What does an anti-racism motion mean? In the case of Melton Borough council, it appears to mean very little at all. Words with no actions. Slaps on the back for passing such a motion but with nothing to follow.
The Lumley problem
In 2020, Melton Borough Council came late to the debate of Black Lives Matter. Their hand was eventually forced by the apparently naïve postings of one image of their councillors. Simon Lumley. In the midst of the George Floyd protests, Lumley had taken to twitter to post the hashtag, ‘white lives matter’.
The offending tweet did not look out of place in the rest of his feed, a rattlebag of anti-immigration retweets, remarks about defunding the BBC and the dangers of the woke. It rapidly went beyond the local media making national headlines in the Independent and The New European.
The furore led to Cllr Lumley’s resignation from the Conservative Party but he remains as an independent borough councillor and recently stood (unsuccessfully) in the county council elections.
His actions on social media started to look less naïve when, some weeks later, he made remarks in the The Melton Times. This time, he criticised the football authorities for allowing Premier League players to wear the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, even more surprising giving his previously reported employment with the bookmakers William Hill, in marked contrast to the words of the CEO of William Hill USA, Joe Asher who shortly after the killing of George Floyd wrote –
“The ensuing chaos in many parts of our country must not cloud what is clear: Racism in any form is not acceptable and never can be condoned. We all have an obligation to call it out when we see it. I am proud of the inclusive and diverse culture we have here at William Hill, one that has never tolerated discrimination and one in which everyone is welcome, except those who hate.””
Going through the motions
At this point, Melton Borough Council felt compelled to make statements in support of George Floyd. An anti-Racism motion was proposed at a Melton Council meeting in July 2020 by Tory councillor, Ronan Browne. During the meeting, Cllr Browne recounted his own experience of prejudice, having grown up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
The mood was broken somewhat by a veteran opposition councillor claiming that “Melton has no racism” despite evidence to the contrary, another opposition councillor who thought car parking a greater priority and Cllr Lumley himself, who embarked on a rant about mainstream news media and leftist takeovers.
Hate crime rising amid lack of real action
What has happened since that anti-racism motion was passed? Not a lot, it seems. This year, Melton has seen a rise in hate crime of 33 per cent, with nearly two thirds of the incidents being race related.
Despite the motion, there has been no subsequent action from the council to address this rising hate crime. There seems to be a complacency that simply passing the motion was enough.
Cllr Lumley’s twitter feed has not changed since his act of naivety. In fact, he has even retweet ed the far right activist, Andy Leggett, a man lauded in far right circles for ‘exposing an illegal invasion’. Leggett has been lauded by Tommy Robinson as “our man on the front line.”
The official Melton Conservative twitter account appears little better. It recently retweeted Turning Point USA – an action that was either intended to be deliberately offensive or was simply plain ignorant. TPUSA has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center for associating with alt-right and far-right activists.
More from Central Bylines
What’s in a name?
At a recent council meeting, the Conservative leader of the council, Joe Orson failed even to attempt to pronounce the name of the Thai owner of Leicester City football club, Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha. Orson claimed that no-one can pronounce his name (see here at 53 minutes and 3 seconds) whilst at the same time wanting to bask in the glory of Leicester City’s FA cup win.
Someone’s name is their identity. Getting it right is the simplest sign of respect – to them as a person, and to where they come from. To share the glory conferred by Srivaddhanaprabha without the common courtesy of learning his name is a shameful act.
Leicester City fans in Melton make the effort because Foxes’ fans adore the Srivaddhanaprabha family and everything they have done for Leicester City. The fans and the people of Leicestershire have shared both tragedy and joy with the family.
How far has Melton come in tackling racism? Was the anti-racism motion just a whitewash? An act of placation, an empty gesture? The councillors’ silence is deafening. What will this Tory-led council do about the rising hate crime in their town and villages?
If no action is forthcoming, can we conclude Melton is less blue and more biased?
 Lumley has been previously listed as an employee of William Hill in the council register of interests, although this is no longer present in the current register.