Former Barnet mayor Brian Coleman apologises for 'blackshirts' comment

By Zoe Winograd, November 8, 2012

An eight-month-long political dispute was finally resolved this week after two political activists in north west London received an apology from the former mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman, over email comments he made about their Israel boycott campaign.

In March, Ron Cohen and Dr Charlotte Jago, both Barnet residents, emailed Councillor Coleman asking him to prevent the Veolia environmental company from working with the North London Waste Authority, because of Veolia’s involvement in the Jerusalem light rail project.

But in an angry email exchange, Mr Coleman, who is not Jewish, accused Mr Cohen of being a “disloyal Israeli” and told Dr Jago: “I suppose 70 years ago you would have been in the blackshirts.”

When they both complained to Barnet Council, its standards sub-committee ordered Mr Coleman to apologise, but he refused to do so, ignoring a September deadline.

Finally, however, he sent Mr Cohen and Dr Jago a letter, which read: “In line with the recent standards board rulling [sic], I hereby apologies [sic] for any offense [sic] caused by the emails in question.” He has since been suspended from the Conservative Party.

Though Dr Jago said she was glad finally to receive his apology, Mr Cohen was less impressed. He told local press: “I wanted a bit of sincerity but he didn’t mean it and the spelling mistakes and the briefness of the note prove that.”

In a separate matter, Councillor Coleman pleaded not guilty this week to a charge of assault by beating, and driving without due care and attention. He will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates on February 6 2013.

Last updated: 10:54am, November 8 2012