Cllr Stephanos Ioannou (right) are two former Conservatives now suspended from the party

The local Conservative Party has become embroiled in a racism row after two Enfield councillors in as many months were suspended over comments made about people of Turkish origin.

Councillor William Coleshill brought chaotic scenes to the council chamber last week when, in a debate about school spending, he asked if the Turkish family of a Labour councillor had “brought a classroom with them” – prompting howls of protest.

The furore came a few weeks after another Conservative councillor was suspended over an anti-Turkish post on social media.

In September’s full council meeting at Enfield Civic Centre, Cllr Coleshill was responding to a motion put forward by Councillor Susan Erbil calling for the government to reverse spending cuts affecting local schools.

After claiming migrants had contributed to the pressure placed on education funding, he asked: “When the Erbil family entered this country, did they bring a classroom with them?”

Loud cries of “racist” and “shame” erupted from the Labour benches in the council chamber, with many councillors visibly angry and upset. The situation threatened to escalate before Councillor Saray Karakus, who as Mayor of Enfield was chairing the meeting, intervened and appealed for calm.

Cllr Coleshill said that he withdrew the remark and apologised, but after a ten-minute break, did not return to his seat. The meeting subsequently resumed with a motion, already scheduled, stating the council “condemns and stands against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes”.

Councillor Joanne Laban, the Tory leader, said: “Cllr Coleshill has had his party membership and the Conservative group whip suspended. He is sitting as an independent member.”

The member for Bush Hill Park is now the second newly-elected councillor to be suspended by the local party, after Councillor Stephanos Ioannou, who represents Southgate, shared a tabloid front page from the 1970s with a headline describing Turks as ‘Barbarians’.

Cllr Laban added: “The Conservative Party takes this sort of matter very seriously and on both occasions acted quickly.”