By Marcus Dysch
September 15, 2009
So Brent North MP Barry Gardiner has dismissed his recently appointed communications officer Joseph Brown for not revealing he was pro-Palestinian.
Mr Gardiner, a former vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said while he didn’t expect his employees to share his political views, he was unhappy that former student union anti-racism officer Brown had not revealed what a controversial figure he had been at LSE.
For those who don’t remember our revelation in January, look here at what Brown got up to during the Gaza conflict.
After being pictured wearing a keffiyeh and after proposing an anti-Israel motion, young Brown claimed his views did not affect his anti-racism role. It was a claim which was at best short-sighted and at worst completely ludicrous.
At the time, UJS pointed out that it was an “unacceptable” situation for Jewish and Israeli students to be intimidated into feeling unsafe on their campuses. It was worse still that the person they should turn to at worrying times would be greeting them with a placard and a Free Palestine T-shirt.
Anyway, Brown graduates and turns up at the Commons. There are so many questions we could ask about Mr Gardiner’s interview and application process that I could go on all day.
Presumably at some stage there was a quick discussion over what Brown had got up to at uni. You know the kind of thing: “Were you involved in any political groups, did you do anything at the union, did you strut around with a keffiyeh round your neck, two placards and a “Make Apartheid History” shirt on?”
If Mr Gardiner asked, and Brown lied, then of course he should have been sacked. Perhaps that was how it happened.
Perhaps Mr Gardiner didn’t ask. Which would also be pretty short-sighted. A simple Google search of “Joseph Brown LSE” immediately throws up our story from January and a similar piece from the Evening Standard – headlined “Allegations of anti-semitism at LSE” no less.
In January Brown was conceited, telling me his political views were consistent and that Jewish and Israeli colleagues were aware of his outlook.
If he wants to hold those views then he is perfectly entitled to do so. But he can’t have his cake and eat it.
He must have known Mr Gardiner’s views and previous role when he applied for the job. He obviously had the chutzpah to continue with his application, but did he not also see the potential for a fall out somewhere down the line?
Whether he is as arrogant now as he was in January remains to be seen. We await his response to the sack with interest.
I've now seen Brown's statement. He is, unsurprisingly, unrepentant. Among many accusations and claims he launches back at Mr Gardiner is the suggestion, as you'll see below, that his stance on the Israel-Palestinian situation was made perfectly clear during his interview.
It rather makes you think that Mr Gardiner knew what he was getting with Brown, but thought no one else would know of him or ask any questions. Little did he know that we all already knew about Brown's actions earlier in the year.
My selected highlights of the statement are below, of particular amusement are Brown's helpful hints for the electorate in Brent North. As if they'd care what he has to say...
"Barry was well aware of my involvement in student pro-Palestinian activism and work professionally for a Palestinian-American interest group based in Washington DC. It was not only very clearly illustrated on my CV and in my studies, it was his first question at interview and moreover, I had supplied him with published articles outlining my opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"The suggestion that I hid any of my study, work or activism from the MP is unfounded. The argument that I should have told Barry what allegations had been made against me and dismissed in the past, is as unreasonable as asking a man on trial to list all of the charges he has ever been found innocent of, ‘just in case’.
"I had hoped that Barry had developed a stronger moral character since his dismissal by the Prime Minster last September and would not allow provably untrue allegations of racism and anti-Semitism against his staff stand unopposed. My hopes in this regard were evidently misplaced.
"Barry Gardiner did originally show some generosity in offering me the chance to resign before going to the press and agreed to point out the absurdity of my being accused of racism - an offer I felt obliged take in order to prevent the message of the Labour Party being obscured. He reneged on both of these promises after I resigned in writing; well before he informed me I would be dismissed.
"While I can think of few things more worrying than the prospect of a Tory government, I have come to the conclusion that Brent North could find far more appropriate Labour candidates than Barry, who has no issue with ignoring the right course of action, in favour of the easier route."