Black Country Labour councillors probed over 'anti-Semitic' tweets
Two senior Labour councillors in the Black Country are under investigation for allegedly posting anti-Semitic material on social media.
Sandwell Council leader Yvonne Davies is the subject of a probe by the Labour Party over tweets she sent in 2018, while Dudley Council is investigating a complaint against Councillor Pete Lowe, the authority’s former leader, over a tweet apparently intended to support Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has today described the tweets as “totally unacceptable” and called for the Labour Party and both local authorities to take “strong and decisive action” against the councillors.
A complaint to Labour Party head office seen by the Express & Star accuses Councillor Davies of "breaching Labour’s social media policy”.
One of the tweets cited as evidence is a link to a petition calling for a parliamentary debate over whether Israel has “improper influence” over British politics.
Another features a link to a story entitled, “Is Israel’s hand behind the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn?”, with Councillor Davies’s comment: “This makes interesting reading if anyone is wanting to understand where all this emphasis on Labour and antisematism (sic) comes from...”
It is understood the Labour Party is investigating the matter.
Langley councillor Mrs Davies said she had not been made aware of any complaint against her.
“I do retweet stuff that I probably shouldn’t, but I do not have an anti-Semitic bone in my body,” she said.
“I have a career of tackling discrimination and unfairness and I would certainly not consider that people who are Jewish have any influence at all over matters that we deal with in society.
“Whether countries do, and clearly Russia, China, Israel... a lot of countries get involved in stuff for political purposes... but I don’t relate that to anybody’s religion and I think anybody that does is making a big mistake.
“This is about politics, it’s not about religion at all.
“Certainly I will be careful in future about what I retweet, because clearly I’m aware that there is a lot of sensitivity around this issue and that things can be taken out of context.”
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to stamp out anti-Semitism in Labour. He sacked Ms Long-Bailey from his frontbench after she shared an article containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
Former parliamentary candidate Councillor Lowe, who represents Lye and Stourbridge North and ran to be Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor, appeared to show his support for her in a tweet last week.
He posted an image of maps purporting to show Palestinian loss of land to Israel, adding the comment: “No words of explanation....just in case! #RebeccaLongBailey #LabourParty”.
It was deleted a short time later. Councillor Lowe has been contacted for a comment.
Former Dudley North MP Ian Austin said the tweets were "completely unacceptable" and showed that Mr Starmer faced a major challenge to rid the Labour Party of the problems that developed under Mr Corbyn's leadership.
Mr Austin, who quit Labour last year after claiming Mr Corbyn had created a "culture of extremism and intolerance" in the party, said: "It is completely unacceptable for the leader of a council to promote conspiracy theories like this and the Labour Party must deal with it.
"Pete Lowe was right to delete his message but he failed to offer any apology.
"This shows the problems that developed under Corbyn's leadership. Israel – the Middle East's only democracy and the world's only Jewish state – has become an obsession for some people.
"This shows the scale of the challenge Keir Starmer faces."
Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley called on Labour opposition leader Qadar Zada to take action against Councillor Lowe.
"The consequences are that he should not longer be on the Labour front bench at Dudley Council and I question his suitability to remain a Dudley councillor," he said.
"Councillor Zada should remove him from his shadow cabinet with immediate effect.
"If it's good enough for Keir Starmer, then the same actions should follow for someone who unbelievably tweeted support and anti-Semitic tweets 24 hours after Rebecca Long-Bailey was sacked.
"His position is untenable."
Nicola Richards, the Conservative MP for West Bromwich East, said: “I welcomed Sir Kier’s decision to take action over Rebecca Long-Bailey’s tweet, as it’s a step in the right direction.
“But how can we take it seriously when she remains a member of the Labour Party?
"Until his party takes action and properly investigates any of these reports of anti-Semitism, including the allegations against the leader of Sandwell Council, they are a long way from repairing the damage they have done."
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: "The suggestion that Israel has an 'improper influence' in British politics and is 'behind attacks' on Jeremy Corbyn is a totally unacceptable.
"The idea that the Jews – or the Jewish state – have outsized influence in national affairs is an infamous anti-Semitic trope that has no place in political parties or on a local council, let alone coming from the leader of the council. Both the Labour Party and the council must take strong and decisive action.
"Those defending Rebecca Long-Bailey's promotion of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, be they MPs or local councillors, must also be brought to book.
"At a time when so many are showing solidarity against racism, it is appalling that some individuals in Labour continue to defend or indulge in anti-Semitism."
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