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Labour party confirms expulsion of former council leader

23 Mar 2022 4 minutes Read
Cllr Hedley McCarthy and Keir Starmer. Picture by U.S. Department of State (public domain).

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

A former leader of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council did not leave the Labour party of his own accord – but was thrown out following disciplinary action.

Earlier this month Cllr McCarthy said that he had left Labour after 46 years as a member and that he wouldn’t be standing at the forthcoming council election in May.

He said this was due to his negative opinion of the leader of the party, Sir Keir Starmer MP, or the treatment of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who now sits in Westminster as an Independent MP.

But his version of events was called into question and several people on social media claimed he was under investigation by Labour due to his “activity” on social media.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has seen evidence that in August 2021, several complaints were made against Cllr McCarthy’s conduct on social media, with some claiming his activity could be perceived as anti-Semitic.

Facebook

The complaints alleged Cllr McCarthy had “liked” allegedly anti-Semitic comments posted on a Facebook group page.

But Cllr McCarthy has vehemently denied the claims, saying he has “a proven track record of opposing racism of all forms, including anti-Semitism”.

A Labour party spokesman said: “Hedley McCarthy was expelled from the Labour Party in January 2022 following the conclusion of an internal disciplinary investigation into anti-Semitic social media activity.

“It is therefore incorrect for Hedley McCarthy to claim that he resigned from membership of the Labour Party.”

Blaenau Gwent Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has said that Cllr McCarthy “informed them” that he had left the party on November 30, 2021.

But problems with the party’s database from October last year meant the branch couldn’t check members information.

Blaenau Gwent CLP said: “We accepted Hedley’s information at face value and his details were immediately removed from all CLP meeting circulation lists and the council Labour Group.

“He has not attended any meetings or taken the Labour whip since his announcement.

“New candidates were selected for the Llanhilleth ward.

“To date, we have not received any information about Hedley’s expulsion from the party and we are seeking clarification urgently on this matter.

“To be clear, Blaenau Gwent Labour is vehemently against all forms of racism, including antisemitism, which is unacceptable both in our Party and in wider society.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 at the then Abertillery Comprehensive school – pictured Cllr McCarthy with with (left) Eva Clarke a holocaust survivor

Cllr McCarthy said: “I have a proven track record of opposing racism of all forms, including antisemitism.

“If my support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem has been misinterpreted and offended anyone, I apologise profusely.

“I will reiterate that criticism of the Israeli Government is not a criticism of the nation, people or faith and shouldn’t be construed as such. ”

He pointed out that he established the first Holocaust Memorial event in Blaenau Gwent in 2014

And even earlier this year, he had been trying to organise another such event at a school in Tredegar, but this was stopped due to the Omicron wave of Covid-19.

Cllr McCarthy believes he is a victim of a ‘witch hunt’ due to his support for Jeremy Corbyn and “open disdain” for Keir Starmer.

Cllr McCarthy said: “Cllr McCarthy said: “I want to apologise to my former colleagues in the Labour group and the CLP for not informing them of the suspension or the eviction letter.”

He added that the need for confidentiality during the complaints process had been stressed to him, and any breaches could result in further disciplinary action.

“In any case, I left the group in November and didn’t see that the letter was relevant to them by then, I am sorry now that I didn’t speak out about these ridiculous accusations,” said Cllr McCarthy.


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