05:53PM, Thursday 25 July 2019
A Conservative councillor has stood by comments where he described Jews as ‘renowned business people’.
Cllr Dexter Smith (Con, Colnbrook with Poyle) made the remarks at a Slough Borough Council meeting on Tuesday.
He had been proposing a motion calling on the Labour Group to acknowledge anti-Semitism as a ‘fundamental issue’ and urging them to write to Slough MP Tan Dhesi to be clearer on his stance on the issue.
During the debate, Cllr Smith said: “In Maidenhead they have a synagogue and in Slough we have got a business community that is one of the largest in the country.
“The Jewish people are renowned for being business people. So why do we think it is that Jews are not here in Slough?”
Labour councillors hit back, with council leader James Swindlehurst accusing Cllr Smith of using an anti-Semitic
He told the meeting: “There is a tendency unique about anti-Semitism to try and brand whole swathes of people according to particular tropes.
“Cllr Smith has just illustrated that perfectly by saying Jews are renowned business people.”
Speaking to the Express after the meeting, Cllr Smith admitted his comments were stereotyping but denied they were anti-Semitic.
He said: “To say the Jewish people are renowned for being business people is not a racist remark. They (the Labour Group) are in denial and I do not believe that ‘Joe Public’ could say there is no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”
He also said Conservative councillors got ‘no protection’ during the meeting when Labour councillor Mohammed Nazir accused their party of being Islamophobic.
Both political groups clashed at the meeting over whether the motion should focus solely on anti-Semitism, with the Labour Group arguing a commitment should be made to root out Islamophobia too.
Cllr Martin Carter (Lab, Britwell and Northborough) told the meeting, held at The Curve: “Racism is wrong, discrimination is wrong, inequality is wrong.
“For example, anti-Semitism is wrong, Islamophobia is wrong, homophobia is wrong, gender inequality is wrong.
“Tolerance, respect and inequality are the words that I hope we will all live by.”
Councillors voted to work together to challenge all forms of racism and religious discrimination.
After the meeting, Mr Dhesi addressed claims from Slough Conservatives that he needed to be clearer on his stance over anti-Semitism.
He said: “I strongly condemn any form of racial abuse, including anti-Semitism, which is abhorrent.
“That is why the likes of me have raised it with the party leadership and advocated for swift disciplinary action against any anti-Semitic Labour Party members.”
MP Joy Morrissey has raised concerns after learning that a Burnham Health Centre patient has been unable to obtain a GP appointment despite ‘numerous’ attempts.