60 percent of councils yet to adopt IHRA are CONSERVATIVE
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60 percent of councils yet to adopt IHRA are CONSERVATIVE

EXCLUSIVE: Complacent Tory-led authorities ignoring ministers on antisemitism definition, while five Labour-run bodies have not adopted it.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Protestors opposing antisemitism 

 (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA)
Protestors opposing antisemitism (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA)

The overwhelming majority of local councils in England that have yet to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism are under the control of the Conservatives, Jewish News can reveal.

At least 50 local councils – out of a total of 340 in England –  have ignored repeated calls by government ministers to adopt the the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, a report compiled by a communal organistion confirms.

The data, held by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and shared with government, confirms that of the 50 councils not signed up to IHRA – no less than 30 of them, some 60 per cent, are Tory led authorities.

The reluctance of some Tory local authorities to commit to the internationally recognised working definition – devised as a guide to modern day anti-Jewish racism – stands in direct contrast to the impressive record of support for IHRA from government ministers.

One senior government figure told Jewish News: “It’s not that most of the remaining Tory councils yet to adopt IHRA oppose the definition.

“It’s more than they just don’t see its adoption as being a priority.”

Asked to comment on the situation regarding Conservative councils and IHRA a spokesperson at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that at least three quarters of local councils in England have now adopted IHRA.

They said the government would strongly encourage those that have yet to adopt the definition to do so – and said they governement will be releasing a list of councils that have adopted the definition in due course.

The spokesperson stressed the government remains absolutely committed to tackling antisemitism.

In contrast to the Tories, Labour  has proved to more successful in encouraging its own councils to adopt the definition.

Just five Labour run authorities have yet to adopt the IHRA definition, according to the most up to date list of English councils.

Although worryingly, High Peaks borough council in Derbyshire, the scene of several incidents involving allegations of antisemitism amongst councillors, remains on the Labour list of authorities yet to sign up to the definition.

A further 12 councils, either independently controlled, or under the control of the Liberal Democrats, have also failed to commit to the adoption of IHRA, including those in Devon, in the south-west.

The JLC’s statistics confirm that a whole swathe of Conservative councils across Kent – including Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling, Maidstone, Canterbury and also Dover – have yet to adopt the IHRA definition.

Bolton Council – which came under Tory control at the 2019 general election – is another authority yet to sign up, and is the only authority in Greater Manchester not to have adopted IHRA.

Bolton Town Hall (Wikipedia/Source geograph.org.uk. Author Stephen McKay/ Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0))

In East Sussex, the Tory led Wealden council is also another name on this list.

Another notable Tory council yet to adopt IHRA is Huntingdonshire Council.

Meanwhile in north Yorkshire, Hambleton Council is also amongst the list of at least 30 Tory controlled authorities not to have adopted the definition.

Senior communal figures praised the role Labour’s shadow community secretary Steve Reed had played in proactively encouraging councils led by his party to adopt IHRA.

Alongside High Peaks council, Chorley, Warrington, Rossendale and Crawley authorites have yet to adopt the definition.

The shadow communities secretary has now written to all these councils again, including general secretary David Evans in the correspondance, asking local leaders to confirm a date by which they intend to commit to the definition.

Warrington, in Cheshire, have responded insisting they are “working on” adopting IHRA next month.

Jewish News understands that senior figures within the Conservatives had last year became so alarmed at the number of councils controlled by the party yet to adopt IHRA that they tasked Lord Pickles, the former local communities minister, to help rectify the situation.

But nearly one year later, Lord Pickles efforts have met with only limited success.

The Communities Secretary and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are amongst senior government figures to have made high profile appeals for the need for the definition to be adhered to.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education in Westminster,

In October 2019,  the Communities Secretary confirmed he had written to every local authority urging them to adopt IHRA in order that they were equiped to “fight racism in all its forms.”

Last November the Education Secretary wrote to all university chiefs warning them of possible sanctions if they failed to adopt the definition.

Scottish Conservatives have recently launched attacks on Nicola Sturgeon after the SNP struck a deal with two ministers from the Green Party. Tories highlighted the Scottish Greens failure to support IHRA.

But a report, published by the Campaign Against Antisemitism in October last year revealed the problem with Tory councils and IHRA.

It stated: “The Conservatives are the worst performing party, with by far the largest number of local authorities in their control yet to adopt the Definition in full with the examples.”

Asked to comment on the failure of so many Tory councils to adopt IHRA Board of Deputies vice president Amanda Bowman called on local authrorities to adopt the definition “as soon as possible and to play their part in the fight against this oldest of hatreds.”

Antisemitism protest in 2019

Dave Rich, director of communications at the Community Security Trust, commended both the Conservative government and Labour’s current leader ship under Keir Starmer for their “supportive” stance towards the Jewish community.

He said CST were “grateful” that “so many” local authorities had now adopted IHRA but called on those that had not to “follow the lead of their respective national parties.”

Labour shadow communities secretary Reed told Jewish News: “It is reassuring that almost every Labour-run council has now adopted the IHRA definition and examples of antisemitism.

Steve Reed

“Under Keir Starmer’s leadership Labour is rebuilding trust with the Jewish community as a top priority.

“Those few Labour councils that have not yet adopted the definition have been instructed to provide a date when they will do so.

“It is disappointing to see Conservative councils falling behind and Boris Johnson needs to explain what he is doing about it.

“We look forward to every council, irrespective of party control, adopting IHRA as a significant step forward in eliminating this pernicious form of racism from all our communities.”

Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the JLC said:“We are proud to have worked closely with MHCLG in helping over 290 Councils and authorities from across the political spectrum in England adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“There is more to do but the scale of adoption is a testament to the JLC’s regional work over the past five years.

“In every region in England where the JLC has a regional manager, we have had over 90% adoption and in Greater London together with LJF, we achieved 100% adoption.”

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