Erewash Borough Council probes mayor’s ‘play the white man’ comment during heated debate

A formal complaint has been lodged against the mayor of Erewash after he told fellow councillors to ‘play the white man’.

Conservative councillor Christopher Corbett made the comment during a meeting of the full council on Thursday, November 8.

Councillor Chris Corbett, the mayor of Erewash.

Councillor Chris Corbett, the mayor of Erewash.

During a heated debate over plans to sign over the running of five leisure centres to a private company, Coun Corbett, who represents the Wilsthorpe ward, said that he was making a bid to calm down the situation so that each councillor had a fair opportunity to be heard and state their case.

However, he says, he selected a poor choice of words to achieve this effect, and has again apologised – which he had also done on the night in question, after being prompted by Labour’s Coun Dan Treacy.

Conservative Coun Kewal Athwal, who represents the same ward as Coun Corbett, was the member speaking at the time.

A formal complaint has been submitted by the council by a member of the public.

Coun Corbett told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There were continuous interruptions, and I was trying to make councillors be fair, and let each other speak.

“However, the way I chose to do this was by using the wrong set of words, I said ‘come on, play the white man’.

“It is not the right thing to say, and I apologised right away.

“I am sorry and I apologised right away, and that seemed to be the end of it.

“We all make mistakes, we are not perfect.

“Sometimes people do get upset and I don’t want to be the cause of that.”

The term ‘Play the white man’ is believed to mean ‘Do the right thing’ along with, ‘be decent and trustworthy’, but has fallen into disrepute due to the potential connotation that white people are better than other ethnicities.

The phrase is thought to be more commonly used in Yorkshire and The Humber, with similar variations in the USA.

Ian Sankey, director of resources and deputy chief executive at Erewash Borough Council, said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received and this is currently being dealt with by the council.”