A Brighton Labour councillor has quit the party after becoming the third member to be investigated for alleged anti-semitism.
Councillor Kate Knight announced that she had quit today (Monday 20 July) after being reported for a slew of recently unearthed posts on Facebook. Brighton and Hove News understands that she had been facing suspension.
This means that both Labour and the Greens now have 19 councillors each. Councillor Knight will continue as an independent.
Councillor Knight said: “I abhor anti-semitism which, along with all other forms of racism, is a scourge that blights our society and every political party. I am not anti-semitic and I regret if anything I posted caused distress as this was not my intention.
“I do not want this matter to distract from the vital work that the council needs to do as we all continue to come to terms with the effects and future consequences of covid-19.
“So, after deep reflection and with much regret, I have resigned my membership of the Labour Party with immediate effect and I have advised Councillor Nancy Platts of this.”
Council leader Nancy Platts today said that it brought shame on the whole Labour Party to see these posts. She said: “On behalf of the Labour group, I am truly sorry to the Jewish community for the hurt these posts have caused.
“I reached out to a leading member of the local Jewish community last week. Following that conversation I have recirculated information to my group to read, stressing the importance of checking the reliability of sources before sharing on social media.
“Anti-semitism is a poison that must be challenged wherever it raises its head. Hatred towards Jewish people has no place in our society.
“I have agreed with the Labour group that we will establish a code of conduct for all Labour councillors. This will have emphasis on social media and the absolute necessity of ensuring people know that what they are sharing comes from trusted sources of information and the importance of recognising anti-semitic tropes.
“Councillor Knight has taken the right action in resigning from the Labour group and the Labour Party.
“We will continue to take steps to address anti-semitism and actively challenge racism in our city.”
The party said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-semitism extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”
The Sussex Jewish Representative Council said: “We are concerned to hear that a Labour Party councillor from Brighton has resigned for alleged anti-semitism.
“How is the Jewish community here meant to have any faith or trust in this Labour-led council? How many more reports, investigations and suspensions do there need to be before all Brighton and Hove CLPs (constituency Labour parties) are put into special measures?
“This latest councillor has repeatedly posted stories denying there is any issue of anti-semitism in the Labour Party and claimed that anti-semitism was being weaponised to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
“There is a troubling pattern of behaviour here from a small number of councillors and this has not been addressed in any substantive manner.
“We are also bemused that the leader of the council has stated that she reached out to a “leading member of the Jewish community” but did not contact the Sussex Jewish Representative Council, the recognised body for such communications with our community.
“We would suggest that if she wants to apologise to our community she does it through the correct channels.
“It is time she and the Labour Party take a long hard look at how they deal with anti-semitism starting with acknowledging that it is present and exists in the city and in the party.
“Words, statements and press releases are meaningless unless they are backed up by action and education.
“It is difficult to imagine how the Brighton and Hove Labour Party can regain any credibility at this point and, subsequently, as the council is Labour-led, it does bring into question their ability and sincerity in tackling any form of racism when they have so frequently ignored the glaring issue of anti-semitism.”
Last week, Councillor Anne Pissaridou was suspended for allegedly anti-semitic Facebook posts. Councillor Nichole Brennan is also being investigated for demonstrating against the party’s adoption of a wider-ranging definition of anti-semitism in 2018.
All three were selected for last year’s elections on a Momentum slate. Labour narrowly avoided losing control of the council, ending up with 20 councillors. The Greens won 19 seats.
Being suspended means that a councillor cannot attend Labour group meetings or represent the party – but the party still expects them to obey the whip and considers them to be a Labour councillor.
The posts that Councillor Knight has been reported for, which were posted from 2016 to March 2019, nearly all said that accusations of anti-semitism levelled at Jeremy Corbyn were a smear or manufactured by Israel.
Many were posted after she was selected to run for Labour in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean in July 2018.
In August 2018 she posted a link to a story headlined “Israel running campaign against Jeremy Corbyn”.
In 2016 she said that she was certain that accusations of anti-semitism are “a vehicle for a vicious attack – not even thinly veiled – on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
The same year, she posted: “There is NO (anti-semitism) crisis in the Labour Party.”
In March 2019 she posted an article asking if the attack on controversial former Labour MP Chris Williamson was the start of another coup, to which Councillor Pissaridou replied, saying: “It is.”
Mr Williamson had then been suspended from the party for what a leaked Labour report said was “a pattern of behaviour … widely regarded as offensive and as baiting the Jewish community”.
The following day she posted a quote from film director Mike Leigh saying that accusing Williamson of anti-semitism was part of a witch hunt.
Councillor Pissaridou has stepped down as chair of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee but remains a member of the Labour group, although she cannot attend its meetings or represent the party.
Councillor Knight was selected in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean last year after long-serving councillor Anne Meadows quit the party, citing bullying and anti-semitism.
Councillor Meadows then contested the ward for the Conservatives but lost.