The Daily Telegraph

Anger at white Labour chief ’s tan joke at black event

- By Tony Diver WHITEHALL CORRESPOND­ENT

‘I’ve got the worst tan possible for a black man. But I have the passion of the rhythm of the African’

A WHITE Labour council leader is set to be investigat­ed after he told a Black History Month event he had “the worst tan possible for a black man” and had the “passion of the rhythm” for dancing to black music.

Darren Rodwell, who is white, is the leader of Barking and Dagenham council, and is on the shortlist of candidates to replace Dame Margaret Hodge as the Barking MP at the next election.

Mr Rodwell was filmed at a council Black History Month event addressing an audience wearing a Black History Month flag and a kufi, a cap worn by men in some parts of Africa.

The council leader told attendees: “You might have known that I’ve got the worst tan possible for a black man.

“But I have the passion of the rhythm of the African and the Caribbean.

“I used to do swing dance, because I used to love jiggling about.”

It is understood that an official complaint has been made about Mr Rodwell’s comments, and he is likely to be formally investigat­ed by the Labour Party, which is looking into the comments in advance of a full investigat­ion.

A local source said: “Local members are very angry about this and are protesting this, which they see as pure racism by Darren Rodwell.”

A Labour spokesman would not comment on the specifics of Mr Rodwell’s case but said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they [are] investigat­ed in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriat­e disciplina­ry action is taken.”

Mr Rodwell’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The council leader is understood to be the frontrunne­r in the race to replace Dame Margaret, who is standing down at the next election after serving as the Labour MP for the area since 1994.

She had a majority of over 15,000 votes at the last election, so her replacemen­t as the Labour candidate is expected to win a seat in the House of Commons.

Labour councillor­s also hold every seat on Barking and Dagenham Council.

In a video announcing his intention to stand as a Labour MP at the next election, Mr Rodwell said last month that he “never planned to be in politics” but had stood to help fend off the British National Party (BNP).

The BNP lost all 12 of its council seats in 2010 – the year that Mr Rodwell was first elected.

“I couldn’t sit by whilst our community fell to the far-right,” he said.

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