Anti-semitism row: Councillor hits back at ‘cheap shot’ critics
National press stories blamed on 'malicious, selective briefing from a disgruntled former employee'
21 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner
A LABOUR councillor says he has solidarity with the Jewish community and has been the subject of misleading press stories.
In a letter to the New Journal, Thomas Gardiner said rivals had fired a “cheap shot” when they called for him to have the whip removed by the local Labour leadership.
Mr Gardiner was this month named as a national Labour Party staffer who had given views on how to deal with several complaints against Labour members, including one who had posted a photo of an alien with a Star of David on its back suffocating the Statue of Liberty.
It was alleged he had intervened for a softer penalty for the post. It is understood Mr Gardiner, when appointed director of governance and legal unit, had later actually ordered Ms Bibby’s suspension.
With the party nationally dogged by a series of anti-semitism controversies, Mr Gardiner has been thrown into the spotlight over his day job rather than his work as a councillor. The party usually does not comment on the work of staff members.
A Labour Party spokesperson told the New Journal: “This is a malicious, selective briefing from a disgruntled former employee. It is a deeply unfair attack on staff working in good faith to apply the party rule book to individual cases and progress complaints through the party’s disciplinary processes.”
Last week, Camden finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski – one of the closest figures to Town Hall leader Georgia Gould – called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign after the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it would be examining the party’s handling of anti-semitic complaints.
He did not expand to the New Journal on his view that a change of leadership was needed, but tweeted that “needed to be said”.
Cllr Gould is not taking questions from the New Journal on whether she agrees with Cllr Olszewski or on a call from the Lib Dem group that Mr Gardiner – a councillor in Kilburn – should be suspended from the local group until the party has investigated how complaints were dealt with.
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Mr Gardiner is understood to have reviewed hundreds of complaints, leading to many suspensions and that the party regards any suggestion or innuendo that he is soft on anti-semitism as libellous.
He has not commented on the press coverage which has engulfed the complaints unit, which came on the heels of Liverpool Wavertree MP and former Camden Council candidate Luciana Berger’s decision to quit. Joining The Independent Group, she branded Labour as “institutionally anti-semitic”.
Cllr Gardiner said in his letter: “I have lived my whole life in Camden and I know the vital contribution that Camden’s Jewish community has always made to every aspect of life in our borough. Camden’s Jews deserve to know that their politicians stand with them as fear rises in their community. My political opponents preferred a cheap shot at me that could increase fear in the Jewish community, rather than actions to reassure the community. I therefore write to give some reassurance that I have always stood in solidarity with Jewish friends and neighbours when they are in need and always will.”
He added: “I am a socialist, and it deeply pains me that there is anti-semitism on the left. We will only tackle it if we all face up to it and take responsibility for eliminating it. Anti-semitism is anathema to everything we stand for and everything we believe in. Anyone who displays hate or prejudice towards minorities has no place in left movements and must be rooted out.”