Under-fire Melton councillor criticises football Black Lives Matter gesture

A Melton borough councillor whose conduct is being investigated by the council after being accused of using a racist phrase on social media has criticised the football authorities for allowing Premier League players to wear the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their shirts.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 6:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 10:32 am
Councillor Simon Lumley, a representative for Newport Ward on Melton Borough Council EMN-200617-081751001

Simon Lumley, who is a representative of the town’s Newport ward, was condemned on social media for Tweeting the hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter in response to worldwide protests about the prejudice against black people following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers in the United States.

Councillor Lumley denied he was racist, that he was unaware the phrase was used by white supremacist groups and that he was only trying to balance the debate by implying that all lives mattered.

But he has resigned from the ruling Conservative group on Melton Borough Council as a consequence and is awaiting the results of a council investigation which is expected to be concluded next month.

Spurs players pictured on Match of The Day this week with the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of their shirts as part of a campaign to fight racism EMN-200624-113403001

And Councillor Lumley has risked evoking further criticism with comments about the football world’s support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as matches resumed in the last week following an easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

He compared the issue to when footballers were initially prevented from wearing a poppy on their shirts to commemorate fallen members of the British armed forces because it was deemed a political exercise.

Councillor Lumley contacted the Melton Times to say: “What makes me so angry is that the football authorities had some time ago banned the red poppy on football shirts because it was making a political point.

“In fact, it was only to commemorate the loss of British soldiers killed in both world wars, but also our soldiers killed in conflicts since then.

“Now the FA and the Premier League have given the go ahead to have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of football players’ shirts in the Premier League, which as we all know is a huge political point, with the decision confirmed from them in no time.”

He has also now denied there has been a widespread backlash to his use of the #WhiteLivesMatter phrase and says the critical comments that were made came from left wing extremists who then ‘bullied and intimidated’ anyone who voiced support for him.

“In fact, there was very low disgust and, actually, the complaints only came from hard left wing activists, not moderates, around Leicestershire and the country,” said Councillor Lumley.

“Unfortunately, following the initial Black Lives Matter peaceful protest by many people worldwide, the UK protests have been quickly hijacked by far left activists intent on destroying our great and solid British culture.

“The government urgently needs to get a grip on all of this or another political party could well emerge soon if things do not change.”

He hinted that the fall-out from his initial social media post has taken a toll on his mental health, adding: “I would like to say thank you to those councillors and members of the public who have contacted me on a regular basis to ask how I am.”

His comments come after council leader Joe Orson issued another strongly-worded statement on the authority’s commitment to tackling any form of racism.

Speaking at the latest cabinet meeting, he said: “Melton has not been immune from this turmoil and I believe now more than ever Melton Borough Council needs to send out a clear and unambiguous message to all our communities that we will continue to champion equality and fairness, and that we will not tolerate racism in any form, at any time.

“There is, of course, much more we can do and I have already submitted a motion for council in July and at our next meeting I will ask all councillors across the chamber to join me in reaffirming our commitments to tackle racism and to promote equality.

“I will also be setting out proposals for where I think we can do more in this area and I will look forward to discussing with members next month.”