A Labour council leader accused of antisemitism was at the forefront of campaigning at last week’s local elections despite his suspension from the party.
Cllr Mohammed Iqbal was leader of the Labour group on Pendle Council in Lancashire until he was suspended last year after he implied that Israel was comparable to Nazi Germany in a town hall speech.
However, despite his continued suspension, photographs showed Iqbal taking part in canvassing with Labour candidates during last week’s council elections.
At the count with other elected Labour councillors – Iqbal (far left) and also Azhar Alki (second from right)
In an alleged breach of party rules, pictures also showed him sitting outside a polling station tallying votes wearing a Labour rosette, and at the election count, where he posed alongside Labour figures, including Cllr Azhar Ali, the leader Lancashire Labour group and a former parliamentary candidate.
Party sources said his suspension remained in force pending a decision on his future by its complaints board.
A spokesman for the Jewish Labour Movement criticised Iqbal’s continued involvement, suggesting it broke party rules which prevents suspended members from “represent[ing] the party at any level”.
The spokesman said: “If he has taken part in campaigning then it is likely that he will have broken the rules of his suspension and this will be added onto the charge sheet when his case is heard. All parts of the party must be with us and Keir Starmer in destroying this toxic legacy of antisemitism from our party.”
A spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism also questioned his involvement. They said: “If those suspended are allowed to continue as if the suspension does not exist, then it makes a mockery of the process.
“If the community is to continue trusting in Starmer’s commitment to rooting out antisemitism, then this situation must be investigated so it cannot happen again. There is no point in suspension if it means ‘business as usual’.”
Iqbal’s inflammatory remarks came in a debate when the council decided to fly the Palestinian flag over the town hall.
During the debate Iqbal said: “The fact is that what’s going on in Ukraine, Palestine, and other areas I’ve mentioned, reminds me, I barely passed my GCSE history at school, but many people in this room will remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War. And there are a number of governments across the world at this moment in time, I think, trying to do the same.”
At the time he denied his remarks were antisemitic. He said: “I wish to publicly state I am not antisemitic and have campaigned all my life against all forms of racism and sexism and will continue to do so.
“I will work with the Labour Party and anyone else to uphold the principal of everyone living side-by-side in peace and harmony. I am still available to serve the public as a councillor with casework and issues affecting the local area.” Iqbal and Cllr Azhar Ali refused to comment.