Sir Eric Pickles urged to apologise for ‘anti-Semitism’ claims mix up

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Sir Eric Pickles urged to apologise for ‘anti-Semitism’ claims mix up

The Tory MP confused two councillors called John Clarke, one of whom had sent 'anti-Semitic' messages online

lORD Eric Pickles
lORD Eric Pickles

Calls have been made for Sir Eric Pickles to apologise personally to a council leader over false claims he posted alleged anti-Semitic remarks on social media.

The former Communities Secretary wrote to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for a John Clarke to be suspended from the party after sharing a tweet which appeared to contain slurs against Israel.

However, the letter from Sir Eric seen by the Press Association refers to John Clarke as leader of Gedling Borough Council in Nottinghamshire, while the posts came from an account linked to another John Clarke who sits on Black Notley Parish Council in Essex.

Sir Eric, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, wrote: “This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that Labour is committed to the new definition of anti-Semitism and I would urge you to seize it and suspend John Clarke as a member of the Labour party, and from the Gedling Borough Council group.

“Failure to do so would be an appalling dereliction of duty to Jewish people across the country and will raise serious questions about your commitment to stamping out anti-Semitism in Labour.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “We apologise to Councillor Clarke for the mistake made.”

The endorsement of the post by John Clarke, which was followed by a denial he was anti-Semitic
The endorsement of the post by John Clarke, which was followed by a denial he was anti-Semitic

Michael Payne, deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council, said he wants Sir Eric to withdraw his “disgraceful” comments.

He said: “It’s an outrageous slur against John and we’re calling on Mr Pickles to apologise personally and publically for this.”

“They’ve clearly done research in writing this letter, but haven’t done the basics.”

John Clarke, the Essex councillor and former parliamentary candidate for Witham, has denied that he holds anti-Semitic views.

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