Councillor Having Time of His Life During Black Lives Matter Debate

Caught watching Dirty Dancing during meeting on racism

Nobody puts Ravi in a corner
Nobody puts Ravi in a corner. Councillors react to the gaffe.

July 16, 2020

A debate on a motion about the Black Lives Matter movement and the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities was interrupted at Wandsworth’s full council meeting last night by a councillor appearing to accidentally play a clip from the film Dirty Dancing.

After the Conservative amendment passed, viewers could hear: “The Sheldrake Hotel is proud to present Johnny Castle and partner in Mambo Magic,” followed by some music.

It is the same as a clip from the film Dirty Dancing in which Frances “Baby” Houseman finds herself stepping into the shoes of a professional dancer, and dancing with Patrick Swayze’s Johnny Castle.

It is not clear from the video who was playing the clip, but the Labour group has blamed a Conservative councillor.

Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan tweeted the clip today, adding: “Last night during a moving #BLM debate, one of the Tory Councillors accidentally un-muted themselves, revealing they were watching Dirty Dancing instead of listening to racist experiences being described.

“Over 38,000 Wandsworth residents have black heritage – they deserve better.”

A spokesperson for the Conservatives said he was “aware” of the accusations, but added: “I can’t see they have any basis in fact.

“There are three groups on the council, and while it’s difficult to be sure, it would appear that the sound you refer to is somebody’s ringtone, not a clip, and certainly not one of our members.

“If you watch the debate on the motion I hope you’ll agree there were thoughtful, and moving, contributions from all speakers on this important subject, and it’s very disappointing that anyone would seek to make mischief in this way when there are so many other aspects of the debate that could be constructively highlighted at this time.”

Cllr Maurice Mcleod who brought forward the original motion alongside Labour Deputy Leader, Cllr Kemi Akinola, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the clip showed up the Conservative group for not properly listening or taking part in the council debate.

“It’s just something they do in the background,” he said.

During the debate, councillors gave a number of passionate and deeply personal speeches.

Cllr Akinola said, “I can’t breathe as a black woman in this council […] I still feel stifled by the manner in which this council conducts itself.”

She went on to criticise the expectation that she should be a spokesperson for all BAME people, adding: “We need to speak to other people to understand them.”

Conservative council leader Ravi Govindia admitted that work needed to be done to improve diversity in some council departments, and that he was committed to working on this.

He emphasised his own campaign for a statue of John Archer (London’s first Black Mayor) to be erected in Battersea, and said the Conservative group’s amendments to include the borough’s ‘Smart Growth Plan’ recognises the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME groups and commits to action.

“Ours is a practical approach, where clear guidelines are met,” he said, rejecting Labour’s claims that the amendment amounted to a “watering down.”

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

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