Below is an extract from the new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Electoral Conduct, commission by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Anti-semitism – it details all the instances of racism expressed by or suffered by candidates of each of the largest parties contesting this year’s local and general elections. It’s evident that no party is entirely free of these poisonous views – but, troublingly, the extract also makes clear that the Labour Party seems to have a particularly sizeable problem, especially in terms of anti-semitism.
Hopefully those MPs involved in the APPG will further press these findings within their own parties.
2.1.1 The Conservative Party
Ameet Jogia, an Indian-origin Conservative party candidate was reportedly subjected to racial abuse when the wall of a voting booth in the constituency for which he was standing was daubed with a racist message. Mr. Jogia was reportedly left disappointed that “no one did anything to take it down”. The matter is being investigated by the Electoral Commission.
Another Conservative candidate and now re-elected MP Sheryll Murray said she was “sickened” when her posters were daubed with swastikas. Her agent suggested the attackers were trying to protest Ms. Murray’s support for the Jewish community. Devon and Cornwall police confirmed a report of criminal damage.
One Conservative candidate, himself a convert to Judaism, was reportedly a victim of antisemitism. Andrew Percy, a Minister prior to the General Election, said he was abused in front of two witnesses by someone claiming to support the leader of the Labour Party. The alleged perpetrator was said to have shouted ‘Zionist scum’ at Percy and, on being informed he was Jewish, replied ‘Oh, I will need a wash now’. The incident was referred to the police and there was no suggestion Jeremy Corbyn supported or endorsed the incident.
Abdul Zaman, the Deputy Chairman of the Bradford Conservative Association, was suspended after making inappropriate comments about Jews and women at the launch of a local election campaign. Mr Zaman urged his community to vote for local candidate Sajid Akhtar “so that the Jews and Christians know that we are one Biradari”. He was later reinstated after the party’s disciplinary body decided that his comments were not antisemitic, though unhelpfully open to interpretation.
Another Conservative council candidate, Obaid Khan, was suspended from the party but remained on the ballot paper after antisemitic tweets he had posted were discovered shortly before the local council elections (but after the nomination deadline had passed). Mr. Khan, who ran for the ‘winnable’ council seat of Hall Green, had referred to ‘Jew agents’ and ‘atheists’ as terms of abuse in his posts. Situations where parties cannot remove candidates who allegedly, or in fact, commit offences had, as noted, previously been marked as a point of concern in the electoral conduct inquiry of 2013.
A week post-election, Conservative councillor Robert Davies was the subject of strong condemnation and an official rebuke from the party when deeply offensive tweets with racist tropes were discovered. He subsequently deleted his account and it was said he accepted he was wrong to have made the posts.
Another candidate, Peter Cuthbertson, who was standing for the marginal seat of Darlington, was condemned for posts he had made as an 18 year old about rape, homosexuality and morality.
2.1.2 The Labour Party
A Labour parliamentary candidate was sacked by the party following allegations he ran a Twitter account which had posted offensive remarks about Muslims. Old Bexley and Sidcup candidate Trevor Merralls said he had been a victim of a ‘vicious smear campaign’ and strongly denied responsibility for running the account. He planned to protest to the Labour party.
Labour representatives were also on the receiving end of antisemitism. Iain Wright MP accused Hartlepool resident Anthony Rowbotham of assaulting him and threatening his family with violence while he was delivering election leaflets in the area. Mr Rowbotham allegedly exclaimed that ‘Jews control the money and he didn’t want the Jew Ed Miliband as Prime Minister’ while accusing Mr Wright of ‘helping the Jews control the debt’. He subsequently admitted to calling Mr Wright a ‘banker’s servant’; however, a jury could not reach a verdict on a simple charge of harassment.
Naz Shah, who herself had been suspended from the party over antisemitic posts (for which she apologised), was a victim of antisemitism at an electoral hustings, having asserted Israel’s right to exist.
During the course of the campaign there were a number of other media stories relating to antisemitic abuse albeit not directly related to candidates. For example, the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn was endorsed by a music artist who it was later alleged had re-tweeted an antisemitic message, and moved to condemn antisemitic abuse of a journalist interviewing him who happened to be Jewish.
In Bristol, a giant pro-Labour banner was displayed which featured a picture of Theresa May adorned with earrings representing the Jewish symbol of the star of David. The banner, reminiscent of some far-right caricatures, was condemned by Labour candidate and now re-elected MP Thangham Debbonaire who said an investigation was being launched but that the design and erection of the banner had nothing to do with her Labour party.
The Guido Fawkes website reported texts being sent to Muslim voters in Walsall South in an effort to get out the vote. The texts, if genuine, urged voters to cast their ballots so that other minorities would not have a greater say than them. Finally, in Borehamwood, one campaigner was reported to the police after footage emerged of her shouting “vote Labour, get the Jews out”.
The Labour party’s Woking council candidate, Vicki Kirby, was suspended twice from the party. She had initially been removed from a list of candidates after antisemitic remarks on Twitter, including labelling Hitler the ‘Zionist God’, proposing that ISIS attack Israel and defining Jews as having ‘big noses’. However, she was reinstated to the party in 2017 and elected as vice-chair for Woking. In March 2017, the Labour Party NEC reversed its decision and suspended her ‘pending an investigation’.
Alison Gove-Humphries, the Labour candidate for a council by-election in Hall Green (the same seat in which Conservative candidate Obaid Khan was suspended from the Conservative party over antisemitism) shared Facebook posts claiming Israel was the “key link in exporting ISIS oil” and was behind the media focus on antisemitism in the Labour party. A Labour party spokesman said: “Alison Gove-Humphries has been removed from the panel of approved local candidates.”
Labour council by-election candidate Lloyd Duddridge was accused of antisemitism after Facebook posts showed that he had commented ‘the Daily Mail is full of stupid Jews’ and called a Conservative peer ‘another Jewish Tory’. Mr Duddridge defended his remarks by noting his own Jewish roots. The Labour-commissioned Chakrabarti report into antisemitism later stated that “it should be no defence to cite one’s own minority heritage or to point to phrases…routinely used outside the party”. The report also demanded that complaints of racism and personal abuse be ‘taken seriously and handled sensitively’.
Posts from a Facebook account in the name of Terry Couchman, the Labour candidate for the Lyneham ward in Wiltshire, led to his suspension from the party. The account had referred to, amongst other things, “fake Jews of IsraHell and the USA”.
A Welsh Labour council candidate was suspended by the party following allegations that he had posted material online that could be interpreted as antisemitic. Mike Sivier was standing for Powys County Council in Llanbadarn Fawr. He rejected allegations of antisemitism and said he had engaged on social media with an individual he regretted having linked with online. Similar to the Conservative party case in Hall Green, Mr Sivier’s name was to appear on the ballot paper as the Welsh Labour candidate.
One campaign group made allegations about two other Labour council candidates, but these were not reported by mainstream media and it is unclear what action if any was taken.
2.1.3 The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats suspended Ashuk Ahmed as he was due to contest the Luton South parliamentary seat. Facebook posts on an account in Mr. Ahmed’s name compared Jews to Nazis and claimed that both the Labour and Conservative parties were controlled by ‘Zionist paymasters’.
Councillor and former MP David Ward was removed as a candidate by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron who said that the former was “unfit to represent the party”. Allegations of antisemitism had been levelled at Mr. Ward.
Jane Brophy, the Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate for Manchester, said Orthodox Jewish UK Independence Party rival Shneur Odze should choose between his faith or running for office, due to his religious practice of not shaking hands with the opposite sex. Odze had previously been accosted by an abusive crowd and told to ‘go home’ by protesters holding signs reading ‘strength in diversity’. He was later embroiled in controversy himself surrounding remarks he had made about burning texts.
2.1.4 The Scottish National Party (SNP)
The SNP deselected a council candidate for sending a ‘homophobic and misogynistic’ e-mail regarding colleagues, a week after its own National Executive Committee had reinstated him following a four-month suspension. Andy Doig had told associates to ‘guard their inner circle closely’ around a gay colleague, while commenting about a female activist that he ‘would like to get seriously lost somewhere around her mid torso’.
2.1.5 The UK Independence Party (UKIP)
Concerns were raised about UKIP’s selection procedure after the Times revealed internal records indicating that UKIP had allowed numerous candidates to stand for election despite knowledge that they had expressed racist and homophobic views in the past. These included a picture posted by Failsworth candidate Graham Whitehead of two people posing with monkeys described as an ‘arranged interracial marriage’. They were also aware of candidate Magnus Nielsen’s Islamophobic comments, such as labelling Muhammad a ‘criminal psychopath’ and describing Islam as ‘organised crime under religious camouflage’.
Former Christian Peoples Alliance leader, Alan Craig, was selected as a UKIP candidate for the London Assembly in 2016. Mr Craig had previously compared same-sex adoption to ‘child-trafficking’ and likened homosexuals to child abusers. UKIP explained that they are a party that ‘believes in freedom of speech’ and that Mr Craig has ‘a right to speak’.
The official Bristol UKIP twitter account called on voters to snub Labour due to its then candidate Sarah Champion standing with ‘2 suspended child grooming taxi drivers’: a reference to a picture featuring two Pakistani men. One of the individuals contacted the Tell Mama organisation, notifying them that he was neither a taxi driver, nor implicated in any child abuse investigation, but had been targeted due to his faith and ethnicity. Tell Mama warned that the implications of this libel for the victim are ‘extremely serious’.
UKIP parliamentary candidate Patricia Culligan was forced to apologise after tweeting that Liverpool Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Childs’ HIV treatment was ‘very costly’ to taxpayers. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage had previously called for HIV-positive people to be banned from the UK.
Another UKIP candidate, seeking to win in the Clacton constituency, quit the party after a series of Islamophobic posts were uncovered. Jeff Bray, a former UKIP councillor, reportedly said that he could not remember the posts and suggested they had been manipulated.
Concerns were raised by one group about tweets attributed to Amber Valley candidate Philip Rose which appeared to support conspiracy theories offered by David Icke. Mr. Rose was reportedly offended at any suggestion he was racist.
In April 2016, UKIP’s National Executive Committee cleared Gareth Bennett of racism allegations and allowed him to run for the Welsh National Assembly, despite a no confidence letter from 16 other UKIP candidates. He had previously attributed rubbish issues in Cardiff to Eastern European migrants, and labelled the city “a melting pot of different races all getting on each other’s nerves”. The complaint letter argued that the comments were contrary to UKIP’s ‘fair and ethical stance on immigration’.
Captain Paddy Singh apologised for racist and antisemitic tweets he had sent on social media and was suspended by UKIP. The candidate for the Wiltshire North constituency had his endorsement withdrawn by UKIP but was still listed as a candidate as the deadline for nominations had passed.
2.1.6 The Green Party
Green Party Blackpool and Fylde candidate, Tina Rothery, said she had nothing to do with, nor was she aware of, a film about opposition to fracking named ‘Tina’s List’, which compared police to Nazi guards using scenes from the film ‘Schindler’s list’. Her voice was dubbed over a clip of a Jewish woman being shot by an SS officer. The film was subsequently removed and police were contacted. Rothery did not criticise those behind the film, but did say she “wouldn’t refer to something as important in our history as the events of the Holocaust in the light of anything else”.