British National Party councillors have been branded a “bunch of racists” after they attempted to ban halal meat from borough schools in Barking & Dagenham. Jeanne Alexander, the borough’s executive councillor for children services, made the outburst as the assembly examined a raft of controversial proposals tabled by the far right party.
Councillors were asked to consider banning halal meat from schools, Islamic headdress from public buildings and flying the union flag throughout the year. But the 12 BNP councillors elected to the council earlier this year did not have enough political weight to push through any of the proposals last week. All of their 12 motions were either defeated or amended beyond recognition by the Labour party.
The BNP said the proposals, which also asked that pupils sing the National Anthem during assemblies, were designed to increase integration and improve citizenship and discipline. But, Cllr Alexander said the measures had nothing to do with civic pride and instead showed the BNP were a “bunch of racists”. Cllr Alexander said: “The headteacher and the governing body run the school. The councillors can’t decide. It is down to the headteacher and the governing body.”
Labour also rejected a motion that asked that the union flag be flown on all council buildings every day of the year. Instead, the majority party agreed to adhere to the royal household’s guidance on the issue and only raise it on special occasions such as the Queen’s birthday.
The Labour group also declined to force people to remove face coverings upon entering public buildings in Barking and Dagenham. BNP Cllr Robert Bailey urged the borough to ban any type of headdress including burqas, niqabs and crash helmets, to improve community safety and integration. But, the Labour majority compromised and agreed to invite visitors to “voluntarily” remove head coverings when entering public buildings.
Labour members also defeated the motion on halal meat, saying that school governors set school policies, headteachers dealt with the day-to-day running of schools. Dissatisfied parents were told to contact Barking and Dagenham’s corporate director of children’s services.