With multiple local councillors and a Party activist suspended by the Labour Party, in some cases over antisemitism, Sandwell Labour appears to have a serious problem
Another local councillor in Sandwell has been suspended by the Labour Party, joining several colleagues who have been suspended by the Party in recent months. At least one case – the most high-profile – involved alleged antisemitism, while reasons in the other cases have not been disclosed.
Cllr Mohammed Yaseen Hussain is the third Labour councillor at the local authority to be suspended by the Party in September alone. It is not clear why he has been suspended. Cllr Joanne Hadley and Cllr Ian Jones have also been suspended. Official reasons have not been provided. Also under investigation are Sandwell’s interim Leader, Cllr Maria Crompton, and another colleague, Cllr Bob Piper. In none of these cases is it known whether or not antisemitism played a role, as it has in other suspensions.
Cllr Crompton became interim Leader after Cllr Yvonne Davies, the Leader of Sandwell Council, resigned from her post in July and was suspended by the Labour Party pending investigation, after Campaign Against Antisemitism called for decisive action by the local authority and the Party over her social media history.
Cllr Yvonne Davies is being investigated by the Party over tweets she sent in 2018, one of which promoted a petition calling for a parliamentary debate over whether Israel has an “improper influence” over British politics, a notion reminiscent of historically popular claims of excessive Jewish power in national politics. In another tweet, Cllr Davies linked to a story titled “Is Israel’s hand behind the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn?”, alongside which she commented: “This makes interesting reading if anyone is wanting to understand where all this emphasis on Labour and antisematism (sic) comes from…” According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis” is an example of antisemitism.
A few days later, another Labour councillor – John Edwards – was revealed to have a record of problematic remarks, including describing accusations of antisemitism as “smears”, calling criticism of the disgraced then-Labour MP Chris Williamson a “smear campaign”, describing the Definition as “unfit for purpose”, and implying comparisons of Israeli policy to the Nazis in breach of the Definition by saying to then-Prime Minister David Cameron that “when you leave Auschwitz David Cameron go to Gaza”. Cllr Edwards has been a Labour councillor for forty years.
In addition, a local businessman and Party activist, Basharat Khan, has also now been suspended by Labour. It is believed that he was suspended after a series of social media posts that the Labour Party said “may reasonably be seen to involve antisemitic actions, stereotypes and sentiments.” One post, from August 2014, shows a cartoon image of a man with a Star of David on his sleeve cutting up a small child, with Mr Khan’s caption: “Until the Kings of KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] are overthrown Israel will continue its killing and destruction of the people of Palestine.”
Mr Khan reportedly said that he was trying to highlight to political turmoil in the Middle East, in particular “Israel’s bombing of Palestine,” adding: “I’m not antisemitic. I have never been antisemitic. I have friends in the Jewish community, the Sikh community, the Hindu community, every community. I am sorry if I got it wrong. It was not my intention to hurt anybody.”
Mr Khan is the complainant in the case against Cllr Hadley, alleging that she made racist comments in a telephone call, which she denies.
A Labour Party spokesman reportedly said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”
The string off Sandwell suspensions comes after Campaign Against Antisemitism reported on an antisemitism scandal engulfing Labour in Haringey in London.
Campaign Against Antisemitism recently published its first Audit of Local Authorities, documenting the campaign for widespread adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by local authorities. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has not adopted the Definition.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.