Peterborough Labour councillors who resigned over alleged antisemitism ‘vindicated’ over EHRC report

Two former Labour councillors in Peterborough who resigned due to alleged antisemitism in the party believe they have been “vindicated” by a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
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Matthew Mahabadi and Richard Ferris were reacting to findings from the watchdog that Labour had broken the law with its handling of antisemitism complaints when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

This included evidence of political interference by Mr Corbyn’s office into complaints, while the party was judged responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”.

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Mr Corbyn has since been suspended after he claimed that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

Current Labour leader Keir Starmer has described the release of the EHRC report as a “day of shame” for Labour.

He added: “We have failed Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public.

“And so, on behalf of the Labour Party, I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused.”

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Mr Starmer has said Labour will accept the report in full and will provide the EHRC with an action plan within six weeks.

Former Labour councillors in Peterborough Matthew Mahabadi and Richard FerrisFormer Labour councillors in Peterborough Matthew Mahabadi and Richard Ferris
Former Labour councillors in Peterborough Matthew Mahabadi and Richard Ferris

Mr Mahabadi and Mr Ferris quit the city council in 2018 for several reasons, including over alleged antisemitism.

At the time of their resignations they issued a statement accusing the Peterborough Labour Party of failing “to take seriously the disease of antisemitism we have diagnosed”.

They also alleged they were pressured into keeping quiet over the issue.

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In 2017, the party suspended city council candidate Alan Bull after he shared an article on his private Facebook account, without commenting, which suggested the Holocaust was a hoax.

He said this was to find out his friends’ views on the article, and that he had never denied the Holocaust in his life.

An internal Labour report has since alleged that Labour selected Mr Bull as a candidate in Stanground South despite knowing he had been accused of denying the Holocaust.

Reacting to the EHRC report, Mr Ferris said: “This whole issue has had a lasting impact on my health and wellbeing. For this reason I’m keeping my head down to a large extent, as the same attitudes are still out there.

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“Matthew and I remain, I suspect, unwelcome in some quarters in the Peterborough CLP (Constituency Labour Party). I’ve moved on and have no intention of a return.

“Having said that, I remain proud of the action we took and feel vindicated by the report’s findings. I’m sad that it has taken so long for decisive action to be taken and I trust that the new Labour leadership will continue to demonstrate a zero tolerance approach.

“It’s high time all political parties took robust steps to rid themselves of racists and to create a welcoming and safe space for all. It’s not too much to ask, surely?!”

Mr Mahabadi also welcomed the report’s findings but said racism existed in all parties, not just Labour.

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He stated: “I think the outcome is unsurprising. It’s not a victory for people who have been fighting against the internal party because to fight against our own party to get this issued raised is a disgrace.

“This is what Richard and I argued from the beginning. It’s not about picking sides but what’s right.

“What we saw inside Labour was a sickness we needed to remove. This is the first step on that road. What’s needed is members and leaders from all Labour communities in Peterborough and nationally to re-affirm that these shameful situations will never arise again.

“I’m also very sorry as a Labour member at the time to the Jewish community that we hurt you and I saw that pain.

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“The fact Keir Starmer has acted so decisively, apologised swiftly and wants to recover the party’s principles of inclusion and equality is to his credit.

“I’m interested to know what the party is doing in Peterborough to resolve this.

“But this is not a time for other political parties to jump on the back of Labour and think they’re okay themselves. There is a sickness in the entire political system.

“All parties need to make sure they look internally.”

An East of England Labour Party spokesperson said: “Antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years. Peterborough Labour Party is totally committed to tackling antisemitism within our party and taking the further action necessary to begin restoring trust with the Jewish community.

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“Under Keir’s leadership zero-tolerance of antisemitism means precisely that. The Labour Party is working constructively with the EHRC, the Jewish community and Labour Party stakeholders to implement the EHRC’s recommendations in full.”

Leader of Peterborough City Council’s Labour group Cllr Shaz Nawaz has also been approached for his views on the report.