Just seven months after borough councillor Dany Louise quit her party saying: “Sensible people have long ago abandoned the Hastings and Rye branch of the Labour Party,” the acting chairman of the branch has had to refer a comment made by a member to the party’s complaints department.
As part of a spirited debate on the Hastings In Focus facebook group and replying to a comment by Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Nick Perry asking why people were leaving the Labour party ‘in droves’? Kev Towner said: “…because they’re really Tories in disguise and have realised that they’re not gonna (sic) change the (socialist) momentum of the Party? Or because they’re career politicians who’ve realised that they aren’t going to get a place in Jeremy’s cabinet? Because they’re Zionists? Take your pick!”
The comment was quickly seized upon by Labour’s opponents.
Rob Lee who heads the Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council (HBC) said: “Remarks like these from Labour members show why the whole Labour party is under investigation by the equalities commission, they have become a party of intolerance and hate.”
The Lib Dems went one step further writing to the Secretary of the Hastings and Rye Constituency Labour party.
Their letter from Pamela Brown, the party’s local President said: “We are perturbed to read the… comment on social media by Kev Towner accusing people who have left the Labour Party of being either Tories in disguise, opponents of Mr Corbyn’s socialist agenda or Zionists.
“The first two categories are part of the political ‘rough and tumble’ found across the political spectrum but the third is not. We have been assured that Mr Towner is a member of the Labour party and we note that he was one of Peter Chowney’s ten nominators at the last General Election.
“The use of the term ‘Zionist’ is frequently used in relation to one of the IHRA* working definitions of antisemitism – ‘accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nation’. Its use in the context of Mr Towner’s aggressive remarks is disturbing and is an illustration of why Councillor Dany Louise resigned from the local Labour party in February this year because of the Labour leadership’s failure to deal with the problem of antisemitism within the party.
“Please would you confirm whether Mr Towner is indeed a member of the Hastings and Rye Labour Party and, if so, that the Hastings and Rye Labour Party will investigate this matter with the seriousness required?”
The letter also made clear that the local Lib Dems planned to send a copy of their letter and the a copy of the comment made by Mr Towner to the Investigation of the Labour Party currently being conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
When approached by Hastings In Focus for a comment on the matter Jay Kramer the acting chair of the Hastings and Rye Constituency Labour Party said: “We take complaints about antisemitism very seriously. The matter has been referred to the Labour Party’s complaints department.”
When she quit the party in February Ms Louise said she had been driven out because Labour had become a ‘welcoming environment for antisemites’.
Speaking to Hastings In Focus at the time the CLP chair Ken Maitland rejected the criticism saying the local branch was, ‘vibrant, welcoming and diverse’ adding that Hastings and Rye Labour Party was ‘absolutely committed’ to fighting racism and antisemitism.
“Antisemites are a tiny minority within our party of over half a million people but one anti-semite is too many.
“We are very pleased to have a close relationship with members of the local Jewish community and the many active Jewish members in our CLP. We will always ensure our meetings are welcoming, comradely and without any discrimination,” he said in February
*International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
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