Uproar at Ipswich Council meeting as Tory leader storms out

Ian Fisher

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

An Ipswich Borough Council meeting ended in uproar with the leader of the opposition Conservative group shouting at the mayor as he stormed out during a vote on Islamophobia.

Other councillors said Tory leader Ian Fisher shouted abuse at mayor Elizabeth Hughes as he left. Mr Fisher said he could not remember the exact words he used: "I think I said 'You're useless, you've been useless all night,' but I might have sworn - I was so angry I can't remember exactly what I said."

Wednesday evening's full council degenerated into a row when the council debated a proposal that it should adopt a definition of Islamophobia that has been drawn up by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims in the House of Commons.

Labour council leader David Ellesmere had asked Mr Fisher to second the motion to show a united front at the meeting, but the Conservative leader had refused.

His group had opposed the adoption because it had concerns over some elements of it. Mr Fisher said: "We agreed with most of the wording, but there were elements we could not agree to. The definition has not been accepted by the government."

He said there were significant differences between that motion and one adopted unanimously last year expressing opposition to antisemitism.

Mr Fisher and his group were then angered when several Labour councillors accused them of racism - and he was frustrated that Ms Hughes did not step in to stop these attacks.

Ipswich mayor Elizabeth Hughes

Ipswich Mayor Elizabeth Hughes was shouted at by Ian Fisher as he left the meeting. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

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He has made a formal complaint about how she chaired the meeting - and about the conduct of two Labour councillors. He said he walked out because he was not prepared to stay to hear his group branded racist any further.

Mr Ellesmere said the definition of Islamophobia had been adopted by councils across the country - of all political persuasions.

It had been drawn up by politicians of all parties in a group co-chaired by Conservative MP Paul Bristow - and was closely based on the antisemitism policy that had won a united front at the council.

Both Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors had been shocked by the Conservatives' walk-out. LibDem Oliver Holmes said tempers had run high throughout that debate.

Most Conservatives who stayed at the meeting voted against adopting the Islamophobia definition although three abstained. The Labour and LibDem councillors voted to adopt it.