Councillor: I’m no racist

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Local Election Count 2010: Emma McGurrin celebrates taking Standish with Langtree

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Local Election Count 2010: Emma McGurrin celebrates taking Standish with Langtree

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A WIGAN councillor has been reported to town hall chiefs over an alleged foul-mouthed and racist rant at a taxi driver.

Documents leaked to the Wigan Evening Post show that private hire driver Javad Ghadri made an official complaint to the council’s licensing department after giving a lift to Coun Emma McGurrin.

He claims she told him to: “Go back to your country where you came from, or go to Bolton to live and work there, because you don’t belong here.”

But the councillor for Standish with Langtree today launched a passionate defence, saying she must have been misunderstood.

A former National Union of Students equal opportunities officer, Coun McGurrin said the point she was making had nothing to do with race, but referred to her ongoing campaign against taxi drivers from other areas, who have been taking work away from private hire and Hackney carriage drivers who live in Wigan. The complaint relates to a fare Mr Ghadri, from Worsley Mesnes, picked up at 11.30pm on Wednesday, February 8 from Sam’s Bar, in Wigan’s Orchard Street.

Mr Ghadri has declined to speak further about the incident, beyond what was is written in his complaint.

But Blue Star Taxis duty manager Andy Hewitt, who was rung mid-journey by the driver, said: “I could hear the passenger using very strong language, and shouting for the driver to ‘turn right, turn left’, and so on, and seemed to be upset that he didn’t know where he was going.

“But my understanding is that when she got in the vehicle, and the driver asked where she wanted to go, all she would say was ‘Scholes’, so no wonder he was confused.

“She then asked him if he was from as far away as Nelson, and then began going on about people coming over from Nelson and Bolton to take drivers’ jobs here.

“Because those two areas have quite large ethnic populations, and the driver is from an Asian background I took this to be a racial comment.

“She is a councillor, she should not speak to people like that. She should know better.”

Mr Ghadri has decided not to pursue the matter with the police.

But in his statement to the licensing section, he wrote: “In the middle of the journey she began to pick on me for no reason.

“She was using bad language in a totally racist manner.

“She was shouting at me and asked me for my taxi driver’s number, which I didn’t provide her with.

“Then she said ‘you’d better go back to your own country where you came from, or go to Bolton to live and work there, because you don’t belong here’.

“I am a hard-working person, with a family, who has done nothing wrong in this matter. I deserve better than this, and I would hope that people like this lady would be educated enough to respect for others.”

But Coun McGurrin said today: “I know exactly what the issue was that night.

“He is a driver originally from Nelson and I was talking about people taking jobs off Wigan taxi drivers.

“I have been approached by 13 local drivers who have been complaining that they are having to put in a lot of extra hours to make up for there being too many drivers in the borough.

“Specificall,y there’s a surplus coming from Nelson and Bolton, and this has absolutely nothing to do with racial backgrounds.

“I have been pushing licensing to stop giving out all these licences to drivers from other areas because it is damaging business for our local drivers.

“Any allegations of racism are completely unfounded.

“I must have been misunderstood. I have campaigned for equal opportunities ever since I was a student.”

A Wigan Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that we received a complaint from Blue Star Taxis and we have responded to it.”