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Departing Islington mayor accuses local leadership of ‘discrimination’

PUBLISHED: 15:43 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:24 30 September 2020

Mayor of Islington, Cllr Rakhia Ismail. Picture: Islington Council

Mayor of Islington, Cllr Rakhia Ismail. Picture: Islington Council

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Islington’s departing mayor accused her party’s leadership of discrimination in an “alarming” speech as she handed over the reins at the annual council meeting.

Islington's new mayor, Cllr Janet Burgess, outside the Town Hall. Picture: Islington Council/ Em Fitzgerald PhotographyIslington's new mayor, Cllr Janet Burgess, outside the Town Hall. Picture: Islington Council/ Em Fitzgerald Photography

Cllr Rakhia Ismail was chairing Thursday’s meeting - held online because of coronavirus - for the last time in her role in the ceremonial post before Cllr Janet Burgess took over, when she said she would “like to make an announcement”.

She continued: “I would like to say to Janet, I was not challenging you, but I was the system that allows some white men to have what they want, when they want and however they want.

“The system that is at the heart of this council leadership establishment, and to these colleagues make no mistake, I am talking about the leadership which is so institutionalised and discriminates [against] minorities, which is at the heart of this council leadership establishment.”

No one could see her as she spoke, as her video was turned off.

Rakhia Ismail's video was turned off during the Zoom meeting. Picture: ZoomRakhia Ismail's video was turned off during the Zoom meeting. Picture: Zoom

After a brief pause she continued: “For the past six years as it were, during my time I have felt as though my values have not been respected by the leadership establishment.

“I am sorry it had to come to this,” she said, her voice breaking up.

“The reason I am here is because people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela - they have given up their lives for,” she said, cutting off, adding: “I’ll be back in a minute.”

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Some 30 seconds of silence ensued, before a council officer stepped in to say: “I’m really sorry about this ladies and gentlemen, but my colleague is just making sure Cllr Ismail is okay and will reconvene shortly.”

Cllr Ismail did not return and the officer went on to request the meeting continue without her, because she was “indisposed”.

Cllr Troy Gallagher then announced Cllr Janet Burgess’ election to the post of municipal mayor for the next year.

Green opposition Cllr Caroline Russell told the Gazette afterwards: “It was incredibly alarming to hear a well respected councillor accuse the Labour leadership of systematic discrimination. Even more distressing was the feeling that Rakhia didn’t get to finish what she had to say.”

Cllr Ismail announced on Twitter the next day she had resigned from the Labour Party.

She expressed her intention to release a statement in due course, but has not yet done so, nor has she responded to the Gazette’s request for comment.

In a statement, council leader Cllr Richard Watts thanked Cllr Ismail for her “contribution to the work of Islington Labour and to Islington”.

He added: “As I said at annual council‬, Rakhia has been a successful mayor of Islington, she has represented our community admirably, through an incredibly challenging time.

“I am proud to lead a diverse and talented group of Islington Labour councillors, and it is extremely regrettable that Rakhia has resigned from the Labour Party.”


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