New police chief backs Gaza protests

Greater Manchester’s first Police and Crime Commissioner, a long- standing pro-Palestinian campaigner, has said people “ought to draw very strong conclusions” about the Israeli Palestinian conflict and protest on the streets of Manchester.

Tony Lloyd, a former Labour MP and one of three PCCs to claim £100,000 salary after gaining 139,437 votes, a majority of 51 per cent, said his position to protect the right for political protests about the Middle East was “robust”.

“People all over the world are watching what is going on in the Middle East and will draw very strong conclusions, as they ought to. They may be very different conclusions, but people are entitled to express political support or political opposition, to explain or to condemn, and that in a democracy is what we do... I will defend or protect anyone’s right to protest or exercise free speech,” he said.

The comments mark a very different position taken by Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy, who has historically opted to diffuse political tensions, telling the JC in 2010: “We would like to do more to make sure events in the Middle East don’t play out on the streets of Manchester.”

However, Mr Lloyd, who sought an early meeting with Manchester CST, warned that protests “can’t be allowed to spill over into antisemitism, not without being dealt with”. He vowed to look at how to reduce antisemitic crime in Manchester, which has the highest rate of anti-Jewish attacks per capita in the UK, and has historically spiked in numbers during Mideast conflict.

“It’s clear that it is not possible for any commissioner in Greater Manchester to fail to address antisemitism. Yes, I will look at it specifically,” he said.

Mr Lloyd stepped down as Labour’s Manchester Central MP to contest the PCC elections. While an MP, he supported a number of Palestinian causes. In 2009, the Labour Party refused to criticise Mr Lloyd, then party chairman, for breaking party policy by meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza.

Last updated: 12:45pm, November 23 2012