Respect campaigner Yvonne Ridley explains controversial “ethnic cleansing” allegations against Newham Council

Yvonne Ridley speaks at the Newham People Alliance meeting at the Empire Venue.

Yvonne Ridley speaks at the Newham People Alliance meeting at the Empire Venue. - Credit: Archant

A leading campaigner for the Respect party has admitted that accusing Newham council of “ethnic cleansing” perhaps wasn’t the best choice of words.

Yvonne Ridley made the allegations at the same meeting where George Galloway suggested she would make a good MP for Newham.

Speaking to a largely Muslim audience, at the meeting organised by Newham People’s Alliance at the Empire venue in East Ham on February 13, Ms Ridley said that the council’s policy of seeking accommodation outside the borough for people on its social housing waiting list amounted to “ethnic cleansing.”

The 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.

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.”

Newham Council have defended its policy saying that the government’s benefit cap combined with the rise in rents in the borough is making it increasingly hard to find social housing accommodation in the borough.