'Anti-Semitic' posts spark probe into Labour councillors

By Bob Cooper
Political reporter, BBC Cumbria

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The Labour party said it took claims of "anti-Semitism extremely seriously"

Two Labour councillors in Cumbria are being investigated for allegedly making anti-Semitic comments on social media.

Copeland councillors Tom Higgins, of the Egremont ward, and Graham Calvin, of Moor Row and Bigrigg wards, are being investigated by the Labour Party, the BBC has confirmed.

Ex-Copeland councillor Bill Kirkbride was expelled from Labour in June over "offensive" social media posts.

The Labour Party said it took claims of "anti-Semitism extremely seriously".

The Copeland Labour group said it could not comment on individual cases.

A Labour spokesman said: "The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures."

Jewish charity CST said some of the comments were "worrying", while Conservative councillor Felicity Wilson called them "bigoted".

Mr Kirkbride was found to have broken the party's code of conduct on anti-Semitism by the Labour Party.

He said: "I never went out of my way to cause pain, or grief and if I have. I am sincerely sorry."

'Offensive language'

He told BBC News he complained to Labour about comments made by three former colleagues.

One, from a Facebook account that appears to belong to Tom Higgins, contains offensive language and refers to Israel and its "co-conspirators in the USA".

Mr Higgins declined to comment.

Another, from Graham Calvin appears to be in response to an article about Jewish donors to the Labour party.

He told BBC News his remarks were not targeted at Jewish people, but made a wider point about party funding.

BBC News understands the two councillors are under investigation, while action has been taken over comments made by a third councillor.

Distington ward councillor Dave Banks told a council meeting in February he objected to adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

He is quoted in the minutes as saying: "Anti-Semitism is not an attack on Jews or the Jewish faith; it is an attack on the Israeli state."

He later voted in favour of adopting the definition and has since apologised for his words, telling a later council meeting he got them "all wrong".

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