Parliamentary Controversy: Tory MP Found Guilty of Racial Offense for 'Go Home' Remark to Protester
In a significant development, Tory MP Bob Stewart has been found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offense for telling an activist to "go back to Bahrain." The altercation unfolded when the campaigner accused Stewart of "selling himself" to the Middle Eastern country's government. The verdict was delivered at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where the veteran backbencher, insisting "I am not a racist," received a £600 fine and an additional £835 in legal costs.
Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring acknowledged that Stewart "is not racist per se, but that is not the case against him." He remarked, "Good men can do bad things," emphasizing the severity of the incident. The row had erupted outside Lancaster House last December, with Stewart allegedly telling the activist, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, "you're taking money off my country, go away!"
Rishi Sunak, who had refrained from taking disciplinary action prior to the trial, now faces mounting pressure to strip Stewart of the Conservative Party whip following the conviction. Alwadaei, who reported the incident to the Conservative Party, expressed disappointment at the lack of action, stating, "Given today’s verdict, I expect them to take immediate action."
During the hearing, the 74-year-old Stewart, a veteran who claimed to have spent his life "defending minorities and people of different colors," maintained he was "deeply hurt" to find himself on trial. The court played a video where Stewart is heard saying, "Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain." In response to allegations of racial hostility, Stewart vehemently denied being a racist, stating, "That's absurd, it's totally unfair."
The case, unfolding against the backdrop of a four-day trip to Bahrain funded by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during which Stewart registered flights and accommodations worth £5,349, underscores the complex intersection of politics, international relations, and individual conduct within the parliamentary arena. The aftermath of this verdict not only impacts Stewart's political standing but also raises broader questions about accountability and appropriate consequences for elected officials involved in racially charged incidents.
In the aftermath of being found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offense for telling an activist to "go back to Bahrain," Tory MP Bob Stewart has offered a defense, asserting that the remark was an invitation for the campaigner to voice concerns in Bahrain itself. Stewart, a former British Army officer with ties to the Middle Eastern country dating back to 1969, argued that he had been "goaded" and "embarrassed" by the activist, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei.
Maintaining his stance as a friend of Bahrain, Stewart expressed that his life's work involved defending minorities and individuals of diverse backgrounds. The MP elaborated on the context of his statement, explaining, "'Go back to Bahrain' meant why don't you go back to Bahrain and make your point there?"
The Metropolitan Police initiated an investigation following a complaint by Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) activist Mr. Alwadaei, who claimed to be living in exile after facing torture in Bahrain. Alwadaei, exercising his right to protest, contended that he had not intended to insult the MP but to question him. He further accused Stewart of being financed by Bahrain and acting as a "well-known defender" of the regime.
In response to the heated exchange, Alwadaei expressed feeling dehumanized, unwelcome in the UK due to his skin color and origin. Fearful of returning to Bahrain, he asserted that such a move would likely result in his death and torture.
Character evidence presented by former Appeal Court Judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss described Stewart as occasionally saying "unwise" things but emphasized that his heart is "absolutely in the right place." Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to exhibit integrity by promptly removing the Conservative Party whip from Stewart. Chamberlain highlighted the message sent by failing to take decisive action against such behavior, particularly in the wake of a year marked by political scandals and controversies.
As Tory MP Bob Stewart faces the repercussions of a racially aggravated public order offense conviction for telling an activist to "go back to Bahrain," the aftermath is marked by conflicting narratives and a call for decisive action. Stewart's defense, framing the remark as an invitation for the activist to voice concerns in Bahrain, contrasts with the prosecution's assertion of racially charged hostility.
The case, initiated by a complaint from Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, has unveiled a complex narrative involving allegations of financial ties to Bahrain and Stewart's role as a regime defender. Alwadaei, living in exile and fearing persecution if he returns to Bahrain, underscores the deep impact of the exchange on his sense of belonging in the UK.
Former Appeal Court Judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss's character testimony paints Stewart as occasionally unwise but fundamentally well-intentioned. However, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain's call for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to promptly remove the Conservative Party whip from Stewart reflects a broader sentiment that accountability must be swift and decisive, especially in the context of a year riddled with political controversies.
The conclusion of this chapter leaves unanswered questions about the broader implications for parliamentary conduct, the role of character in assessing accountability, and the urgency for swift action in response to racially charged incidents. As the aftermath unfolds, the case serves as a microcosm of the ongoing struggle to address issues of racial sensitivity and accountability within the political landscape, urging a critical examination of the standards expected from elected officials and the consequences for transgressions.