Said he was glad an opposition councillor didn't work for the Samaritans
Cllr Ravi Govinida
December 17, 2020
The leader of Wandsworth Council has been criticised for making what his political opponents have described as a “crass joke about suicide.”
Councillor Ravi Govindia, joked that he was “glad” that Labour Cllr Judi Gasser “does not spend time counselling people who are at the other end of a Samaritans call.”
He told this Wednesday night’s (16 December) full council meeting, “I don’t think she gives any hope whatsoever to anyone in difficulties. Her style, her manner, her composure is such that you would simply want to end your miseries.”
Cllr Govindia was attacking the Labour opposition for not “acknowledging the good that happens in this council simply because it happens to be a Conservative council,” during a debate on the council’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said Labour councillors would rather have “flogged” themselves than to “appreciate” the good work done by officers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Cllr Gasser had previously spoken about examples of older people in the borough who were “stuck inside” during lockdowns and afraid to go out.
She praised the work of council officers as well as the local food bank and other voluntary groups for their work to support residents who were experiencing food poverty.
However, she feared there would “clearly be another peak after Christmas” and wanted to amend the Conservative motion praising the borough’s response to the pandemic to focus on the remaining gaps in provision, and how these can be met in the future.
She called Cllr Govindia’s comments “dreadful accusations.”
She added, “Of course I don’t talk in that way to residents, of course when I’m talking with residents I say ‘I will do everything I can to help you and I’m going to sort this out’, and I do sort it out for them. So how dare you make those accusations against me.”
Cllr Govindia said he was only commenting on the tone of her delivery, which was “not uplifting”.
Tooting MP and the Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan later waded in on Twitter, sharing a clip of Cllr Govindia’s comments.
She said, “This is the Conservative Leader of Wandsworth Council making a crass joke about suicide.
“He should apologise and undergo training to learn how painful his words are to people who have lost loved ones.”
This is the Conservative Leader of Wandsworth Council making a crass joke about suicide.— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) December 17, 2020
He should apologise and undergo training to learn how painful his words are to people who have lost loved ones. pic.twitter.com/oML4hX0Ahe
The leader of the council’s Labour group, Cllr Leonie Cooper, also called for Cllr Govindia to withdraw his comments during the meeting, but he did not respond.
Cllr Govindia and the Conservative group have been contacted for comment, but have not yet responded.
The Samaritans said they do not comment on individual cases, but highlighted that anyone can contact them for free anytime from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill.
Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.samaritans.org
Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter