09 November 2019 02:39
Gideon Bull, who was to stand for Labour in Clacton, denies intention to insult councillor A Labour parliamentary candidate has withdrawn from standing in the general election following accusations that he used the insulting term "Shylock" at a meeting where a Jewish councillor was present. Gideon Bull, a councillor from the London borough of Haringey, was supposed to be the party's parliamentary candidate in the Essex seaside town of Clacton in December. He has withdrawn from standing for the seat after referring to the Shakespearean Jewish moneylender at a meeting in July that included a Jewish Labour councillor. Labour is investigating a complaint from Bull's fellow councillor, the deputy council leader, Zena Brabazon. The alleged antisemitic incident occurred at a meeting of cabinet members in July at which plans for the redevelopment of council-owned land in south Tottenham, known as the Red House scheme, were discussed.
Bull claims he did not realise the character from The Merchant of Venice was Jewish and said he would have known if his schooling had been better. The letter said that "nothing could be further from the truth", and that although antisemitic comments were made in the Labour party and should be stopped, "this is no different nor more frequent than in wider society". The development came as one of Labour's most prominent Jewish MPs, Margaret Hodge, declined to say whether she would prefer Corbyn or Boris Johnson as prime minister. Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme whether she would prefer Corbyn or Johnson as prime minister, she replied: "I want a Labour government." The Labour Party candidate for Clacton has stepped down after allegations he made an antisemitic remark to a fellow Labour councillor. Gideon Bull, who is a cabinet member in Haringey council, was accused of calling Jewish councillor Zena Brabazon "Shylock" during a private meeting.
Gideon Bull, who sits on Haringey council in north London, denied directing the remark at a Jewish councillor and claimed that he did not realise that the Shakespearean character was a Jew. He quit as Labour's candidate for the Essex seat of Clacton, however, becoming the latest parliamentary hopeful to fall victim to past comments. A UK Labour Party candidate on Friday withdrew from running in next month's parliamentary elections for using the term "Shylock" in front of a local Jewish politician, the second party member to pull out in 48 hours for using anti-Jewish slurs. The incidents are the latest affecting the main opposition party, which has been accused of becoming a haven for anti-Semitism under far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn. Gideon Bull, a councilor in the London borough of Haringey, acknowledged using the term at a meeting in July but denied it was directed toward fellow councillor Zena Brabazon, who is Jewish. The term Shylock originated in William Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice," whose lead character by that name is a ruthless Jewish moneylender.
Bull denied knowing the character of Shylock was Jewish. "When she [Brabazon] politely informed me that this saying was offensive, I immediately apologized and explained that I did not know that Shylock was Jewish and I would never have mentioned Shylock if I had known this," he was quoted saying by the BBC. Bull, who was standing for election in Clacton in southeast England, said the saying was common where he grew up, "but I didn't know it was offensive." Labour has been investigating Bull for using the term. The announcement by Bull came a day after another Labour candidate stepped down over controversial comments against Israel. Labour is facing accusations of anti-Semitism involving Corbyn, who has come under scrutiny for his alleged failure to stop the hate speech and for past actions in which he appeared to ignore, condone, or encourage it. The long-festering issue of anti-Semitism in Labour is coming back to haunt Corbyn just as the election campaign begins to unseat Prime Minister Boris Johnson and take up residence at 10 Downing Street. Corbyn's bid for Britain's top job was sidetracked Thursday by renewed claims that he is not fit to be prime minister because of his perceived tolerance of anti-Semitic attitudes, an allegation Corbyn strongly denied. The criticism came from Ian Austin, a former member of the Labour Party's inner circle, who took the extraordinary step of urging British voters to choose Johnson, and from an influential Jewish newspaper that urged Britons to shun Corbyn in the country's December 12 general election. Corbyn denied the allegations, saying Thursday that "anti-Semitism is a poison and an evil in our society" and that he was working to root it out of the Labour Party.