12:45PM, Friday 21 February 2020
A Conservative councillor has been cleared of breaching the council’s code of conduct over comments where he described Jewish people as being renowned for business.
Cllr Dexter Smith made the remarks while he was urging the Slough Labour Party to acknowledge anti-Semitism as a ‘fundamental issue’ at a full council meeting on July 23.
After questioning why only 0.06 per cent of Slough’s population is Jewish, the Colnbrook with Poyle councillor said: “The Jewish people are renowned for being business people so why do we think it is that Jews are not here in Slough?”
A complaint was subsequently made to the council’s monitoring officer by opposition Labour councillors.
But in an email sent to Cllr Smith on February 7 and seen by the Express, the council’s service lead for governance Sushil Thobani said the comments did not represent a breach of the code of conduct.
The email said: “The monitoring officer’s considered view is that while your comment that ‘Jewish people are renowned for being business people’ may have been a stereotypical allegation about Jews as such, the comment was not ‘mendacious, dehumanising or demonising or spreading any myth about a Jewish conspiracy’.”
Cllr Smith’s comments had not demonstrated any hatred towards Jewish people, the email added.
Speaking to the Express, Cllr Smith said: “I didn’t think what I said at the time was antisemitic and it clearly wasn’t my intention because I was bringing a motion against antisemitism.
“It has taken a bit of time and I would have liked to have been cleared quicker but the way it was examined was very comprehensive.
“Our motion was a political motion about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
“We felt there was still a gap in what the Slough Labour Party was saying and what it was doing and it needed to be clearer about what was happening in the Labour Party nationally.”
In response council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) said: “I always have and will continue to condemn anti-Semitism and discrimination in any form.
“It is a scourge and should be called out and rooted out wherever it is found in our society.
“There is no space for anti-Semitism to exist or be perpetuated within Slough Labour Party.”
A spokeswoman for Slough Borough Council said the case was now closed and the outcome will be reported to the council’s audit and corporate governance committee.
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