Leading Labour councillor tells Jeremy Corbyn to resign
Council leader goes quiet as Richard Olszewski says party's handling of anti-semitism cases has been 'shameful'
14 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley
ONE of the most senior Labour councillors at the Town Hall has publicly called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign over the party’s handling of anti-semitism complaints.
Richard Olszewski, Camden’s finance chief and one of council leader Georgia Gould’s closest aides, said the party’s handling of complaints had been “shameful” after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it was looking at a statutory inquiry.
Cllr Olszewski, a special advisor to former home secretary John Reid during Tony Blair’s government, said: “That it has come to this. This is a shameful day in the history of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn, for the good of the Labour Party and British politics, you should resign.”
Shiva Tiwari, the new Labour councillor in West Hampstead, appeared to endorse the sentiment by retweeting Cllr Olszewski’s message. While other Labour councillors less supportive of Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party have been critical on occasions, it has been rare for any of them to call for his resignation.
More than 20 from Camden had been among the 600 councillors across the country who signed a letter calling for Mr Corbyn to step aside before he won a second leadership contest against Owen Smith in 2016.
But some, including Cllr Gould, later said they had changed their mind and supported Mr Corbyn, praising the party for its election manifesto last year.
While normally accessible to the local press since taking over at the top, however, Cllr Gould shut up shop this week and refused to answer questions on the Labour Party and Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
Her support has usually been warm, but couched as conditional, and she has previously raised concerns about anti-semitism controversies. The unwillingness to discuss party matters this week – or even offer an opinion about Labour’s progress in dealing with the complaints – comes with one of her backbenchers facing press attention.
Thomas Gardiner, the Kilburn councillor who recently questioned whether the council’s flagship Community Investment Programme has been given enough scrutiny, was named by national newspapers as being the Labour Party official who headed the party’s “compliance” unit.
Among cases where he is accused of intervening is that of a member who escaped suspension after posting a photo to Facebook of an alien with the Star of David on its back suffocating the Statue of Liberty.
Cllr Gardiner, who is said to have questioned whether the image was anti-Israel rather than anti-semitic, is not commenting, but friends said he was being unfairly represented in the media. “It’s a familiar situation and just a way at getting Corbyn. Accusing people who have fought prejudice and racism all their lives is pretty low,” said one supporter in the group.
Camden Lib Dems, however, called on the Labour group to “suspend the Labour whip [from Cllr Gardiner] to demonstrate that they take these allegations seriously”, while Tories Oliver Cooper and Henry Newman – the latter during an appearance on Sky News – have raised the case, demanding action. Again, Cllr Gould said she would not comment on the matter.
Her efforts to stitch together unity in a record-sized Labour group, which has groups of enthusiastic left-wingers and those who would like to see a new leader, will be tested again at the party’s annual general meeting at the start of May where cabinet positions are voted on.
Georgia Gould: no comment
She has in the past talked internally about the need for representation from all quarters of the party. Camden Momentum last week wrote a letter to the CNJ calling for the re-instatement of MP Chris Williamson, who was recorded saying the party had been too apologetic over anti-semitism. The Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Labour Party has released a statement vowing to combat anti-semitism.
A national Labour spokesman said: “We completely reject any suggestion the party has acted unlawfully and will be cooperating fully with the EHRC. Labour is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations.”