Labour is facing a crisis over its vetting of candidates after having to suspend three councillors exposed by the JC for alleged extremism or antisemitism in recent weeks – while a fourth is facing calls to go over offensive tweets.
In the latest scandal, the JC can reveal that Joy Wallace - who won a ward in north London’s Haringey earlier this month - accused a rabbi of being “paid handsomely” for criticising Jeremy Corbyn on Radio 4.
An ally of Haringey’s hard-left Momentum faction, Ms Wallace called Countdown's Jewish star Rachel Riley a “witch” for opposing the former Labour leader.
In a particularly shocking tweet, Ms Wallace commented on the appearance of Home Secretary Priti Patel - whose family roots are in India - to query her Asian heritage, claiming that her colour might be the result of the skin disease vitiligo “or a strong sunbed”.
Joy Wallace questioning the race of Priti Patel in a tweet (twitter)
Labour is now facing demands that Ms Wallace should be suspended pending investigation. A party spokesman told the JC: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.” It is understood that officials are already looking into Ms Wallace’s case.
The latest development comes as the party is coming under a storm of criticism for failing to weed out extremists, despite Keir Starmer’s pledge to expunge the legacy of the Corbyn years.
On Tuesday, another Haringey Labour councillor, Ibrahim Ali was suspended after the JC revealed he had defended the description of Isis killer Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man” while working fulltime for controversial campaigning group CAGE.
Last week, Milton Keynes councillor Ansar Hussein was suspended after the JC exposed his allegedly antisemitic social media posts about Israel. He has since issued a statement apologising for the hurt he realised he had caused.
On 4 May, the day before local elections, the JC exposed a councillor in the east London borough of Newham, Belgica Guana, as having shared an article online which said: “The so-called ‘Holocaust’ is propaganda in an ongoing war between the Jews and those with the courage to stand up to them.”
Ms Guana was suspended by the party on the eve of the elections but still was re-elected to her seat.
Former Labour MP Lord Austin, who resigned from Labour in 2019 over what he called its “culture of extremism, antisemitism and intolerance”, asked: “How on earth can the Labour Party claim all the problems of antisemitism have been resolved when they are allowing people with views like this to stand as candidates this year?
"It shows how the anti-Jewish racism that poisoned the party has still not been driven out and how much work Keir Starmer and his colleagues still have to do.”
Former Labour MP Lord Mann, now the government’s antisemitism Tsar, said it was clear candidate vetting had a long way to go. He told the JC: “The Labour party will rightly be judged on its actions, and it clear that there is still some unfinished business in the Haringey area that needs quick and decisive surgery.”
Labour Against Antisemitism spokesman Euan Philipps said that the mounting evidence that candidates were not properly vetted threatened to destroy the trust between Labour and the Jewish community that had started to be rebuilt under Sir Keir.
Mr Philipps told the JC: "Haringey council is a high profile Labour council with a documented history of antisemitism and extremism. Labour HQ should have been aware of the dangers and carried out detailed vetting of each candidate before they were allowed to stand. Instead it appears they did nothing at all.
“While progress in tackling antisemitism has been made by the Labour Party, cases like this show the risk of slipping back into old patterns of behaviour. The assertion by Keir Starmer that the door had been closed on anti-Jewish racism appears both premature and complacent.”
In a tweet from 2020, Ms Wallace responded to a post which said: “Rachel Riley apologises after she weighs in on Wiley fiasco with Jedward dig.”
Ms Wallace wrote: “But not for having Corbyn in a noose on her T-shirt [referring to a controversial T-shirt worn by the Countdown star] or as a Nazi.”
In another post, she replied to a tweet saying Sir Keir Starmer would never allow Mr Corbyn back into the Labour fold, and would “probably sign up someone like Rachel Riley”.
Ms Wallace said: “How dare you even mention that witches [sic] name in the same sentence as JC. Do not even think to put the other whom we used to know as ‘BT’.”. This appears to refer to “Beatie”, the Jewish granny in British Telecom TV ads played by Maureen Lipman, a traditional Labour supporter who vehemently opposed Corbyn. Ms Wallace followed this with an emoji of someone vomiting.
In another tweet, Ms Wallace said: “That rabbi that went on R4 to protest at Jeremy Corbyn. They got paid and handsomely rewarded, did they not. Look at the debarcle [sic] NOW! Their objective achieved [sic].” She claimed that those expelled from Labour for alleged antisemitism were merely “Palestine sympathisers”.
Commenting on Ms Patel in February 2020, Ms Wallace tweeted: “There you go #pritipatel she does not consider her parents refugees/migrants or indeed her ENTIRE family are ethnic people… because she has straight hair and nose. Her skin might be vitiligo or a strong sunbed?!”
A friend of Ms Patel responded with outrage to Ms Wallace’s tweet, telling the JC: “I am staggered that Labour’s vetting procedures are apparently so weak that someone who has expressed such views on a public website was selected as a candidate."
Mr Ali joined CAGE as its communications officer in 2015. In November that year, he gave evidence to the Commons select committee on Home Affairs, and was asked about the notorious claim by the group’s research director, Asim Qureshi, that Jihadi John – real name Mohammed Emwazi – was a “beautiful man”, despite being shown in ISIS videos beheading western hostages with a serrated knife.
Mr Ali defended Mr Qureshi’s claim, pointing out that Emwazi’s schoolteachers had described him as “hard working, a lovely boy, and a “very hard working aspirational young man”. He said that Mr Qureshi’s comments did not refer to “the person he became and the acts he committed”.
Mr Ali went on to act as agent for David Lammy - now shadow foreign secretary - during the 2019 general election.
According to a Labour party source, Mr Lammy had “no idea” about Mr Ali’s statements that have come to light following his election, and will be awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
Mr Lammy has yet to respond to the JC’s request for comment.
Mr Ali and Ms Wallace have been approached for comment.
A Labour party spokesman confirmed the three suspensions but told the JC he could not comment on individual cases.
A party source said the suspensions handed out to the councillors mean they cannot attend party meetings at any level.