Ex-mayor forced to say sorry for 'blackshirts' outburst


A controversial councillor has been ordered to apologise to two residents whom he likened to fascists during arguments over a company with links to Israel.

In heated emails, Barnet councillor Brian Coleman dismissed their complaints as "anti-Israel nonsense" and told one: "I suppose 70 years ago you would have been in the blackshirts."

The residents had written to Cllr Coleman about waste management company Veolia's involvement with the North London Waste Authority, which he chairs.

Anti-Israel activists have regularly targeted the French firm over its links to the Jerusalem light rail project.

Cllr Coleman is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel and is the London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden. Barnet Council's standards committee investigated complaints from four residents about the remarks he made in emails to them.

On Monday, he was cleared of bringing the authority into disrepute but was found to have breached conduct rules on respect. He was ordered to write letters of apology to two of the residents.

He had dismissed their emails - some of which included information about Veolia, collated by the Jews for Justice for Palestinians group - as "cut and paste anti-Israel" nonsense.

When one resident replied saying he was Israeli, Cllr Coleman told him he was "disloyal" and had been "flushed out". He later labelled the anti-Veolia campaign "antisemitic".

Following the hearing, Cllr Coleman said he had been defending Veolia against allegations of war crimes and did not differentiate between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

The former Barnet mayor intends to appeal against the council's ruling. He said: "I do not apologise for fighting antisemitism wherever it lies. We have it at a low level in Barnet. I shall continue to fight this case."

Zionist Federation co-vice chair Jonathan Hoffman led a demonstration of support for Cllr Coleman outside the Hendon Town Hall hearing and said the councillor was "a terrific ally" of Israel and had shown "unstinting support".

Labour supporters accused the politician of using the issue to pander to Jewish voters who support Israel.

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