Lib Dems walk out of Wokingham council meeting as Labour and Conservatives clash over anti-semitism motion

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Wokingham Borough Council offices shute end
Wokingham Borough Council.

THE final motion of the meeting of Wokingham Borough Council on Thursday, July 18 caused consternation from councillors.

Introduced with three minutes to go before the meeting closed, it was a motion moved by Cllr Keith Baker over anti-semitism.

Cllr Andy Croy wanted to propose an amendment but he was overruled by the mayor, who was chairing the meeting.

Some councillors wanted the debate to be over and done with so they could go home, while others wanted Cllr Croy to move his amendment.

Eventually, Cllr Baker was allowed to present his motion, but no debate was permitted.

He told the chamber: “Since this motion was published, I have been the victim of abuse on social media.

“No matter how you look at it the Labour Party has a problem and you can try and cover it up through personal attacks on me or my party but it still remains an issue.

“You do not see the other political parties having allegations of anti-Semitism appear almost daily.

“You do not see Deputy Leader’s deploring what is going on in their parties around anti-Semitism. You do not see the other political parties being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Despite protests from Cllr Croy, the mayor went to move a vote on the unamended vote.

Residents in the public gallery shouted shame on you as the vote was attempted to be taken, the Liberal Democrats walked out of the chamber without allowing their vote to be taken.

The Labour party councillors all voted in favour of the motion.

Cllr Baker’s submitted motion

As published in the agenda for the council meeting:

Recently a major political party has been embroiled in a large number of allegations of statements and speeches which express serious anti-Semitic sentiments.

Up until now this had not really emerged locally but recent local newspaper reports have suggested that this area is not immune. Get Reading reported on 22nd May that “Reading Labour scraps anti-Semitism training session because of a proPalestinian speaker.”

This was followed up by an article in the Jewish Chronicle on the same day, 22nd May expanding this same story.

Nationally the Equality and Human Rights Commission have now opened an investigation into the Labour Party following complaints about antiSemitism.

On 28th May they posted “The Equality and Human Rights Commission is today launching a formal investigation to determine whether The Labour Party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish.”

I do not envy the Reading Labour Party or any other political party as they wrestle with how to deal with these matters and I wish them well in dealing with anyone who has expressed anti-Semitic views.

I hope all Councillors will put party politics aside and support this motion: This Council abhors any attack on individual groups, including our Jewish residents and commits to lend support to anyone attempting to drive out such antiSemitic views from our local political scene regardless of any political allegiance.

For more on this, see The Wokingham Paper letters page in the July 25 edition

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