The meeting of the full Council at Luton Town Hall on Tuesday 24th July 2007 ended in uproar when Liberal Democrat councillors walked out of the Council Chamber.
The walk out took place as a debate on “Improving Integration and Cohesion in Luton” descended into chaos with Labour councillors Mahmood Hussain and Robin Harris accusing Liberal Democrats of racist attitudes by refusing to fight the BNP during the recent elections and condoning the holocaust.
Several Liberal Democrat and Conservative members complained that the behaviour of Labour members was unacceptable one saying the standards were the lowest he had seen in the Council chamber in the 23 years he had been on the Council.
The Council was debating its reactions to a government report drawn up by former Luton Chief Executive Darra Singh which recommended a number of actions which local councils should take to promote integration and social cohesion. The motion was proposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling and was apparently supported by Labour members. However, the leader of the Labour group then proposed an amendment critical of the previous Liberal Democrat administration.
Responding to the amendment councillor Pantling said, “Whilst every administration should agree they could do more, we are proud of what we achieved in our four years. This issue is too important for it to be allowed to sink into a squalid political battle. The Council has always been proud of the fact that on issues of race and community cohesion there has never been a difference between the three parties. We have all agreed on the importance of demonstrating our unity in promoting a peaceful and harmonious community on Luton.”
He said that in spite of the critical Labour amendment, which was likely to be passed by the Labour majority on the Council, Liberal Democrats would still vote for the amended motion to try to preserve the united all party position on this serious issue.
It was only when Labour councillors Mahmood Hussain and Robin Harris made their startling accusations against Liberal Democrat members that the debate descended into farce.
“Their behaviour was disgusting” said Liberal Democrat leader David Franks after the meeting. “We are not prepared to sit there and listen to Labour councillors accusing us of being racist. I have witnessed some pretty bad conduct over the years but nothing can compare with this. The long established united all party stand against discrimination and for equality is in tatters. How can we work together in the face of such outrageous accusations?”