Row as Forest Gate councillor accuses Exmouth business of ‘pandering to racists’ with Twitter posts

Cllr Mas Patel is Newham Council's commissioner for air quality and climate change. Picture: Mas Pat

Cllr Mas Patel is Newham Council's commissioner for air quality and climate change. Picture: Mas Patel - Credit: Archant

A councillor has accused a Devon business owner of “pandering to racists” following a war of words on Twitter.

George Nightingale. Picture: Alex Walton

George Nightingale. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Labour councillor, Mas Patel, became involved in the social media row following comments made on BBC Question Time about prime minister Boris Johnson comparing women wearing burqas with letterboxes.

Cllr Patel (@maspatel01) posted: "WoW: Johnson destroyed on BBC Question Time by hijab-wearing Politics teacher!

"'Why do we have a Prime Minister who gets away with inciting hate...who goes against our British values?'"

The Twitter account for the bar and restaurant, Spoken, in Exmouth, (@spokenexmouth) responded: "Want that then go to the Middle East!! Want to live in Britain then accept Britain for what it is!"

Cllr Patel posted in reply: "Want what exactly? And why should she or anyone 'go to the Middle east?'. Do you have a problem with people who dress differently?

"Come on let the hate flood out! You know you want to..."

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Spoken responded: "It's not hate, it's not racism. British culture is the same as (say) Indian culture and each should be respected. What 'we' white British rather than immigrants, whether first or fifth generation think is that British culture is first in Britain."

Spoken continued: "Total opposite of a racist just putting a view across. Maybe one day what you think (of) as racists will be a minority that you'll defend (laughing emoji)"

Spoken owner, George Nightingale, has not confirmed who posted the tweets but he was present when they were written. He has since removed them.

When first approached, Mr Nightingale said: "If he wants me to apologise to him, then I will gladly do it."

Cllr Patel, who is Muslim, said: "I think he needs to be extremely careful with the words he uses on any platform within social media.

"It was absolutely abhorrent and does not reflect what most people in the country believe.

"He is pandering to racists and people who would like to see our country's democratic values to be eroded."

The councillor has since sought to pursue the argument on Facebook, where Mr Nightingale responded that Cllr Patel's "efforts in this are totally misplaced".

He writes: "Nothing racist from us here, just a difference of opinion. Apologies if you don't like it but lots of things we all don't like. I'm running a Michael Jackson night next week and have had abuse sent that I support paedophilia - should I go to the police about it? No I just ignore it, Peace and love to all."

Mr Nightingale has declined to provide further comment.