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Paul Scully MP apologises after calling Tower Hamlets a ‘no-go’ area

Conservative MP Paul Scully has apologised after saying there are ‘no-go areas’ in Tower Hamlets in a discussion about Islamophobia in the Tory party. 

The former minister for London has apologised for feeding ‘conspiracy theories’ after saying that parts of Tower Hamlets and Birmingham, areas with large Muslim populations, are ‘no-go areas’.

Mr Scully was widely criticised for his comments, which were described as ‘utter drivel’ by Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley.

In an interview with BBC Radio London on Tuesday 27 February, Mr Scully said: ‘I’m sorry for using the word “no go areas” because it was a blunt thing that actually feeds into another set of conspiracy theories and some language used by people like Katie Hopkins, which was absolutely not my intention.’

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the MP clarified how his point was not to write off entire neighbourhoods, ‘but to bring to the fore how a tiny minority can distort reality.

He added: ‘After a decade or so of supporting and indeed championing our British Muslim communities, to be accused of being an Islamophobe basically leads me to step out of continuing that support and retreating to support communities and causes that want to have constructive dialogue.’

Mr Scully’s apology follows the controversial comments he made in an interview with BBC Radio London on Monday 26 February, where he said people in the UK were ‘concerned about their neighbourhoods changing.’

In the interview, Mr Scully criticised former Conservative MP Lee Anderson for his comments made on GB News, where he suggested Islamists had ‘got control’ of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Mr Anderson, who has since been suspended from the party after refusing to apologise, also said Mr Khan had ‘given our capital city away to his mates’.

The Mayor responded to Anderson’s comments, describing them as ‘racist, anti-Muslim and Islamophobic’, and criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not calling them so

Mr Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, condemned his colleague’s comments as ‘wrong-headed’ and ‘really inflammatory’, before weighing in himself on the discussion about anti-Muslim hatred in the Conservative party and the UK generally. He said:

‘The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying. That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.’

Tower Hamlets has the largest Muslim population in England at 39.9% according to the 2021 census.

Following Mr Scully’s comments, Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow said: ‘This is exactly the kind of language that stirs up hate and division. I hope Paul Scully will apologise. He should know better and ought to be condemning racism and anti-muslim hate rather than fuelling it.’ 

Councillor Sirajul Islam, the Leader of Tower Hamlets Labour group said: ‘It says something about the state of the modern Conservative Party that its MPs feel comfortable parroting the type of comments made by far-right extremists.’

He added: ‘There aren’t any “no-go” areas in our borough and if Mr Scully feels like he can only condemn the Islamophobic comments made by his Tory colleagues, by qualifying it with tropes deployed by fascist organisations, then he’s not the ally he’d like to think he is.’

Peter Golds, Conservative Councillor for Island Gardens and Leader of the Conservative Group in Tower Hamlets said: ‘As a long-standing resident of the borough, I do not recognise the description of “no go areas”.’

In response to Mr Anderson’s comments about the London Mayor, Golds added: ‘It is completely incorrect to criticise Sadiq Khan for something he is demonstrably not.’

Mr Scully’s comments followed an article in the Daily Telegraph written by the former home secretary Suella Braverman, which asserted that ‘Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.’

In a letter addressed to the Conservative Chair, The Muslim Council of Britain, Britain’s largest Muslim group, has called for an investigation into ‘structural Islamophobia’ in the Tory party.

For more local news, read Tower Hamlets Council under government review for the second time in a decade

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