Labour candidate blames smear campaign after ‘worst tan’ comment

Home Politics Labour candidate blames smear campaign after ‘worst tan’ comment
Labour candidate blames smear campaign after ‘worst tan’ comment

Joe Pike,Political Investigations Correspondent

PA Darren RodwellPA

A white Labour candidate who publicly apologised after saying he had the “worst tan possible for a black man” at a Black History Month event privately dismissed criticism as being “part of a smear campaign” against him.

Despite apologising for what he called “extremely stupid and embarrassing” comments in 2022, a leaked email appears to show Barking candidate Darren Rodwell playing down the remarks when confronted by a constituent.

“What I can tell you [is] it was part of a smear campaign against me”, he wrote.

A Labour spokesperson said the party had “dealt with this matter at the time in line with its rules and procedures”.

“Darren Rodwell offered an unreserved apology for these remarks when the video was first circulated in 2022,” the spokesperson added.

Mr Rodwell is the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and is standing to succeed Labour veteran Margaret Hodge as MP for Barking.

At an event marking Black History Month, he told the audience: “You might have noticed that I’ve got the worst tan possible for a black man.”

Wearing a kufi, a hat traditional in parts of Africa, he added: “But I have the passion and the rhythm of the African and the Caribbean. I used to do swing dance, because I used to love jiggling about.”

Labour investigated Mr Rodwell, and cleared him after an interview by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

A Labour party spokesperson said after the investigation: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Seen by some as a rising Labour star, Darren Rodwell is credited with playing a central role in campaigning against Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, in Barking at the 2010 election.

He was subject to death threats and recounted “someone putting a Stanley knife to my throat when I was going to the toilet” at the election count.

More recently, he attracted criticism for hanging a “Darren Rodwell for Barking” banner on some gravestones.

He said at the time that he “wasn’t being disrespectful” and the banner was there temporarily while his team were fetching more straps.

The council leader also made headlines after threatening to evict housing tenants who did not report knife crime. He later said his comments had been “sensationalised to make me sound like I was some sort of Mussolini”.

In the past five and a half years, Mr Rodwell has received more than £20,000 in gifts and hospitality.

This includes £12,448 in West Ham tickets and hospitality from a single construction firm after they secured permission to build film studios in the area.

Mr Rodwell strongly denied any suggestion he had pushed through the deals in expectation that he would be treated by the studio companies.

“All the major deals were done before they got the box and planning is different to what I can do, I am the executive,” he told The Guardian.

Other candidates in the Barking constituency include Simon Anthony of the Green Party, Liberal Democrat Charley Hasted, Reform UK’s Clive Peacock and Hamid Shah for the Workers Party.

A full list of candidates will be available on the BBC News website after nominations close.

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