Labour activist shared neo-Nazi material, is still embraced by local party - and now elected councillor

Local MP insists she forwarded complaint about Rachel Abbotts to party - but she and local party continued to back her


A Labour activist who shared the claim “the Jews declared war on Germany in 1933” has been elected a councillor - amid confusion over whether she was even investigated over it despite numerous complaints.

Rachel Abbotts won a seat on High Peak Borough Council, Derbyshire in Thursday's elections, helping Labour take control of the council with a majority of one.

The JC has learned that complaints about the material Ms Abbotts shared online were sent to local Labour MP Ruth George, who said in February she had passed it on to the local and national party.

But it is understood the party's complaints unit claimed to have no record of receiving the material and is now investigating "urgently" after the JC made enquiries.

Ms George, who told one complainant the matter was being probed “both nationally and at constituency level”, insisted she did forward the complaint.

Ms Abbotts posted the material in 2016 as she took part in a discussion on Facebook with her partner, Mark Abbotts.

He had told another person that “people seem to forget that it was the Jews who declared war on Germany”, before attempting to share a link to back up his claim.

When he could not share it, he wrote: “Hitler stated that no-one will ever ask the victors if they told the truth… and its [sic] probably isn’t available, the truth apparently rarely is, but its [sic] still true…”

Ms Abbotts then shared a screenshot of the article her partner appeared to be referring to, an article republished on a website called “Wintersonnenwende”, which attempts to rehabilitate the image of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

According to the site, the article was originally published on The Barnes Review, a website the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “one of the most virulent antisemitic organisations around… dedicated to historical revisionism and Holocaust denial.”

The article put “The Holocaust” in quote marks and claimed that “Jewish leaders, in combination with powerful international Jewish financial interests" boycotted Germany "for the express purpose" of crippling the economy to bring down the Nazis.

It adds that Jewish people "effectively fired the first shot in the Second World War.”

It claimed that the Nazis never planned to exterminate Jews and that the deportation of German Jews to the East was in response to “the leadership of the world Jewish community [having] formally declared war on Germany… the German authorities thus deemed Jews to be potential enemy agents.”

A number of complaints about Ms Abbott’s conduct were made to both Ms George and the High Peak Constituency Labour Party (CLP).  

In February, Ms George e-mailed one complainant, thanking them for “the further information”.

“I have shared this with the High Peak Constituency Labour Party…like me they were unaware of these posts from two years ago and your earlier complaints," she wrote.

“The matter is now in the hands of the Labour party, both nationally and at constituency level.”

But it is unclear what, if any investigation the party undertook.

Ms George's spokesperson told the JC: “Ruth George’s office received a complaint earlier this year regarding an exchange on Facebook in 2016.

“The complaint was referred on to the Labour Party’s complaints unit so that it could be fully investigated and taken through due process.

"Ruth George is absolutely committed to driving antisemitism out of the Labour Party and wider society.”

A Labour spokesperson said the party "takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously" and is "committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms".

"All complaints about antisemitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken,” the spokesperson added.

Last week, Cllr Abbotts was pictured next to Ms George in a victory photograph showing members of the High Peak CLP captioned “One Happy Labour Family!”

Also pictured was Kasey Carver, a council candidate who was revealed to have shared material about “Zionist influence of the BBC”, and conspiracy theories about “Israeli support for Isis”.

She also organised an event in aid of Palestinian children where Holocaust denier Alison Chabloz, who was later convicted over publishing antisemitic songs, performed.

High Peak CLP chair Fiona Sloman told the Buxton Advertiser that the local party was “more than happy with her explanation and that she has apologised" and noted Ms Carver had since undergone antisemitism training.

The JC understands that Ms Carver has now been elected High Peak CLP secretary.

In addition, Ms George apologised in February after suggesting that the MPs who quit Labour to set up Change UK may have been “financially backed” by Israel.

Last weekend, she and Cllr Abbotts took part in a charity run together, with Ms George praising Cllr Abbotts for being “incredibly brave” after she fell and broke her wrist.

“I would like to say how amazing Ruth George MP for High Peak was today”, the new Labour councillor tweeted on Saturday.

“She waited with me for the ambulance and was so supportive then coming to see me at the hospital. Thank you Ruth xx.”

After this story went live, Cllr Abbotts took to Facebook to say she was "deeply and sincerely sorry" for what happened.

She claimed she shared the article to dispute - not support - her partner's argument, saying there were "serious health issues" affecting both and her partner, who "after talking it through, realised (his argument) was wrong".  

Cllr Abbotts said this "in no way excuses what happened but I hope it provides some degree of context".

She said the suggestion Jewish people "declared war" on the Nazis was "an obviously wrong and clearly antisemitic claim".

Fiona Sloman, who chairs the High Peak CLP, said they became aware of the matter in February but stressed "sole responsibility for investigating such matters lies with the national Labour Party".

The CLP met to re-examine Cllr Abbotts' nomination for the council but found "no evidence of antisemitism on Rachel’s part", she added, saying Cllr Abbotts had shared the article without commenting on it.

"Rachel Abbotts is an active and vigorous campaigner for the Labour Party locally and we were delighted when she was elected as a councillor," she added.

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