Camden councillor resists resignation calls after EHRC report into antisemitism in Labour Party
PUBLISHED: 09:56 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 13:29 03 November 2020
Vanessa Berberian 2019
A Camden councillor is defying calls to step down after being named in an investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party.
A report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Thursday said that the Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner, when director of governance and legal for Labour, “took a decision-making, rather than purely advisory, role in some antisemitism complaints”.
Looking at allegations of political interference, the EHRC made no ruling on the “motivations” behind Cllr Gardiner’s role in the party’s complaints unit, but that it “understood why some people perceived” him “to have been ‘installed’ by the party’s senior leadership for political reasons”.
Cllr Gardiner said the report did not find “any” wrongdoing of his and that he had worked “flat out” to combat antisemitism.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the opposition parties to Labour-run Camden Council, said that the Kilburn representative should stand down.
Cllr Gardiner said: “The EHRC did not find any wrongdoing on my part, and the report in fact identifies significant improvements which came about through my work for the Labour Party, including for example large increases in the number of cases which resulted in expulsion for antisemitic conduct and the speed at which those expulsions took place.
“It is therefore disappointing that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have chosen to seek political advantage, rather than focus on healing the deep pain which so many in the Jewish community have felt.”
The EHRC investigation found that Labour breached the Equality Act three times relating to political interference in antisemitism complaints; a failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints; and harassment.
Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the report, in which he claimed the scale of antisemitism inside Labour had been “dramatically overstated”, prompted his suspension by his successor Keir Starmer.
Cllr Gardiner continued: “I worked flat out over the last few years to combat antisemitism among Labour Party members. I deeply regret that the work which I and other party staff did was not enough to ease the fears that so many Jews experienced.
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“I remain committed to the fight against antisemitism. If it would help the process of healing between the Jewish community and the Labour Party, then I would welcome direct conversations with the representatives of any local Jewish community groups who wish to speak.”
Camden Conservatives’ leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said: “I’m proud that one of the largest Jewish communities in London calls Camden home.
“We have all been shocked and sickened by the level of hate and anti-Jewish discrimination revealed by the publication of the EHRC report.
“It’s shameful that the whole Council has been brought into disrepute by one of its councillors.
“Whatever his motivations, Cllr Gardiner was a key lieutenant of Mr Corbyn over the past few years with an insider view of this discrimination. Despite his power to stop the torrent of abuse, he stayed silent then and is silent now – showing no regret or remorse.
“We have received too many complaints about him just to turn a blind eye. Jewish residents have asked me how he can remain as a councillor, and I can’t justify it.
“We must retain all residents’ trust with swift action through the council’s formal processes and, failing that, by withdrawing the Labour whip.”
A spokesperson for the Camden Liberal Democrats said: “Cllr Gardiner’s role in the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism is described in detail in the EHRC report.
“Pages 51 and 52 specifically denote his decision-making capacity and how his role undermined the independence of - and confidence in - the complaints process.
“With no statement of apology or contrition for his role in this crisis, we do not believe Cllr Gardiner is fit to represent our diverse community.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “All councillors are subject to the council’s Code of Conduct, which is set out on our website and which by law covers our members while they are acting as councillors only.
“Any complaints about councillors should be made to our borough solicitor and our standards committee will consider the results of any investigation.”
The Labour Party declined to comment.
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