Crawley councillor quits Labour to defend anti-Semitism accusations

A Crawley councillor has quit the Labour Party after being accused of anti-Semitism.

Karen Sudan, who represents Northgate and West Green at both West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council, said she decided to leave the party so that she could defend herself against the allegations, which centre around three Tweets on her Twitter feed.

Mrs Sudan, who has been a Labour member for 50 years, said: “I’m not an anti-Semite. If these three Tweets are evidence of it, it’s pathetic.”

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The first Tweet, which was written in June 2017, announced that she opposed ‘all kinds of racism’ but had ‘blocked Labour Against Anti Semitism’.

The second, written in August 2018, accused the mainstream media of being ‘too busy making up and/or exaggerating stories about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party’ to raise an outcry over other forms of racism.

The third, written in January, shared a link to an article titled Reject The Ten Pledges.

The article claimed the idea that there was an anti-Semitism problem within the party had been ‘widely debunked’ and called an interjection by the Board of Deputies ‘politically motivated weaponisation of anti-Semitism to attack the left and the Palestine solidarity movement’.

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Mrs Sudan said she was a supporter of the Palestinian cause and said of the accusations against her: “It is absolutely totally flimsy and I’m happy for anyone to take those Tweets anywhere and stand trial in front of anyone on it.

“If I was a member of the Labour Party, I would have to keep quiet about that – and if I spoke about it to anybody I would be suspended.

“They would know I was under investigation but they wouldn’t know why and I wouldn’t be able to discuss it and I wouldn’t be able to defend myself.

“The only way I could do that and stop the gossip and the maligning stuff that would be around it was to resign from the party and put it out there so that people can see how stupid and ridiculous it is.

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“I have a choice that I can fight this. But to be honest, I’m a twin-hatted councillor in a time of utter crisis and I don’t need to be doing that.

“My residents need me.”

Mrs Sudan said she had no idea who reported her to the party – but she didn’t think it was a member of the public, although she has no proof either way.

Her decision to quit Labour has left Crawley Borough Council under no overall control, with both Labour and the Conservatives holding 17 seats, while Mrs Sudan will stay on as an Independent councillor.

She said: “Ordinarily, my principles would say to me I was elected as a Labour councillor and I would think that the residents of Northgate and West Green ought to have a choice about electing another Labour councillor and I would have stepped down and triggered a by-election.

“But that’s not possible at the moment.”

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The onset of the pandemic saw the government postpone all elections until next May.

As well as serving on the borough council, Mrs Sudan represents her wards on West Sussex County Council.

She said: “For the time being, while this crisis is ongoing and while there can’t be a by-election, I will carry on as a councillor and carry on representing [Northgate and West Green].

“If I start to pick up that they don’t want me to do that, then I will step down but at the moment I think they would rather have me than no one.”

Leader responds

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Peter Lamb, Labour leader of Crawley Borough Council, denied the suggestion that the report came from one of the Crawley group.

He said: “I think she thinks it’s me but I’m not an idiot.

“If we were going to put in a complaint against someone, we’d wait until the end of the year when you get the chance at the local elections to replace them with some one else.”

Mr Lamb added: “Reading through the text of what was submitted, it looks very professionally written to my mind – which rather removes anyone in the Labour group.

“I think what’s happened is someone’s been nationally trawling through Labour accounts trying to find any historical Tweets which may well constitute anti-Semitism.

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“Potentially someone at headquarters on the basis that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report is coming out in the next week.”

The commission launched an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in May 2019, after receiving a number of complaints.

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