Peterborough Labour members demand apology over ‘untrue’ antisemitism allegations

Labour Party members accused of antisemitism have strongly denied the claims while demanding an apology from their party.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 12:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 1:01 pm

Up to 19 members, including nine Peterborough city councillors, are believed to have been suspended by Labour which said it “takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously”.

Several of those named have now written an open letter denying the accusations - adding that their suspensions letters do not include any specific charges - while querying how their identities were revealed.

They also questioned the timing of the allegations, with the local elections taking place on Thursday, and hint at legal action “to establish whether any formal investigation has been corrupted as a result of both false and confidential information being disseminated in the press”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Peterborough Town Hall - local elections take place on May 6

The suspended members said the publication of their names mean it is “now difficult to have any faith that a fair and just outcome will result”.

The letter sent to the Peterborough Telegraph states: “National and local media have named individuals and reported allegations against Labour Party members in Peterborough and North West Cambs. This follows earlier suspensions of two serving Labour councillors whose names have also been released.

“Media reports suggest antisemitism on the part of all the party members in this most recent set of suspensions which includes councillors and candidates in local elections, linking us to a number of questionable racist statements.

“We the undersigned totally refute the suggestions that we have engaged in antisemitic behaviour.

“Suspension letters sent to us do not allege it, and no specific charges have been made.

“No formal investigation has taken place to establish any facts, including the possibility that any allegations may be vexatious, especially as this is a politically sensitive time because of imminent local elections.

“Suspension letters categorically demand that the utmost confidentiality is required of everyone involved. News media reports quote “Labour sources” referring to antisemitism claims which are not mentioned in the suspension letters sent out.

“This source may not be official, or even connected to the Labour Party. However, even if it is not, the party still has a responsibility to do all it can to protect the identity of the individuals named and its own reputation and process by making a statement to clarify that the source was not official.

“Also, it should request (if not demand), that the names of accused members should in future be redacted, and warn that action would be taken against any future publication of names in any public information/news outlets until the investigation is concluded.

“The Labour Party has a responsibility to protect members; a responsibility it makes clear to us in the suspension letter, but one it has failed to live up to.

“Because the party’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) has shown itself unable to exercise control of its own sensitive information it is now difficult to have any faith that a fair and just outcome will result. Indeed, for many people reading the story, this ‘trial by media’ will already be complete and sentences passed.

“Legal avenues are being explored to establish whether any formal investigation has been corrupted as a result of both false and confidential information being disseminated in the press, potentially denying justice to both accused and accuser.

“In the meantime, we ask that all future press statements redact names, and we ask that an apology is given for contravening the Data Protection Act 2018.”

The letter has been signed by:

. Alan Gasparutti

. Colin Watson

. Heather Skibsted

. Janet Armstrong

. Jonathan Orchard

. Kit Hubback

. Linda Watson

. Richard Strangward