OPINION: We had to stand up to Councillor Plancey
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OPINION: We had to stand up to Councillor Plancey

Councillors Christian Gray and Chris Myers challenge Rabbi Alan Plancey's views on the LGBT community and claim they are now being 'unjustly targeted'

Cllr Gray and Cllr Myers
Cllr Gray and Cllr Myers

When a young gay Jewish man sent us a video report entitled ‘Loud, Proud and Jewish’ made by a Jewish LGBTQ+ organisation and this newspaper, back in 2014, we watched in discomfort at the language and tropes voiced by Councillor Rabbi Alan Plancey, a man with whom we disagree on most things but had always respected for his civic work. Given his candidacy for mayor of Hertsmere, we couldn’t remain silent.

Councillor Plancy denies being homophobic and has sought to explain the video by saying that he was not giving his own views, but was instead explaining the orthodox view to the film-makers. However, Councillor Plancey’s language crossed the line from religious teachings into statements which we consider to be hurtful, offensive and homophobic

We cannot comment on intent.  However, as queer councillors we live daily with the hurtful effect of such language.

We were privileged to be elected as Labour councillors last May, beating all expectations by winning a solid Tory ward.  Many people of faith supported us.  We unequivocally support the right to hold religious beliefs.  We know how much faith communities contribute to the enrichment of local civic life.

Our Jewish communities play an awesome role in that civic engagement. It is inspiring to see. We’ve stood against antisemitism within our own party and beyond. We attended the Labour Friends of Israel fringes at party conference and were proud to meet with its then chair, former MP, Louise Ellman. We’ve enjoyed meeting Jewish people and learning about the beauty of the plurality that exists inside the Jewish community.

Tory colleagues sought to excuse the views articulated by Councillor Plancey due to his age.  We do understand that Councillor Plancey’s stance may be generational. We would have welcomed the chance to sit with him to explain the deep hurt and anguish his words have caused. The damage that being told to “be quiet and unobtrusive” does to young LGBTQ+ people cannot be overestimated, especially when articulated by a well-respected community leader.

Cllr Alan Plancey with the Mayoral chains.

The controlling Conservative group at Hertsmere could have initiated LGBTQ+ inclusivity training for Councillor Plancey.  Instead, every single Tory councillor voted for him to become mayor.  Our objections were censored.  Even then, we were hopeful that the damage could have been repaired.  Sadly, matters escalated. One of his first acts as mayor Councillor Plancey used an interview with BBC Three Counties Radio to double down on his rhetoric, stating that “we are against the act not the individualand “I don’t want them to come and tell me I’m not living a proper life or that my children should be gay”.

We are now being threatened with a libel claim by Councillor Plancey.  The claim makes accusations of antisemitism towards us – they are false.  More importantly, they harm the ongoing struggle against genuine antisemitism at a critical time. As two gay men working alongside our Orthodox Jewish group leader Councillor Jeremy Newmark, we are deeply sad at being unjustly targeted for calling this out.  However, since speaking out last week, we have been inundated with support from Hertsmere residents, overwhelmingly from the local LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities. We have had supportive messages from local Conservatives.

We won’t be deterred from working to improve community relations. This commitment is strengthened by the humbling and deeply moving solidarity of the Jewish and LGBTQ+ community towards us.

We have had extremely productive discussions with community leader Cantor Sarah Grabiner of Radlett Reform Synagogue about starting a Hertsmere LGBTQ+ safe space.  We have learned about the more sensitive approaches to LGBTQ+ issues taken by other Orthodox and Charedi leaders, such as those published by Yehudis Fletcher writing in this newspaper.

In the words of the late Labour MP Jo Cox, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.  This is a message we will never forget.  Love will always conquer hate.

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