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A RACISM row has erupted after a Deptford by-election result prompted claims of a ruling "ethnic mafia".

Labour’s newest councillor Olufunke Abidoye swept to victory in Evelyn ward - claiming more than 50 per cent of the votes in the polls held late last month.

It comes after Labour councillor Joseph Folorunso - who would have faced dismissal for not showing at council meetings for nearly six months - stepped down last month to continue running an orphanage in Togo.

Ms Abidoye gained 978 votes out of a total 1751, with Lewisham's People Before Profit candidate Barbara Raymond ranking second with 404.

But as the winner was announced, John Hamilton, of Lewisham's People Before Profit, tweeted: "Interesting how many electors, have complained of the ethnic mafia that controls Labour in Evelyn ward. Not popular after years of neglect."

Lewisham Council's cabinet member for strategy and communications Cllr Damien Egan slammed the comment as "outrageous" and "irresponsible".

But Mr Hamilton defended it, saying the view was not his own but one repeated among voters who felt a Nigerian “clique” were dominating the ward and not doing a good job.

Mr Egan told News Shopper: "I think it is outrageous. "I have never heard a wannabe politician complaining about an ethnic minority when we have a shortage of black and ethnic minority councillors in Lewisham.

"I would like to see more black African and more black and ethnic minority people standing in Lewisham."

He added: "It [the tweet] is irresponsible because it goes out to a lot of people."

Ms Abidoye replaces Mr Folorunso and joins Labour’s Crada Onuegbu and Sam Owulabi-Oluyole in Evelyn ward.

Mr Hamilton says the issue has nothing to do with skin colour and had been raised by black and white voters.

The complaints were based on some candidates and current councillors having Nigerian-sounding names which Mr Egan says is "stereotyping".

Mr Hamilton said: "They said it seemed like a clique.

"Our own candidate is black - it is not an issue of colour, it was people felt this group had taken over.”

Mr Hamilton criticised the poor attendance of Mr Folorunso as well as fellow Labour ward councillors Mr Onuegbu and Mr Owulabi-Oluyole.

He said: "They are not good councillors and from the same group - it doesn’t look very transparent.

“I would probably want a spread - men and women, black and white. I wouldn’t want to re-elect from the same disgraced group."

He added that two of the nominees for Ms Abidoye’s campaign appeared to be members of "disgraced" Mr Folorunso’s family.

Just 16.2 per cent of the electorate turned out on March 28 with Lib Dems candidate William Town coming third with 131 and UKIP's Paul Oakley and Tory rep Simon Nundy each gaining 119 votes.