SEP 00] COVENTRY CITY COUNCIL NEWS
Race Row As Councillors Demand Information
were inflamed in Coventry’s council chamber last night as the
arrival of 700 more asylum seekers to the city was debated.
Conservative group put down a motion asking for more information
to be given to people in the city.
Tim Sawdon said that there was a lot of ignorance and
misconception about the status, role and income of asylum seekers.
called on the council to answer several questions and make the
information publicly available so people could see for themselves
what the situation was.
the debate, Cllr Sawdon called for discussion to be low-key, and
to concentrate on the facts.
any of you in this chamber believe that the issue of asylum
seekers as not a major talking point in this city then you are
not living in the same world that we are.”
his request for information sparked fury from a succession of
Labour councillors, who accused Cllr Sawdon of raising the race
issue as part of a pre-election populist shift to the right.
Phil Townshend, who led the assault from the Labour benches, said:
of motion like Tim’s are designed to do one thing – to
create suspicion and distrust.
trying to recreate the myth that asylum seekers are scroungers,
are different, are taking our jobs and our houses, they are
are playing into the hands of racists.”
Townshend, the cabinet member with responsibility for community
relations, said he had urged Cllr Sawdon to withdraw the motion.
said he would have been happy to give any information to him
privately, and a full description of the conditions imposed on
asylum–seekers had been published in the council’s Contact
newsletter in July.
Dave Nellist (Socialist, St Michael’s), said the wording of the
Conservative motion had been “anodyne” but was designed to
bring the race issue to the fore.
Labour amendment, worded to support race relations, was carried.
The Conservatives, on a three-line whip abstained from vote on the
amendment in a rare named vote.
Conservative councillors – Andy and Caron Matchet did not go
into the chamber to vote.
the Conservatives voted in favour of the amendment once it had
become the main motion.
Sawdon said they supported the sentiments in the Labour motion,
but abstained because they did not think their motion deserved to
a rather disgraceful apolitical attempt to brand the Tory party
as racist for raising an issue that affects many people in the