A Leicester MP has asked Police and Crime Commissioner, (PCC) Rupert Matthews to assure her constituents they will not be discriminated against in the wake of his critical comments against the Black Lives Matter organisation.
Claudia Webbe, who represents Leicester East MP, wrote to Mr Matthews after he banned staff in his office from having contact with the organisation because of his reading of its views on policing.
The Conservative PCC was later accused of ‘hypocrisy’ after photographs emerged of him at a vigil for George Floyd at the Clock Tower in Leicester city centre – on the same day and at the same location as the city’s Black Lives Matter protest in last June.
Mr Matthews had written on a Conservative supporters’ website: ‘Why are we meeting an organisation that wants to defund the police, has put police officers in hospital and desecrated the cenotaph in London?’
But a follow-up statement clarified that having previously supported the Black Lives Matter ‘movement’, his stance was “unchanged” and that it was the specific BLM UK organisation he had banned contact with.
However, Ms Webbe has expressed ‘deep worry’ about his comments and asked Matthews to clarify how he will engage with Leicestershire’s black communities and organisations.
In a letter to the PCC, Ms Webbe said: “I fear that you are propagating far-right talking points that have associated a movement for racial justice as something to be feared.”
The MP said her constituents, mostly from African, African-Caribbean, Asian and other minority ethnic communities, were concerned that the PCC had “fanned the flames of division” so early into his term.
She wrote: “Can you please, in your response, reassure my constituents that you will act on their behalf without discrimination?”
In his response to Webbe’s letter, Mr Matthews reiterated the distinction between the political organisation and the public movement which he said was “a force for good”.
He said: “I loathe and detest all forms of racism.
“I will do all that I am able to eradicate prejudice and discrimination and I will continue to be a champion of equality and fairness for all.”
A spokesperson for Mr Matthews previously said that the ban on contact with BLM UK only applied to people employed in his office and not police officers – including Chief Constable Simon Cole and other senior officers who routinely speak to external organisations and community groups.
The PCC said he hoped Ms Webbe would join him in condemning the organisation, BLM UK.
The comments were taken from an article he wrote for the Conservative Home website. It was an account of his first week in office, beginning on Thursday, May 13 – a week after he was elected to the £76,500-a-year post.
As well as freezing the recruitment process for two roles in his office, Mr Matthews also said he decided on his second day in the post to suspend a number of spending decisions made by his predecessor, Labour’s Lord Willy Bach.