Solicitor suspended after BBC debate appearance

Solicitor second to be suspended from job after debate appearance

Aman Thakar said his tweet was "sarcastic"

Thursday, June 20, 2019

An employment solicitor who questioned the Tory leadership candidates during a TV debate has become the second person to be suspended from their job over social media comments.

Aman Thakar, who was the Labour Party candidate in Borough and Bankside in the Southwark local election last year, has been suspended with immediate effect by solicitors Leigh Day while the law firm investigates one of his previous tweets.

It is the latest fallout from the BBC debate, which the broadcaster has defended, after one of the other members of the public chosen to question the five candidates, imam Abdullah Patel, was suspended from the school where he works after criticism over his past comments on Israel.

Screenshots taken before Mr Thakar made his Twitter account private showed he once suggested "Hitler's abuse of the term nationalism is, to me a nationalist, the most harmful part of his legacy".

Mr Thakar, who did not declare his previous Labour affiliation on screen, asked the candidates when they would call a general election after saying they would have "no mandate from the people".

He tweeted on Wednesday evening: "Context on my tweets regarding Hitler, my full and sincere apologies for any offence caused".

The debate took place on Tuesday before the third vote

He said he had commented on a speech by a US conservative commentator which had discussed Adolf Hitler and nationalism.

Mr Thakar tweeted: "Was me being sarcastic about this speech, Candace Owens was defending nationalism, hence I said "to me a nationalist", and said sarcastically as a nationalist the abuse of the term was the worst part of his legacy

"This is not my point of view, I was being sarcastic about the speech that was given and hope this provides you with the full context of the comment."

A BBC spokesman said: "A background in politics doesn't disqualify anyone from taking part in a debate show. Last night's questioners held a range of political views and we did not specify these views nor their backgrounds although some chose to do so themselves.

"The last questioner on the debate is a solicitor who was seconded by his law firm to the Labour Party in the past, rather than being a Labour 'staffer'. He is a Labour supporter and once stood as a councillor."

Mr Patel, who asked the contenders about 'Islamophobia' during Tuesday's debate, has been criticised for past tweets in which he said "every political figure on the Zionist's payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn".

He also shared an image endorsing the relocation of Israel to the US as a way of solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The BBC said Mr Patel would not have been selected for the programme if it had been aware of his previous comments, and said his Twitter account had been deactivated ahead of his appearance - meaning the old tweets could not be read.

Al-Ashraf Primary School in Gloucester said in a statement posted on its website that it had suspended Mr Patel, who is the deputy headteacher, from all school duties.

Yakub Patel, chairman of Al-Madani Educational Trust, said an investigation was being carried out and the school does not "share the views attributed" to the deputy headteacher. 

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