Labour Party suspends 16

Party hit by a wave of racism claims ahead of local elections.


Labour has been hit by a wave of antisemitism allegations in the week before the local elections.

The party has suspended 16 people in the Peterborough Labour Party and the North West Cambridgeshire Constituency Local Party over complaints, a figure which includes nine sitting councillors and seven activists.

One of the suspended councillors, Ansar Ali, wrote in July 2014 that he was “boycotting the biased BBC” because it “didn’t want to upset the Zionist Israeli government lobby”.

In August 2014, he wrote: “It appears to me the Israeli Zionists have control over the UN and the governments of USA, UK, Europe and most of the Muslim countries apart from the brave Palestinians in Gaza. They are showing the world they will not bow down to Israeli Zionist terrorism”.

In November 2015, Mr Ali posted two vicious caricatures, one showing a bloodied state of Israel used as a dagger to stab a child to death.

Another of those suspended, Councillor Mohammed Jamil, reposted a comment in July 2014, which said: “Rot in hell you Zionist basterds (sic) and those who support them”.

In October 2016, he reposted Baroness Jenny Tonge’s explanation of her resignation from the Liberal Democrats and her belief that she was “at last free of being told what I must and must not say on the issue of Palestine, lest it offends the Israel lobby here, who like to control us, as they do in the USA”.

In addition to Mr Ali and Mr Jamil, it is understood that the other seven suspended Peterborough councillors are: Ed Murphy and Heather Skibsted (suspended earlier this month); Angus Ellis, Samantha Hemraj, Mahboob Hussain, Shabina Qayyum, and Aasiyah Joseph.

A further seven activists have been administratively suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation: Janet Armstrong and Jonathan Orchard, both of NW Cambs CLP; and from Peterborough CLP, Alan Gasparutti, Kit Hubback, Richard Strangward, Colin Watson and Linda Watson.

Only one of the suspended Peterborough councillors responded to the JC. Councillor Joseph said: “There is an internal investigation and I am not allowed to comment.”

A Labour Party spokesperson told the JC: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.

“We are determined to root out all forms of antisemitism from our party and it is testament to our commitment to zero tolerance that we will not be influenced by an election timetable.”

Meanwhile, the appearance of former Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes as a Labour candidate raised further questions about Labour’s vetting procedures.

Lisa Forbes was elected as Peterborough MP in a by-election in June 2019 but was voted out by the electorate just 189 days later in the general election.

She is now contesting the Fletton and Woodston ward in the city council’s 23-seat poll.

At the time of the Peterborough by-election, the Jewish Labour Movement refused to campaign for Ms Forbes.

This followed revelations she liked a Facebook post in April 2019 that said Theresa May has a “Zionist Slave Master’s agenda”. Ms Forbes also endorsed a Facebook message in September 2014 that said Islamic extremists were created by the CIA and Mossad.

Ms Forbes insisted after her by-election win in June 2019 that she had “no issue” with any community and that “antisemitism is abhorrent”.

She said that she had ‘liked’ the material without paying “much attention” to the text of the post.

“I’m really sorry and I just hope that people will understand that I don’t have a bad bone in my body towards any race of people and antisemitism is just something that I condemn completely,” she added at the time.

A spokesman for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Lisa Forbes has outstanding complaints against her relating to antisemitism. Since Labour cannot address these complaints properly until it introduces an independent disciplinary system later this year, it follows that this former MP is an inappropriate candidate for the Party. ”

Ms Forbes did not respond to approaches from the JC and Peterborough City Council declined to comment.

Elsewhere, twice-suspended Jo Bird is standing again as a Labour candidate in the Wirral Council election next week.

Ms Bird was suspended in both 2019 and 2020 and found herself under investigation late last year following comments made in the wake of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism within Labour.

Labour found no breach of party rules, clearing Ms Bird to fight to retain her ward seat of Bromborough.

The investigation was launched after Ms Bird, who is herself Jewish, spoke out following the EHRC’s damning findings.

Criticising what she called the “privileging” of antisemitism, Ms Bird also branded the decision by Keir Starmer to suspend former leader Jeremy Corbyn as an “injustice”.

She told activists at a meeting called ‘Don’t Leave, Organise’: “As a Jew, I worry about racism against Jewish people.

“I also worry about privileging the racism faced by Jewish communities in this country as more worthy of resources than other forms of discrimination such as against black people, Palestinians, Muslims and refugees.”

At the meeting, Ms Bird also called for Mr Corbyn to be reinstated “without further ado”, claiming the EHRC report backed his right to say the scale of antisemitism within Labour was “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

Addressing her earlier suspensions, she told the ‘Don’t Leave, Organise’ meeting: “Injustice continues in the same vein with my own suspensions in March 2019 and February this year, Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension (at the end of last month) and many, many others.”

Ms Bird told the JC this week: “There was no breach of the party’s rules. I come from a long tradition of Jewish socialists, passionate about equality, justice and fighting all forms of racism. As a re-elected Labour councillor, I will continue to work for local residents and oppose cruel Conservative cuts.”

Ms Bird, a member of Jewish Voice for Labour, was suspended in March 2019 after it emerged she had joked about the party’s discipline process, substituting the common phrase ‘due process’ with “Jew process”.

She was readmitted with a formal warning about conduct and issued an apology, saying she had not meant to cause offence with her “self-deprecating play on words”. She was suspended again in February 2020.

The cause of the suspension was not made public.

She was readmitted eight days later, with Labour finding no breach of party rules. She failed to secure election to the NEC.

It was also reported in the local press that a Conservative councillor in Peterborough, Mohammed Nadeem, is under scrutiny for social media posts relating to Israel, though he has not been suspended from the party.

The same newspaper also named two other previous Tory candidates for Peterborough’s council, Muhammad Ikram and Haq Nawaz, who were alleged to have shared worrying Facebook posts.

These included one which “accused Israel of promoting a ‘Final Solution’ for Gaza while describing its politicians as being “worse than animals”.

Peterborough Conservatives told the Peterborough Telegraph:

“We utterly reject antisemitism which has no place in any political party.”

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