IslingtonTribune

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Islington councillor quits Labour Party over ‘scourge of anti-Semitism’

'The Labour Party is either unable or unwilling to deal with this issue'

15 July, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Cllr Gary Poole (left) has quit the Labour Party 

AN ISLINGTON councillor has quit the Labour Party over what he calls “the scourge of anti-Semitism.”

St Mary’s Ward councillor Gary Poole, who has been a member of the Labour Party since 1981, wrote to the General Secretary terminating his membership of the party.

The Labour Party has rejected claims that they do not handle anti-Semitism complaints fairly and robustly.

Cllr Poole, who will now sit as an independent councillor, said he had “wrestled” with his “conscience for too long” and that he felt it was important now to be true to his “principles.”

He wrote: “I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the political party that has singularly failed to adequately address the scourge of anti-Semitism.

“Over the past year I have waited expectantly for the Labour Party to show by its actions that it is intent on comprehensively rooting out anti-Semitism.

“However what now appears clear is that the Labour Party is either unable or unwilling to deal with this issue.”

In his time as a member of the Labour Party, Cllr Poole has been a Constituency Secretary, an Election Agent and councillor for St Mary’s Ward for the past eight years.

He has said on Twitter that he will continue to support the agenda of the local party and Islington council leader Richard Watts.

In his resignation letter he cited Labour’s response to the BBC’s Panorama programme, broadcast on July 10, which heard testimony’s from whistleblowers.

He said: “Rather than commit to investigating these matters as a matter of urgency, the party went on the attack and sought to undermine the courageous whistle-blowers.”

The Labour Party has challenged the accuracy of the panorama show.

Julia Bard, Islington North Labour Party member, wrote the Tribune last week.

She said: “I am Jewish. I am also an anti-racist who has challenged anti-Semitism wherever I have encountered it, left or right, for as long as I can remember.

“The repeated assertion that Jews feel unwelcome or unsafe in the party is simply untrue.”

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, said: “I am extremely disappointed that Gary has decided to resign from the Labour Party. I want to thank Gary for his contribution to the work of Islington Labour in making our borough a fairer place for all, since he was elected in 2011. I know this has not been a decision that Gary has taken lightly. Anti-semitism has no place in our society, or our politics, and the Labour Party must continue to take all steps to fundamentally root it out of our party.”

A London Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party is absolutely committed to challenging and campaigning against antisemitism in and we are taking decisive action to root it out.

“Our records show that antisemitism cases that have gone through the stages of our disciplinary procedures since September 2015 account for about 0.06 per cent of the Party’s membership and since Jennie Formby became General Secretary the rate at which antisemitism cases have been dealt with has increased more than four-fold.”

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