Islington councillor Gary Poole resigns from Labour Party over alleged 'failure to deal with antisemitism'
PUBLISHED: 13:48 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:26 16 July 2019
An Islington councillor has resigned from the Labour Party citing its alleged "failure to properly deal with antisemitism".
Cllr Gary Poole will sit as an independent in his St Mary's ward, after he today published a letter on social media explaining he "cannot in good conscience remain a member of a political party that has failed to address the scourge of antisemitism".
This comes after a BBC Panorama documentary interviewing former Labour staffers turned whistleblowers aired on Wednesday, which has intensified an already toxic debate about alleged antisemitism in the party.
Having watched the documentary, Cllr Poole last Thursday tweeted: "[Jenny] Formby, [Seamus] Milne and [Jeremy] Corbyn must go, Members, MPs & cllrs need to wake up to how Labour has arrived at this shameful situation. The leadership cliques are at best unwitting enablers of antisemitism."
Cllr Poole, former governor of Pentonville Prison, today published a letter stating: "Following the broadcast of Panorama on July 10 in which brave and dedicated former Labour Party staffers exposed antisemitism and the party's failure to deal with it, the Labour Party's response was shameful and disreputable. Rather than commit to investigating these matters as a matter of urgency, the party went on the attack and sought to undermine the courageous whistleblowers."
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Cllr Poole, a member of the Islington South & Finsbury campaigning Labour Party (CLP) said he's also "disturbed and saddened" at the way Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has purportedly been "vilified and abused" by senior Labour figures due to his reaction to the Panorama episode, and his outspoken take on the party's handling of antisemitism complaints in general.
He claimed the party he joined in 1981 is "not fit to govern the country" but said he has no problem with Islington Council leader Richard Watts and will "continue to support the local manifesto" he was elected to implement.
Cllr Watts 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. Antisemitism 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."
Shadow foreign secretary and Islington South & Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry said: "I was very sad to hear of Gary's decision, and the reasons why he felt he had to take it. As someone who is dedicated to rooting out the scourge of anti-semitism from within the Labour Party, I am disappointed to lose an ally in that fight. But whenever we lose good councillors and MPs and members over anti-semitism, it just compounds the urgency for all of us inside the party to deal with this issue once and for all. On a personal level, I am proud to have worked with Gary to help him get elected, and while we didn't always see eye to eye on everything, he is someone I have always admired and will continue to do so. This is a very sad loss for the Party and for the Labour group on the council."
A London Labour spokesperson 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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