Council leader: I disagree, but IHRA demo had ‘right to make opinion heard’

COUNCIL leader Georgia Gould said this afternoon she recognised that protesters who gathered outside Labour HQ as part of their opposition to the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism – including one of her own councillors –  had a ‘right to make their opinion heard’, even if she disagreed with their view.

She was speaking shortly after former Labour councillor Maeve McCormack had tweeted annotated photos of the demo, ringing a red circle around new Swiss Cottage councillor Simon Pearson and calling for an investigation into his involvement.

With the party’s handling of anti-semitism under a constant spotlight, Labour’s National Executive Committee are due to agree the definition at a meeting today. Cllr Gould said this was necessary to help “heal” Labour’s relationship with the Jewish community. Protesters, however, say the definition, which has been adopted by hundreds of institutions around the world including Camden Council, and its examples could stop free speech criticism of Israel. Around 200 gathered with placards outside the NEC.

Ms McCormack, who stepped down in the Gospel Oak ward last year, copied in newspapers to her tweets, including the Evening Standard and the New Journal, and called for both Camden Council and the local Labour Party to “urgently investigate” whether Cllr Pearson had broken the Town Hall’s code of conduct by attending the protest, which had been partly organised by members of Camden Momentum group.

“The NEC is rightly (if belatedly) seeking to address concerns of Jewish community regarding how our party defines and tackles anti-Semitism,” said Ms McCormack, whose time on the council did not overlap with Cllr Pearson’s. “If a councillor, who has Jewish constituents, protests against the party exploring taking those steps, what message does it send to those constituents about whether he respects and will heed their concerns?” She then shared paragraphs of Camden’s code.

One of her tweets identifying Cllr Pearson was shared by former council leader Sarah Hayward.

Cllr Gould said: “Camden Council unanimously passed the full IHRA definition of anti-semitism last year led by Camden Labour group. The code clearly states that this should not prevent criticism of Israel. Alongside Camden’s two MPs, I have urged the party to adopt the full IHRA definition as a first step to healing our relationship with the Jewish community and living up to our values as an anti-racist movement that listens to minority groups.”

She added in relation to the demo: “I disagree with the views of those protesting today but I recognise their right to make their opinion heard. However, they are not speaking for Camden Labour group, which has a clear, public position that minority groups should take the lead in determining racism against them.”

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