The Labour Party is investigating a member of Haringey Council’s cabinet after the council’s deputy leader complained that he had made an antisemitic remark to her.
Gideon Bull, who is Haringey’s cabinet member for local investment and economic growth, is said to have commented on the stance of Zena Brabazon towards a controversial housing scheme by means of a reference to Shylock, the Jewish moneylender character in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.
Sources say that Brabazon, who is Jewish, made a complaint about Bull to Labour Group chief whip Reg Rice, who passed the matter up to Labour’s London region office.
A spokesperson for the Haringey Labour Group declined to comment, saying that such complaints are dealt with at a higher level. Bull is yet to respond to an approach made by On London yesterday morning and Brabazon has declined to comment. But it is understood that an investigation of the complaint is now underway.
The Shylock character is famous for lending money to a rival on the condition that if he failed to repay it, Shylock would take a pound of the rival’s flesh.
The alleged antisemitic incident occurred at a private meeting of cabinet members held last month at which plans for the redevelopment of council-owned land in south Tottenham, known as the Red House scheme, were discussed.
On London has reported that the Labour Group as a whole is sharply divided over the Red House issue, and the council’s cross-party scrutiny committee voted to ask the cabinet, the majority of which backs the plans, to reconsider them. The cabinet did so on Monday and decided the scheme should proceed.
However, Brabazon is believed to have abstained from a Labour Group vote over whether to back the Red House scheme, putting her at odds with council leader Joseph Ejiofor and other cabinet colleagues, including Bull.
Brabazon, an experienced councillor, was an original member of the Labour administration formed after the May 2018 borough elections, but was sacked by Ejiofor on New Year’s Eve. Ejiofor said at the time that he needed “a cabinet team able to work closely together”.
However, Brabazon returned to the cabinet this May after members of the Labour Group elected her council deputy leader. She replaced Emine Ibrahim in that role, though Ibrahim has continued to be cabinet member for housing and estate renewal.
There has been a series of disruptions to Ejiofor’s cabinet in the 15 months since it began. Another original cabinet member and unsuccessful leadership hopeful, Peray Ahmet, was sacked by Ejiofor on New Year’s Eve. Before that, in October, Ishmael Osamor left his cabinet post and resigned as a councillor after being convicted of drug offences.
In March, Patrick Berryman resigned from the cabinet, claiming that “imprudent” budgetary decisions had been taken and that manifesto pledges had been “watered down or ignored”. Another councillor Noah Tucker, a close ally of Ejiofor, stepped down from his cabinet position in May. Previously, Ahmet had appeared to imply in an email to Tucker that he had not achieved very much in his role.
Brabazon was the favourite of many Labour Party members in Haringey to be the new council leader following last May’s elections, which Labour won with a reduced majority. This followed a successful campaign by Labour members of Momentum, the campaign group formed to support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and various non-Labour allies to force out sitting Labour councillors and see them replaced by others more to their liking. However, Labour Group councillors elected Ejiofor leader.
In March 2018, Brabazon was among several Jewish Labour members in Haringey who signed a letter to the Guardian from the organisation Jewish Voice for Labour, which argued against the view that Haringey Labour is not a safe space for Jews, saying that “nothing could be further from the truth”, and that although antisemitic comments are made in the Labour Party and should be stopped, “this is no different nor more frequent than in wider society”.
Bull, another experienced councillor, was elevated by Ejiofor to the cabinet in May at the same time as Brabazon’s return to it, having previously been the Labour Group chief whip, preceding Rice. In that capacity, in February, Bull wrote a letter to all Group members, admonishing a minority of them for “unprofessionalism” and demanding an end to “personalisation of debates” the “bad mouthing and rubbishing of colleagues behind their back” and “bullying”, be it “conscious or otherwise”.
In January 2016, during the time of the previous Labour administration in Haringey, Bull was suspended from the Labour Group for three months following his intervention at a cabinet meeting against a Labour Group decision to close a day care centre in Tottenham. The suspension was described by the chief whip of that time as being imposed due to “concerns about comradely behaviour and collective responsibility”.
In February 2005 Bull was found by the council’s standards sub-committee to have breached the code of conduct for councillors “by not acting in a reasonable manner to prevent the redecoration of his private dwelling by contractors employed by the council” at the council’s expense.
Separately, it was reported yesterday that a prominent member of the Stroud Green Labour Party branch in Haringey has been suspended from the party while Labour investigates complaints of antisemitism about him.
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