Tory council leader forced to stand down amid row over his support for the IHRA antisemitism definition

Leader faced motion saying his comments about the row over the definition were 'not acceptable'


The Conservative leader of an Oxfordshire council was forced to stand down after a row about his support for the IHRA definition of antisemitism and his tweets about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle Jew-hate in Labour.

Dean Temple told the JC he was pushed into resigning as head of Witney Town Council — David Cameron’s former constituency — after complaints about his conduct following a meeting in October at which both Tory and Labour councillors delayed a motion on the IHRA definition, saying that they needed more time to read it.

Mr Temple claimed on Twitter afterwards that Labour councillors had “delayed” passing the motion, claiming the party's group leader Duncan Enright asked for the motion to be halted to allow councillors to read the IHRA definition.

He later tweeted: “It’s not like Witney Labour Party have never seen the document before. But fine, we will play by their rules and let them play their silly games.

“The public can see exactly how racist the Labour Party really are.”

Tory councillor Jane Doughty later submitted a motion on October 24 that said Mr Temple’s comments on the IHRA row were “not acceptable”.

It added: “We are here to serve the people of Witney on local issues. Councillor Temple has previously been warned about his use of social media.

“Whilst he purports that the views are his own, when he refers to council business and tags Witney Town Council then those views become attached to Witney Town Council.”

The motion called for him to “step down from his position with immediate effect” – which he decided to do himself ahead of a planned vote on his future.

Mr Temple, who remains a Councillor for Witney North, admitted being “active on social media”, where he had called out his local Labour leader while also mentioning the issue of antisemitism in the national party.

He told the JC: "While I never explicitly said there was a connection, I left enough room for people to make their own conclusions. Rather than defend his position he reported me for conduct unbecoming and I was forced to stand down as leader.”

But Witney Labour leader Mr Enright, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, told the JC he was "fully in support of the IHRA definition and oppose antisemitism in Labour and anywhere else for that matter."

The JC has also learned that Mr Enright has discussed the issue of antisemitism in the Party with Joe Goldberg, the former Haringey Council member who once stood as a parliamentary candidate in the area.

Mr Temple said he had wanted to bring in IHRA locally ever since he was made leader – but it was only after attending the Tory Party conference last September and hearing Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative Friends of Israel reception that he decided to act.

“The Home Secretary asked all councils at all levels to adopt IHRA,” said Mr Temple.

“Back home I raised the issue and asked council to take a vote on formal adoption. But the Labour leader interrupted me twice citing standing orders and that I shouldn't be allowed to introduce such a motion.

“A fellow Tory put forward a motion that all councillors should read up on the definition and vote in it at the next meeting six weeks hence.”

Under new council leader Tory David Harvey, the issue of IHRA appears to have dropped entirely off the agenda, with no discussion of the definition at all at the December Council meeting.

A promised Labour motion urging the Council to adopt the definition was not mentioned at the most recent council meeting. Sources told the JC Mr Harvey gained an agreement from the local Labour leader Mr Enright to withdraw their planned motion on the definition.

Mr Harvey said on Monday that he believed the constitution of Witney Town Council was rigorous enough with its anti-discriminatory measures to ensure that the IHRA definition did not need to be adopted.

But Mr Temple said: "I have come to see a new breed of hard-left Labourities moving into this area who are very quick to counter claims of alleged antisemitism by saying things like 'Well, what about Israel?'.

"Some of these very people will be standing against me in the Council elections next May. They would not be deemed to be using language that was prejudiced under the current constitution in Witney.

"That's why I thought it was so important for the Council to adopt IHRA as an added protection."

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