MP guilty of racial abuse to stand down at next election

Monday, Nov 20, 2023

LONDON: An MP who relinquished the Conservative whip after being convicted of racist abuse has announced he is standing down at the next election.

Bob Stewart, who has represented the London constituency of Beckenham since 2010, said he would not seek re-election in a brief statement on X, formerly Twitter, which made no reference to the recent conviction.

Earlier this month, a Government source told the PA news agency that Mr Stewart had informed Chief Whip Simon Hart that he wished to surrender the party whip until a possible appeal of his conviction is resolved.

Mr Stewart currently sits as an independent MP in the House of Commons.Mr Stewart said on social media: “Serving Beckenham as its Member of Parliament for 13 years has been an honour and privilege.

“I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has given me this opportunity. However, it is time for a new candidate, so I will not be seeking re-election at the next election.”

The geographical boundary of the Beckenham constituency is expected to be changed at the next general election following a regular review process carried out by the Boundary Commission for England which is seeking to introduce greater uniformity in population sizes across the seats for Westminster.

A new constituency of Beckenham and Penge has been proposed.Mr Stewart, 74, who is also a former British Army officer and served as a United Nations commander in Bosnia, was earlier this month found guilty at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court of racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.

Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring found the MP guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence, and despite mentioning Mr Stewart’s “immense positive character”, remarked: “I accept he is not racist per se, but that is not the case against him.

“Good men can do bad things.”Mr Stewart had been attending an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy in London on December 14 last year when confronted with a protester who asked him “for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”

Addressing the allegation of racist abuse, Mr Stewart has previously said: “That’s absurd, it’s totally unfair, my life has been, I don’t want to say destroyed, but I am deeply hurt at having to appear in a court like this.”

The MP said he was not a racist, and added: “‘Go back to Bahrain’ meant ‘Why don’t you go back to Bahrain and make your point there?’”A crowdfunding page set up by Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, to cover Mr Stewart’s fine and any further legal costs has already raised more than £18,000.

Mr Stewart joins a growing list of Tory MPs who have announced they will not stand at the next general election, expected next year.