24th Aug, 2019

Coventry council leaders accused of 'silence' over Labour 'antisemitism' - amid Tory 'Islamaphobia' claims

Felix Nobes 19th Jul, 2019 Updated: 19th Jul, 2019

By Felix Nobes and Les Reid

COVENTRY council leader George Duggins has been accused of ignoring calls on him and the council to denounce any acts of ‘antisemitism’ in the Labour party amid ongoing national allegations.

While Coun Duggins’ silence is being called out by Tory councillor Tim Mayer, Labour council deputy leader Abdul Khan hit back on Twitter by raising claims of ‘Islamaphobia’ in the Conservative party.

Coun Mayer first emailed Coun Duggins about the matter in March last year, when he said he was “concerned we as a council have not made our views known.”

He says he is yet to receive a response.

He has reiterated his concerns in recent days by tweeting in the wake of the BBC’s Panorama documentary into Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

Coun Mayer said that, given that his father is Jewish and his grandfather survived the Holocaust, this was personal to him and that his polite and reasonable email from last March deserved a response.

He told us: “I’ve never experienced any antisemitism in Coventry.

“And there are no problems with Islamophobia on the Conservative side.

“But, nationally, both parties have not been quick enough to act where there are problems.

“I think that Coun Duggins should be sending a very strong message to Jeremy Corbyn on this, because the way allegations of antisemitism have been handled has not been good enough.

“It has been over a year since I sent my email to him and obviously problems have snowballed since then.

“And I also think an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party should absolutely happen, and I would like to see whoever is elected leader commit to that.”

In response to one of Coun Mayer’s tweets, asking for Coventry Labour to ‘denounce’ antisemitism in the party, Coun Khan branded him ‘hypocritical’.

He said: “Tim you (conveniently) forget you stand by a member in your group who was found to have acted in a racist manner. You did not question it! You made no comment, nor did you denounce the Islamophobia in your party reported in the papers.”

The rebuttal refers to Tory councillor Jaswant Singh Birdi being found to have breached the council’s code of conduct in an ethics investigation in 2017 which ruled he had been ‘racially abusive’.

Coun Mayer tweeted in reply saying Coun Birdi was suspended immediately, removed from the council shadow cabinet and referred to the party. He is now back in the council’s Conservative group and had denied claims of racism.

Coun Mayer in recent days tweeted a copy of his email to Coun Duggins from March last year to several Labour councillors including Coun Khan and asked them: “Would you not expect George to answer this? Sent in March 2018? I would again ask @CoventryLabour can we be clear in our denouncing of this awful behaviour.”

Only one appears to have replied – councillor Rachel Lancaster – who has in recent times been disciplined by the Labour group on unrelated matters. She tweeted: “I denounce it Tim, I denounce all forms of racism.”

The Labour Party nationally has been marred by rising internal complaints of antisemitism, of several MPs making allegedly antisemitic remarks, and accusations of trying to ignore or diminish concerns.

And more recently the Conservative Party has been mired in allegations of failing to discipline elected members for ‘Islamophobic’ remarks.

Coun Duggins and Khan have declined to respond.

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