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A lead councillor has accused Respect campaigner Yvonne Ridley of using “inflammatory and dangerous” language after she accused Newham Council of “ethnic cleansing.”

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Yvonne Ridley used the comments to describe Newham Council’s policy of seeking accommodation outside the borough for people on its social housing waiting list when addressing a largely Muslim audience at a meeting at the Empire venue in East Ham on February 13.

George Galloway also spoke at the same meeting at which he suggested Yvonne Ridley would make a good MP for Newham.

Newham council made national news last year when it transpired it had written to 1,179 organisations, including a housing association as far away as Stoke-on-Trent, looking for homes for families on housing benefit.

Newham Council’s lead member for Housing, Andrew Baikie, said: “To use the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ when describing our housing policy is not only inflammatory and dangerous; it is also utterly untrue.

“Like many London boroughs, Newham has had to cope with the combined pressures of a London-wide housing crisis and a squeeze on benefits as the Tory-led coalition government continues its attack on our welfare state.”

Ms Ridley also took to the social network Twitter to accuse Newham Council of “ethnic cleansing”. But after being criticised over her comments on Twitter she told us: “Essentially what I was attacking was the council’s gentrification plans for the area which could only be achieved by removing huge swathes of poor and impoverished families from Newham.

“I called it ethnic cleansing, perhaps because of the demographics of those being targeted, but I suppose social cleansing would be more apt.”

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