Headlines: May 6th, 2004

Politicians from all the major parties have joined forces to call for next month’s local elections to be free from racist and religious intolerance. The call comes against a backdrop of controversy on issues such as the Middle East, asylum and immigration.The political groups, represented through the Local Government Association, have pledged to do what they can to keep hatred out of local politics and they say no-one should be allowed to exploit local election campaigns to incite hatred against people because of the colour of their skin, their religion or national origin.

Speaking on behalf of the leaders of all the political groups at the LGA, its chairman, Sir Jeremy Beecham, said the only intolerance which should be seen this summer was that shown towards individuals or groups who sought to hijack the electoral process for extremist aims.

“We hope that the police will uphold our tradition of election campaigns characterized by tolerance, debate, discussion, and understanding by using their powers, such as those to stop incitement to racial hatred, against extremists of all kinds, ” he added.

Local authority politicians, he said, would do everything they could to ensure that in their campaigning a clear distinction was drawn between legitimate policy differences, especially on sensitive policy areas such as immigration, and anything that threatened people’s right to be treated equally and with respect.