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 repeated social media postings about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism in Labour.

Dean Temple told the JC he was forced to resign from his role as head of Witney Town Council following complaints about his conduct at a meeting in October where councillors discussed whether to accept the IHRA definition of Jew-hate.

But in the aftermath of his decision to step down it has become apparent that the Tory leader of the Council David Harvey is opposed to the introduction of IHRA.

A promised Labour motion urging the Council to adopt the definition has not mentioned at the most recent council meeting.

Mr Temple, who took over the leadership of the council early last year, claimed on Twitter after the meeting that Labour town councillors had “delayed” passing the motion.

Witney Labour group leader Duncan Enright was said to have asked for the motion to be halted to allow councillors the opportunity to read the IHRA definition.

But Mr Temple wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Speaking the JC, 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.”

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 said: "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, allowing my deputy to take over.”

But a motion submitted by local Tory councillor Jane Doughty and seconded by Witney deputy mayor Howard Chirgwin on October 24 suggested 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.

Under new council leader Mr 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.

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."

The JC has contacted Witney Labour leader Mr Enright for comment.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive