Labour suspends 14 over antisemitism, Tories urged to expel councillors

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Labour suspends 14 over antisemitism, Tories urged to expel councillors

EXCLUSIVE: Both parties in Peterborough rocked by claims of Jew-hatred ahead of local elections, with at least SEVEN elected Labour officials accused of antisemitism.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Paul Bristow won the Peterborough seat from Labour’s Lisa Forbes in 2019
Paul Bristow won the Peterborough seat from Labour’s Lisa Forbes in 2019

Both the Labour and Conservative parties in the city of Peterborough have been rocked by serious allegations of antisemitism amongst members – just one week before the UK goes to the polls for local elections.

Labour have moved to suspend at least 14 individuals, including at least SEVEN councillors, from both the Peterborough and North Cambridgeshire CLPs, some in recent days, after being alerted to the circulation of antisemitic tropes around alleged Zionist control of leader Sir Keir Starmer, along with videos of hate speeches of extremists.

A party spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that the party had taken the decision to suspend the 14 individuals following complaints about antisemitic conduct.

They added that they have taken the action now ahead of the May 6 election as part of the leadership’s “determination to root out all forms of antisemitism form our party and it is testament to our commitment to zero tolerance that we will not be influenced by an election timetable.”

It is understood that among those administratively suspended by the party and facing investigation into allegations including antisemtism are Councillor Ansar Ali, Richard Stargward, Cllr Angus Ellis, Colin and Linda Watson, Cllr Samantha Hemraj, Kit Hubback, Cllrs Mahboob Hemraj , Cllr Shabina Qayyum, Cllr Aasiayah Joseph and Cllr Mohammed Jamil from Peterborough CLP.

Those suspended from North Cambridgeshire CLP included Janet Armstrong and Jonathan Orchard.

Labour said they would not be commenting further on the investigations into allegations of antisemitism at this time.

The Tories are facing calls to act over allegations made against at least three local members, who are either sitting councillors or candidates, including one individual who shared of article that claimed Israel was carrying out a “Final Solution” in Gaza, and who also circulated a speech by a hate preacher banned from entering the UK.

After being shown images circulated by one member of the Peterborough Tory Party, Andrew Percy, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism (APPGAA) told Jewish News he had asked for their “immediate removal” from the party.

Andrew Percy MP

The Jewish Leadership Council said they were “extremely concerned” after being shown comments made by a sitting Peterborough Conservative councillor and two other former electoral candidates.

Referring to problems with antisemitism within both main parties in the region a JLC spokesperson said the communal organisation believes there is “a specific and identifiable problem in Peterborough politics that needs to be resolved.”

Laboour sources told Jewish News on Wednesday it was “no surprise at all” to them that at least 14 individuals from the Peterborough party had been suspended.

“This is an area that has had significant problems with antisemitism and racism in the past.

“It is about time that the leadership moved to put a stop to this, even if we are days away from a general election.

“Existing political structures have been ramshackle in the region for sometime , to say the least.”

During a June 2019 by-election Labour’s candidate in Peterborough Lisa Forbes apologised for liking a post that said Theresa May had a “Zionist slave-masters agenda”.

Former local councillor Forbes, who went on win the marginal seat before being voted out at the general election, said she apologised “wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts”.

Ex Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn celebrates with Lisa Forbes (Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

The MP later said she would undertake antisemitism training regardless of whether she was elected.

Peterborough Tories were this week under pressure to suspend members involved in allegations of antisemitism and in the promotion of hate material from a preacher who defended Osama Bin Laden.

The most controversial posts were revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph including one from Cllr Mohammed Nadeem, member for North ward on Peterborough City Council.

Cllr Mohammed Nadeem

Cllr Nadeem, who is not seeking re-election next month, promoted a speech from Zakir Naik, who was banned from entering the UK in 2010, and was described as a hate preacher by ex Prime Minister David Cameron.

The councillor described a speech which he shared by the preacher as “eye-opening” and urged his followers to “watch and listen carefully.”

The speech referred to “259 attacks conducted by Jewish terrorists” from 1941 up until Israel’s foundation in 1948.

Mr Percy, the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, told Jewish News: “These are shocking examples of racist antisemitism which are totally unacceptable in any political party or from anyone.

“I have demanded this individuals’ immediate removal from the Conservative Party and I have raised it personally with the Party Chairman and her office.

“These vile antisemitic rantings have no place in my party and no place in society and my party must move quickly to deal with this and other examples.”

Meanwhile a post by former city council candidate Muhammed Ikram showed he had shared an article accusing Israel of promoting a “final solution” for Gaza.

Cllr Muhammed Ikram

He wrote:”Can you really support Zionism after this?”

The Tories said Mr Ikram was not a member of the party when he shared the article and that he “no longer holds or agrees with comments he made at the time.”

A Peterborough Conservatives spokesperson said:”Cllr Mohammed Nadeem did not endorse the hateful views expressed by Zakir Naik.Our understanding is that he was not aware of Naik’s reputation when he shared a single video six years ago which did not exemplify his wider hate.

“The comments made by Munhammed Ikram are from 2014.Prior to him joined the Conservatives in 2016 he was a member of the Liberal Democrats and he no longer holds or agrees with comments he made at that time.”

Another Peterborough Conservative council candidate was revealed to have shared a post stating: “The Jews in Israel are not true Jews.”

A spokesperson for Peterborough Conservatives added they “utterly reject antisemitism.”

Jewish News has also learned of growing concern amongst communal leaders about the failure of the Conservative Party to act over allegations of antisemitism within local parties across the country.

“In quite a few cases, investigations into allegations involving Tory Party members appear to drift into a black hole,” said one senior figure within the community.

“Labour got into big trouble under Corbyn because it seemed as though they weren’t interested in tackling antisemitism.”

As well as Peterborough, the Tories have seen issues around antisemitism in the local party in Warrington, Cheshire, emerge over recent months.

Earlier this month the party said they would investigate a local council candidate in Hillingdon, west London over a “Jew boy” post on social media.

Elections take place across the country next Thursday on May 6, with more 48 million voters able to go to the polls to elect councillors, local mayors and also for several by-elections.

Jewish News approached the Conservative Party for comment over calls for them to take further action.

Labour added the party “takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our disciplinary procedures and any appropriate action is taken.”

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